Saturday, October 19, 2019

An Insect Inquiry: Following Student Interests

I have learned that if the class is truly interested in something, they will use reading, writing, and math skills as they explore their interests naturally. I observe and listen closely to discover what they are interested in. Sometimes a book or story will spark an interest. Sometimes an interest is sparked by something a friend shared with the class. Sometimes I notice interests by listening to their stories and their play.  Our last large group interest was sparked when one of our friends found an almost dead praying mantis. The kids were fascinated with it and wanted to look closer, observe, and find out more.

Every time we went outside they wanted to look for insects! 

I set out some invitations for them to explore insects further.  They quickly started looking through books and models of insects to see what they could find out. I started encouraging them to record what they noticed using different materials. 

One of their favorites was the book Microsculpture:Portraits of Insects by Levon Biss. It truly took a closer look at insects including closeups of legs, wings, eyes feet, etc. it was such a beautiful book. I set it out with materials for them to create their own beautiful portraits of insects showing what they noticed. 

They are starting to figure out how to try to spell unfamiliar words by writing the sounds they hear in words. They practiced labeling their insects here also.

But the insects they got the most excited about were the ones completely covering our milkweed plants! They wanted to know all about them! 

We looked at a picture of one and made our thinking visible by recording what we saw, thought and wondered. Then we got our Entomologist tools, took them outside and found out everything we could about them!

They were amazing and thorough Entomologists! 

We recorded everything we noticed and then put some of our information in the computer and found out they are called Milkweed bugs! We then did an observational drawing as Entomologists and used our writing skills to label what it is and some body parts. Here is the display outside our room showing everything we learned about them!  

The other insects all took a backseat to the milkweed bug! I could have done a traditional insect unit, but these kids noticed something in their environment where they could truly experience it, so I followed the direction they took our insect study. I often let the kids direct our curriculum! They show me what they want to learn and I follow their lead and learn along side them. They were much more involved, interested and excited about learning as we followed their interest. Also, this fell naturally into our science standards of living things and what they need! I can’t wait to see what other interests this group will have that we can dig deeper into! They are definitely bringing in leaves by the bucketful...

Here are some other things going on in our classroom:

We are still working on those fine motor skills! Our finger muscles need a lot of work!

Stories are being created in all of the areas of our room as we learn about story making!

Here they are encouraged to show math in an open ended way. At the moment they are working on the numbers 1-10, shapes, writing numbers to 10, counting objects and matching to the correct number, counting to 25, subitizing and patterns. They are also learning to notice math all around us and how we use it in our every day lives.

Some Fall art inspiration with sunflowers.

They drew pictures of Mrs. Coberly wearing Michigan State colors and wrote “Mrs. Coberly loves Sparty!” Then we decorated her door! They loved this! Unfortunately, the Buckeye/Spartan game did not end well for me!

It has been a busy place filled with all kinds of learning!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Creating an Inquiry Mindset in Kindergarten Through Colors

As an interest based learning teacher, I usually start out with something most children have some experience and interest in until I get to know them better. Color is something they always enjoy exploring! I set out paint at the easel and asked, what can you wonder and discover about color here? As they explore, I constantly model for them the growth mindset, language and vocabulary often used in an inquiry based classroom: What do you see? What do you think? What do you wonder? What do you notice? What did you discover? Did you learn something new? Did this change your thinking? These are questions I want them to ask themselves as they explore new things this year!

I set up experiences for them to explore colors. They quickly on their own started focusing mostly on different shades of colors. Here are some pictures showing the invitations to explore and the children exploring and discovering things about color.

They were also noticing shades of colors of objects in our room! When they discovered them, they would share what they noticed with the class.

They noticed we could mix colors to make different shades of colors and that adding white made lighter shades and black or darker colors mixed in made darker shades.  I wondered out loud if it was possible to create 100 different shades of colors? We looked at a book called Pantone Coors that you see in many of these pictures that showed there were lots of shades! The kids took it as a challenge and a project was born! We wanted to see if we could create 100 different shades! We did one color each day.

We did it! Not only did we make 100 different shades, we made 120 different shades of colors! They were so excited to beat their goal and create that many colors! They also discovered that black was black but we could make different whites! I told them that I wanted to display their colors to show people what what they learned. We debated how to display them. Group them by colors separately? Group them by light or dark?  Like a rainbow? I thought they would prefer that one but they surprised me. They agreed on a circle with all of the color together. 

I couldn’t fit the browns and grays/white/black in so those were separate. The kids helped label and write out some of the things we did and noticed for our display to document our learning. Here is the finished display!

This was a fun way to get started with how we will learn in our classroom! As they learn more about letters/sounds and writing they will be recording their own observations of what they see, think, wonder and discover! As the year goes on, you will notice them using their writing and reading skills more and more in natural, authentic ways! This is one of our big goals! Now that we have finished, I have started to notice some common interests to start our next inquiry and take all of our learning further! Stay tuned!

Here are some other things that have been going on in our classroom!

Learning to identify letters and sounds. We start the year learning one letter a day through our Journeys curriculum and how to write the capital letter properly using our Handwriting without tears curriculum. Here are some of the experiences set out for them during this time. 

The kids have learned how to partner read with letter books contains predictable text. They are learning letters, letter sounds, and the first three reading strategies: 1) Use your pointer finger to touch each word. 2) Look at the picture. It is a clue to figure out harder words. 3) Look at the first letter and say it’s sound when trying to figure out a word you don’t know. They are also learning to help each other and encourage each other as they read together.

Here they try to create the letter by putting the lines down in the order they should make them when writing. 

Here, if they can name the letter and/sound, they are allowed to use it to build a castle. Of course they can ask friends for help if they don’t know it!

More ways to practice proper formation of letters and develop fine motor skills to help with writing. Pebble crayons to encourage their pincher grip, texture to feel themselves making the letter on both the the grid and the chalkboard (both provide resistance. A whiteboard does not so does not work as well.

We learned about Mat Man to help us with drawing people. We draw his parts and then add details to turn him into somebody.

We keep writing at a minimum for now so that we don’t continue the bad writing habits they have developed. We focus on creating stories through pictures and telling oral stories. We read these books to help us. It helped us realize if we don’t know how to draw something, we can draw it “ish!” Dog-ish, violin-ish, etc. it gives them the freedom to try and helps those perfectionists not throw away every drawing they don't feel is perfect. 

We also read Beautiful Oops and Oomph! These taught us to work through mistakes and to add the destabilization a picture needs to tell a story in itself! These books really helped them learn to tell stories through pictures. Good Dog Carl is a good example of a story told through pictures. 

A lot of literacy learning has been happening and it’s only just beginning!