This is a monograph about getting started with inquiry. There is a list on the last page that gives 6 tips on how to get started with inquiry http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_StudentInquiry.pdf
This great line….
There is some great information from the assessment section http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/assessment-that-informs-27-32.pdf in the Thinking it Through resource.
Written Observation or Anecdotal records details some critical information about how to collect that information and when it is applicable. Recording the time, date onto the back of work samples provides a context. It also discusses some great points about factors that affect observation records.
On p. 6 of the pdf there is a great chart that gives some ideas on “what you need to find out” and the “tools/strategies” you can use to assess. If you do collect work samples; a binder, a folder or scrapbook is a great way to house the information.
When assessing students it is always important to collect information over time so that you get their best work and really see their full potential. Keep in mind that accommodations may be beneficial for many of your students and as you meet with each child, you can see their unique qualities and change as needed. On p.5 (p.30-31) of the pdf, there are ideas for instructional, environmental, and assessment accommodations.
I encourage you to read the section on Assessment in the Thinking it Through document as it give some great tools and strategies, some “ahas”, and there may be something new that can add a creative twist to assessments!!
There are some great webcast found on CSC ”Kindergarten Matters- Intentional Play-Based learning ” about Inquiry and documenting the learning. There are 5 videos in total. http://resources.curriculum.org/secretariat/kindergarten/
Within the webcasts they discuss moving away from themes because it is not current with the curriculum expectation, and does not promote the high order thinking. As educators, our role is to provoke the learning by placing out new materials, asking open-ended questions and extending the learning. Each webcast has samples of ‘inquiry ideas, how to extend the learning, and how a teacher begins the inquiry process. Webcast #2 called Types of Inquiry and #4 The Teacher’s Role in play-based discussed the Inquiry Process; Explore, Investigate, Communicate. In one of the webcasts they show an example of a classroom wall which displays this information.
I have a bulletin board that displays these headings and under each I have pictures, documented learning (the oral conversations typed), and of course the student work to show their thought process and new learning. It is a great discussion piece for parents and the students are deeply involved in what they are learning.
Since we are in the fall season some things that may be of interest to students are; pumpkins (shapes, types, and how they rot!), outdoor changes-animals, leaves, weather, and growth and change.
The Thinking it Through document has great examples of classroom centres, reflective questions, ideas for materials, and documentation and assessment ideas to capture what the children are learning. Some of the biggest huddles in getting started are; “Where do I start?, How do I make it happen?,and What should it look like in my classroom?” I have organized some ideas below to help you get started. For Grades 1-3, Primarily Play is a great document that describes how to set-up learning centres for independent inquiry and documentation. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/settinglearningcentres.pdf .
Where do I start? We need to begin from where the students are at. Sometime this is difficult, so we need to get them started. I am going to refer back to my idea of the “Community and Environment”. This is discussed in the curriculum expectations and is great to start off the year. So, how do we incorporate this Big Idea into a centre?
Making it happen: Organize and place the materials in the Science Centre from the walk or some items that children brought from home (rocks, leaves, sticks, pine cones etc). You will need to tell the children your expectations for the centre before they use it, introduce what they will find, and also add items like books, paper, crayons, magnifying glasses. Dedicate some wall space to hang their writing, pictures, and add your photos and some of their oral conversations. Prepare how your going to document the learning that is happening. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/documentingthroughplay.pdf
What should it look like? As facilitators, you can invite children to sort the materials and explain their thinking, use open-ended questions to stimulate their creative thinking, and allow them to share and talk! Some learning outcomes could be; their ability to sort (Math), development of oral language/vocabulary, and Science-explore and investigate. While they are exploring the centre take your clipboard with you and document what they are saying and take pictures. You may want to use a checklist. You may want to prepare 1 or 2 open-ended questions before hand and sticky note them to your clipboard this way both educators can capture the learning at anytime.
