Sunday, January 24, 2016

Inquiring About What Makes Something Sink or Float

One of our friends brought in some candy canes last December. He asked if he could put it in some water during Thinking, Learning and Discovery time. I showed him where the bowls were and he went to the water fountain and started exploring. When the kids saw what he did, they explored also!

They were fascinated that the candy cane "melted" and turned the water red! I found some science recording sheets for them to record what they noticed. 

The kids then decided that they wanted to do water experiments. Most were very interested in exploring why some things sink and some things float so I set about planning some experiments to help them find answers. I wasn't sure if this would move in some other directions so I planned for some absorption and more dissolving experiences just in case. I often use a web map to organize my ideas. 

then set out experiences for them to explore and see what they could find out! Here I put out random objects for them to test and record what they noticed. 

I challenged them to create a boat with Legos and to see how many rocks it would hold.

I provided tin foil for them to design boats and test their strength by seeing how many glass beads it could hold. 

I set out some plasticine with the challenge of trying to make it float (None of us figured out how!).

They were very excited to get started!

Writing was incorporated through recording their observations and wonders. Below a friend noticed that "the puffy ball sank and floated." 

We also had an area with fruit and vegetables to see what would float.  They were so surprised that the heavy watermelon floated, yet the little grape sank! 

We also did some experiments as a whole class. Unfortunately I do not have many photos as I was out for meetings several days and a guest teacher did these with them.  We talked a lot about how scientists ask questions, make predictions and record what happened and what they learned from it. We talked about how our predictions can be wrong but that provides opportunities to problem solve and figure out why. We tested out a ping pong ball, golf ball and sphere shaped stone to see what would happen. 

They noticed the ping pong ball floated, the stone sank very hard and fast, but the golf ball floated down slowly. It was fun to listen to them try to figure out why! They knew the ping pong ball was lighter and had air inside of it. One friend guessed maybe the golf ball had a little air and the stone no air at all! The kids thought this made sense! 

We also experimented with a Snickers Bar and Three Musketeers Bar.  They looked the exact same on the outside so they were surprised one floated and one sank! When we cut them open they came to the conclusion that the 3 Musketeers bar had little holes with air and the nuts and caramel in the Snickers took up more space leaving less air!

We put an orange in and saw that it floated. We took the peel off of one and it sank! I asked why. They figured out right away that the peel helped hold in air. I showed them a lime. They thought it would float since it was like an orange. I put the lime in the water and it sank. They wanted me to cut it open to see why it sank when the orange floated. I did and passed it around. They noticed a big hole in the middle of the orange slices and figured out it held air while the lime did not have any holes or free space inside. 

The kids were definitely starting to see a connection between the amount of air and whether or not an object will sink or float! The vocabulary in their conversations were also starting to show this as they explored during Thinking, Learning and Discovery Time!  These kids have now had their first experiences experimenting and learning about density! 

One surprise from all of this was that all of a sudden, as we started these water explorations, rainbows started appearin in our room around 3:00 when we started our sharing circle! 

They could not figure out why until one day the rainbows didn't show up and a friend pointed out there was no sun shining in our room. The next day it was sunny so the kids started looking closer and noticed that all the rainbows came from the sun shining through our tanks of water that we had setting all over our room! 

It was fun to watch them as they worked together to figure it out! I love grabbing onto unplanned experiences like this and watching the thinking, learning and wondering that so naturally takes place! It is always worth stopping what was planned to grab onto the moment!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Day in a Reggio Inspired Kindergarten in a Public School System Setting: A Look at My Schedule

I have had many ask about what my schedule looks like, being a Reggio Inspired classroom. If you are inspired by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, it can be very difficult to apply it in a public school setting here in the U.S.  Many ask how I do it, so here it is... It is not perfect, but it works for me.  My schedule is also attached at the end.

We always start out with breakfast. I love this because it gives the kids a chance to come in an socialize and share with each other. It also helps them become independent with many life skills that many cannot do when they first come like serving themselves, opening up food and drink cartons, and cleaning up after themselves.

