Friday, June 9, 2017

Planning Templates for Inquiry/Project Based Teaching

I get multiple emails every day asking for copies of my inquiry planning templates and daily schedules.  After clearing all of my emails and trash for the year, I accidentally deleted permanently some emails from people wanting these that I had yet to answer.  Since I don't know who they were, I am hoping they will find this page and get the planning pages that they needed and know that I did not ignore them! In this post, I have links to all of my template pdf's in my google drive for you to download.  I do all I can to help others on their journey into inquiry based teaching so these are free for you to download. They are not perfect but they have worked for me at different times in my journey as a Reggio Inspired Teacher. You can take the ideas and change them to work for you in your situation and environment, but they will give you a base to work from as you make your own.

When planning for Inquiry/Project based learning, it takes a lot of time up front, but then planning is easy for the rest of the inquiry which can last up to a month. Planning an Inquiry always starts with observing the students.  Once I notice a large group interest, I find out what they know and wonder.  I take that information and start planning.

Right now, my favorite planning tool is a simple web map. This web map was created based on the one that the amazing Joanne Babalis created over at Check her out! She is brilliant! I liked the way she designed it and I can just add more lines where I need them. Sometimes I use this template, but sometimes I just make my own web map with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.  It is a great way to organize my thoughts.

You can find this template here:

Here is a photo of a handmade one filled out.

As I am brainstorming ideas I have the Language Arts and Math Common Core Standards and Science and Social Studies Standards nearby.  I made this sheet with all of the language arts and math standards all on one page to make it easy for me. It is amazing how many standards are covered, used, and learned by using the skills authentically during inquiry! I highlight the ones that will be covered.

You can download this Common Core list here:

This next inquiry planner is a great way to organize your ideas into the different stages of Inquiry Based Learning and also has an area for project ideas and presentations if you want to go even deeper using Project Based Learning.  It literally spells out the process of Inquiry/Project Based Learning. This template was very helpful as I was transitioning from thematic based teaching to Inquiry Based Teaching.

You can download the Inquiry planning template above  here:

Here is one already filled out about our castle inquiry as an example. You can download it here:

After that, I use many different "weekly" planning papers.  This one is more fluid and open ended.  It can also last for more than one week. I like the way it makes me plan for the environment as a third teacher.  Many of the ideas that end up on my map can happen during our play-based learning block.  I find that I use this template more the second half of the year.

You can download it here:

Here is an example filled out with plans here:

At the beginning of the year, I usually use my schedule as my planner.  Here are two different years.
You can download the one above here:

And this one here:

These also show what my schedules look like but I will get more into scheduling in another post.  They are far from perfect! I am constantly trying to figure out ways to have less transitions in the schedules and I feel that it is always a work in progress!  I will be making some major changes to it next year.  I am always looking back and reflecting on the previous year and this past year showed me some changes that I need to make.  I will share that when I figure it out at the beginning of the next school year.  Also know that my schedules are more fluid than they look on paper.  If students are really engaged in some part of the day, I may let them have more time and move another planned lesson to the next day.

When I use these, I still need to plan my environment as the third teacher so I made a map of my room using Pages on my iPad. This is great to have for substitute teachers so they know what is going on during the play block! I just fill in the invitations to learn, provocations, challenges, and experiences that will be set up in each area.

Hopefully providing these links will help you all be able to get these when you want them, rather than having to wait for me to answer your emails!  I hope they help!

Darla Myers

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Our Last Days of Kindergarten: Enjoying the Moments

Here is a recap of our last days together in Room 201:

Cicadas!  Lots of Cicadas.  We were one of the "lucky" classes who happened to be outside just as thousands of Cicadas started crawling out of the ground.  You could not walk in the grass without crunching them.  The ground was literally crawling...and most of the kids loved it!  Those poor cicadas waited 12 long years to come up for air and they came up during recess at an Early Childhood Center. I kind of felt sorry for them.  The kids were picking them up, observing, looking closer and asking questions!  It was a perfect learning experience.

We spent a lot of time outside.  The weather was the most beautiful we have had all year!  Here you can see some girls chalking a log.

We kept on observing and taking care of our growing lettuce and wishing it would grow faster!

We blew bubbles and basically focussed on enjoying the moment with each other.

I set out a few invitations to explore stars, but not very many visited them.  They realized that they only had a few days left to play with their old favorites... the staples of play in our room.

Most wanted to play in our building area with blocks, our new giant foam blocks, loose parts, legos, K'Nex, Magnetix, the Marble Run, Dramatic Play Area, the painting easels and the sandbox.

We celebrated our friends who had summer birthdays.  Each child decorated their initial on their birthday. Here is our finished Birthday Branch Chandelier. 

There was an obsession with Fidget Spinners so I gave them a challenge to create Fidget Spinners using anything they could find in our classroom.  They used K'Nex, Legos, toothpicks, cotton swabs, corks, tape, pencils and paper.  I was amazed at how well some spun!  They also started really studying the spinning motion!  Oh if only we had more time with each other! I could have taken this so much further!

Lots of notes were being written to friends telling them they love them and are going to miss them.  The writing center was full and our letter template paper was the most popular this last week.

I asked the kids what advice they had for next years kids to be successful in Kindergarten.  I was amazed at their wisdom!  This list is advice we should all take to heart to be successful in life!  I will save it to read to the kids next year on their first day.

I passed back the wish rocks where their parents wrote their wish for them at the beginning of the year.  They wanted me to read them out loud and you could tell by the looks on their faces that their parent's words were very meaningful to them.

On our very last day, they came in to gifts from me on their tables.  I gave them bubbles, a magnifying glass and a notebook along with a note to them that came from my heart. If you read the note, it will explain my choice in gifts.  The wonderful bubble labels came from

They made me read the note out loud to them because they wanted to know what it said.  That was my first cry of the day.  I could barely squeak it out.  After I read it, they all rushed me for a group hug.

Next we had field day all day long!  It was such a fun day to end on.  Here are a few of the activities:

The Parachute
Scooter Relay Race

Guard Your Pin


Balloon Volley

Dance Freeze
 We took a break for some free play after lunch and snapped a few class pictures.

What Time is it Mr. Fox?

Sponge Relay Race

Ping Pong Ball on a Spoon Relay Race

Water Balloon Toss

Snack Break and Popsicles to help us cool off!
Then it was time for us to say goodbye.  We all sat down, snapped a couple more pictures, and then I told them through tears how special they all were to me and that I cannot wait to see what they continue to do with all of their big ideas.

We walked out to the busses one last time and gave our hugs goodbye.

It is tradition for all the busses to wait for all of us teachers to get back to the front and wave as they honk their horns and drive by carrying away our precious ones from us one last time.  It is emotional and exhilarating at the same time.

I took the beads off our our peace wreath which has hung as a reminder to strive for a peaceful environment by our door all year and hung them onto our Peace Bead Chandelier which now carries the beads of three years worth of kindergartners and their parents.

I packed my room into my closet (or as my kinders like to call it: The great big room of everything),

and left a room that will start out as a clean slate for next years new friends.

This is the hardest part of my job...saying goodbye.  Each year, my friends are finished at the Early Childhood Center and are all off to their grade schools where they will use the life long learning skills that they gathered while here and most I will never see again, but I will always wonder where their lives take them.  I hope to see some of their big ideas in the future! Have a wonderful Summer everyone!