Now that the you have had the opportunity to meet your students over the last little while, you can reflect on your daily schedule. Thinking it Through has a plan for both full and half days. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?page_id=1218 . Some things can’t be changed due to the large schedules within your school, but you can always try to move things around if they are in the best interest of your students. Many schools are on the balanced day program with 3, 100 minute blocks of learning. I always ensure that my students get 60 minutes or more in one of those blocks, and a second block of about 45 minutes. The reason behind the time frames is to allow the children to explore the centre, select materials, create/manipulate, think and change, discuss, and share their learning without having to rush. They are learning how to learn!
During these next few weeks circulating the room with children would be a great opportunity to discuss with them what is available in each centre, behaviours, and routines. Remind them daily of what is available.
- Model the centre
- show what it looks like
- question for understanding
- have them model
- reteach where needed p. 10 Learning in Centres “Thinking it Through” http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/TIT-aug-8.pdf
I personally do not designate where children should be nor do I have number limits. Children move freely to different centres as it sparks their interest. My ECE partner or myself will call children over to work in small groups during this block of play the other circulates, documenting and asking questions as they pertain to our goals or big ideas for the centre. All children are responsible for the entire room clean-up.
When thinking about your classroom organization for the students attending in the next few weeks, the Thinking it Through document -Learning Centres booklet starting on p.9 makes some great points to ponder when reflecting on your classroom set-up. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/TIT-aug-8.pdf
- The classroom should be warm and inviting to students, and the Reggio Emilia approach is to have the classroom serve as a “third teacher”.
- the environment reflects our values as teachers, and informs and shapes the kind of learning that will happen
- consider positioning of centres (loud vs quiet), flow
- include natural materials as much as possible-in my science centre I have pine cones, rocks, twigs, leaves just a few to start off and then the children will be responsible to help build this centre
- think about large and small groupings-tables in my classroom are incorporated into centres as well as for snack. This way they have a multi-purpose and it reduces the amount of large furniture. I also have no desk, but I have 2 filing cabinets one for my daybook and supplies and the other for files.
- p. 15-17 poses some reflective questions to consider in classroom set-up
- starting on p.32 some recommended learning centres are listed discussing there purpose, observation pts, material lists, furniture, and a suggestion for location.
In our classroom, my ECE partner and myself think about making it a “home like” environment where the walls have little commercial bought products, but picture frames handing where we will eventually display children’s art work. I purchased a few plants, we are going to add some lamps to create a cozy feeling in our reading corner, and last year we had some birch branches cemented into flower pots and strung with white Christmas lights to add that outdoor feel to our science centre. In the first few weeks we have just enough materials out, so that we can observe, establish routines in the classroom, get to know the children and their strengths, and to see what they need to develop their learning. Some centres are permanent like building, but the items within it will change.
Today was my first day back in our classroom since the end of the year in June. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it, until I walked through the door to our room.
Throughout the summer, I had picked up little things here and there. I had collected flower petals, leaves, art supplies, books, etc…I had thought about our first week of school and what we do.
My teaching partner and I arranged to meet today. We first discussed what we wanted our first week of school to be like for our students. Since we became partners, we gave each other respect, and listened to one another’s thoughts and ideas. We have had been able to do our planning together and work collaboratively for the best interest of our students. Today, we both had the same thought…lots of play. This would give us time to interact with all of the children, and to start to get to know them. It was also give the new students an opportunity to feel more comfortable and secure during their first week at school.
We set up our sand table, and buried crabs with letters on them for the children to search for. We filled our book centre with stories and picture books about school, being yourself and friendship. Our math centre has simple math manipulatives, especially lots of blocks in it. Our art centre has several containers filled with things children can create whatever they want to with. The dramatic play centre is set up as a house. On the shelves around our large carpet, we have put toys that can promote fine motor skills, as well as encourage the children’s imaginations. We have a gas station, trucks, maps, puppets, puzzles, Lego, and other toys for the children to explore. We will also set up our paint easel before the day begins.
After spending the day at school, I am not only ready for Tuesday, but I am genuinely excited for school to begin!