 After breakfast, the kids clean up, scrub the tables and join in our meeting area for a morning message. I write this message in front of them and either model or think out loud writing strategies that I want them to focus on or I write it, then highlight sight words, blends, chunks, little words inside of big words, and any other reading strategies that will help them decode the message themselves. It only takes 5 minutes but packs some powerful reading and writing lessons!

On our longer days with no specials, we then have a lesson that has something to do with our inquiry. We may find out what they know and wonder about a subject they want to dig deeper in, read a book, watch a video, do an experiment and have meaningful discussions about we read, did, or had seen.

Most days we have two large blocks of Play-Based Learning Time which we call "Thinking, Learning and Discovering." This is when the kids are seeing, thinking and wondering about what is set out for them to explore. It is also where most 21st Century Skills such as team work/collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and communicating skills are being used. They learn to be productive, take initiative, take leadership roles, and listen to others ideas and opinions. These need to be practiced in every grade! Not just Early Childhood! I set up experiences for them to explore and they make their thinking visible through plans, documentation, observational drawings, notes, data collection, and so much more. Some areas for them to explore are building, engineering, art, clay, science, creation station, library, dramatic play and math/literacy experiences. This is also the time when most of our small group inquiry investigations and projects happen.

We have whole group lessons to introduce new reading, writing and math skills that they need. These new skills are practiced and used during Thinking, Learning and Discovering time and materials are set out to specifically practice the reading, writing and math skills. We also have a specific time where they are specifically working on Literacy and Math stations to help them achieve their goals.

Our Literacy Lab is one of the most helpful resources that we have in our school. I feel so lucky to have this available to us! Our whole class goes into our Literacy Lab where the kids are divided into groups based on their needs. The kids who need intensive literacy intervention get it here. There are three teachers including me and four groups (In the past when we had Teaching Assistants we had 5 smaller groups). One teacher for intervention, one teacher for a guided reading group and then there are two groups that alternate between working with me in a guided reading group and an independent table with literacy experiences. With this set up, we meet with all the children in guided reading groups and literacy experiences within 30 minutes. That means I can focus my small groups in my room on those who need intervention and enrichment.

Of coarse, we go outside anytime the weather permits. The 21st Century Skills I mentioned above are used and practiced when the kids play outside. When outside play is taken away, their chances to problem solve, collaborate, take risks, be creative, socialize, take leadership roles, observe and discover are also taken away. It saddens me how little kids can practice these important life skills because so much of their play has been taken away from them in their schools when in actuality, the skills they need most in life are practiced as they play.

Our reflection time is another one of their favorite times of the day. Here we pass a "Sharing Stone" around our circle of friends and share something we did, made, discovered, or even something that happened to them that day. They are only allowed to talk if they hold the Sharing Stone. If kids have questions about what a student shared, they may raise their hand and that student will call on them. The kids are so respectful and quiet during this time. This time is very special to them and they take it very seriously!

Calendar is how we end our day. This is a traditional calendar where we quickly do the date, count the days of school and study the 100 chart, and sing songs about math concepts we are learning. We also talk about the daily and seasonal weather as we graph the weather each month.

Hopefully this post will help answer the many questions I get about what my typical day looks like in a Reggio inspired classroom in a public school system. Just remember  the beautiful thing is that you can make a schedule that works for you.  If you don't have time for two blocks of play-based learning because of curriculums mandated by your school or you are mandated to spend a lot of time pulling out guided reading groups, try to squeeze one in instead!  I had to take some risks to make room for those times and they have paid off!  For example, Independent Writing time did not need to be as long since they were using writing skills during other parts of the day, so I cut it in half.

So that is my day! I do have to say that we do not always stick to our schedule!  Often learning opportunities pop up that we have to grab onto!  That is part of having an emergent curriculum!  This does provide a base for how our day might look.  I have provided my schedule below for you so that you can see the whole schedule at a glance.