Inquiry is a huge part of the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program. This year I identified inquiry as my area for personal growth. Many Kindergarten teachers say they are doing inquiry all day long but when you look in the room there may not be a lot of evidence of that fact. Yes, children question all day long. Yes, we find resources and lead the play in the area of their interests. But what does true inquiry look like in a K classroom?
I made some purchases of inquiry resources on line. I bought Working The Reggio Way, Nine Thousand Straws, and Worms, Whirlpools and Shadows on Amazon. I am still working my way through Nine Thousand Straws. There are lots of hands on examples of inquiry in this resource. I gained a beginning understanding of The Reggio Emilia philosophy and began reflecting on what that could look like in my classroom in Canada. The book that struck home with me, is Worms, Whirlpools and Shadows. This resource helped me see ways to truly document learning in the Kindergarten classroom.
I also turned towards my PLN on Twitter. I am following @joanne_babalis and @MsSchmidt_YR. I read their tweets and blogs. Jocelyn’s blog has documentation of her students’ learning in her Kindergarten room. Her Environmental Inquiry in Action: Our Tree Timeline post had me thinking about our school and what resources we could use. Our pond came to mind and I decided to take the children over to the pond to see what questions might arise. Joanne’s blog also included a documentation panel section as well. I’ve seen these examples of class inquiries and I also believe in independent inquiries for my students. I am running both a class inquiry on our study of the pond throughout the year with the students’ questions leading the way. I also have developed bulletin boards with the students’ faces and a thought bubble above each face. I am recording the wonderings that are surfacing throughout the week. Together the adults @TechMan45 and @GreenhamJenn who support me during my prep periods along with my partner who is a Dedicated Early Childhood Educator are working on students’ personal inquiries.
I can see incredible thinking and learning happening in the room and I have been struggling with ways to document the learning process. In the books and blogs there are examples of uses of digital photography and students quotes. I always have the iPads handy and it’s second nature for me to be taking photos of everything that is happening in class. I followed the example of the bristol board documentation panels in Worms, Whirlpools and Shadows and it worked but the panels are so large and take up so much space in our little classroom. I feel it’s important for the process to be available for the students to reference. I will post some in the hallway so visitors and other classrooms can see our learning but I strongly believe the documentation process should be for the students to use, reference and build upon their knowledge base. I’m much more comfortable with my iPad than bristol board. So I turned towards my apps. Pic Collage is an app that is very simple to use. I work with groups of students to arrange the photos and then type their thoughts. This is so much easier than using bristol board panels. I also believe it’s faster and I’m able to capture the learning moments right when they happen. I don’t have to wait to print out photos and gather the group the next day.
I’ve noticed a lot of learning occurring at the block center this month. One group of boys constantly chooses blocks over any other center. I need to value their learning and share their learning with others. I noticed they were making a window in their structure. I went and sat and observed them. Then I asked them questions. The students told me how they made it. I asked if we could make something so the next time a group comes over they could learn how to make a window too. So together the boys built the window while I took photos. We arranged the photos and they told me what steps to write down. Here is their documentation.
I printed out the photo and placed it in a plastic page protected. I hung it on a hook in our building center. Now students can take the photo instructions down and try to build it themselves. My principal printed out three extra copies that I sent home with the students so they could share their learning with their families. I foresee a whole series of documentation at the block center. On Wednesday I sat with a group of boys and asked them to tell me about their structure. One boy said it was a ramp, and another said it was a bridge. They argued a bit over what it really was and discussed the differences between ramps and bridges. So, this week we will add some photos of real bridges and ramps and let the students explore. I’ll do my best to document what they are doing throughout the week and then we can make our own ‘documentation’ panel of bridges and ramps. That is, if the excitement continues at this center.
Some of students began wondering about frogs after our walk to the pond. We recorded their wonderings. After school, I sat with the Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE) and we talked about how we could support the five students who had initial wonderings about frogs. She suggested we put some frogs in the water table and then observe the talk that was occurring which would help us know which direction to support them. So last week the children explored the frogs in the water table. Kim, the DECE put in some rocks as well. The students talked a lot about frogs jumping and the need for lily pads. One child said, “we need some lily pads for our frogs.” This led to another little inquiry. We talked about what materials to use and provide. Kim, took a small group of students and gave them lots of items to make lily pads. (construction paper, plastic, tissue paper, foam sheets, etc) The group made lily pads and tested them. So much learning came out of this activity. Here is the documentation of this activity.
On our pond walk on Tuesday we took photos of our four main things. Milkweeds, one tree, a berry bush and the pond. We compared the photos over the past six weeks. Lots of questions have developed around the changes in colour of the leaves, the absence of the berries and the colour of the pond. This week in Shared Reading we will be looking at a poster from Scholastic News titled “Leaves Change Color” and viewing a one minute clip from DiscoveryCanada about why leaves change colour.
I’m often asked, “what is your theme? ” Well we don’t have a theme. One might say it’s frogs, or ramps or leaves, but really it’s all about what the students are interested in and that drives what we read and write about in class.
I was really struggling with how to capture and document the inquiry learning process in my room. I felt a little boxed in. I was believing it must look a certain way. Now, I feel as long as I can have students truly explain and reference their learning and it doesn’t matter what format it is in. Pretty bulletin boards, bristol board panels, Pic Collages or audio stories. I will use a variety of ways to show the learning that is happening in our classroom.
How do you document and share the learning in and from your learning space?