How do you engage children in ways that help them verbalise their thinking and help them learn?
The children organise their own day and always make time for their ‘own time’ or free inquiry. This provides me with so much evidence of learning.
During these sessions I observe the children to see:
Where their passion lie (e.g. lists for the space ship or making paper planes).
What their current understanding are, and if they are applying taught skills (e.g.reading writing, number strategy)
What vocabulary the children are using.
How the social dynamics of the class are developing.
Does this mean children miss out on the taught curriculum?
Not at all. I knew we needed to carry out work on measurement, for example. I set about looking for a real reason to measure that would get the children excited. I have never been so happy to have a paper plane knock into my head! The answer literally feel in my lap. Waiting for a reason that sparks learning saves time because the children already have something to reference their developing understanding to.
Teacher generated, child supported learning.
Every time we need to find something out we discuss the best method. Sometimes I may make a suggestion. Come and look in the classroom, we are making a display of different methods. Of course the best example is the children’s ‘Who will do the calendar chart’. I am now looking to see if the children apply their taught skills, let me know if you see something at home.
Generating the inquiry.
As you can see from the video this has given me so much data on the vocabulary of measurement the children have. I also know something about their level of understanding about measurement. I took one of the planes made last week and started thinking out loud about it:
I was wondering if all planes go the same distance? Why not?
Do they go the same distance each time? How do you know that?
What is the best plane? How can you be sure?
These questions can not be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There are many possible ways of thinking. Try out such questions at home.
Imaginative play and the children’s self-generated space inquiry-incorporating new students.
It seems that three weeks off school and an earthquake have not stopped the passion for the space inquiry. The new children have been drawn into the play scenario. I have found it absolutely fascinating to see the children go back to previous play ideas. They have started to rewrite the list of who will go on the space ship. This time the children have written lists with first and second names and they knew how to write them by themselves, last time it was scribble writing and copied names. Everyone has taken part.
The new ideas involve acting out space adventures and making new machines. I have tried to capture some of it on video… but it moves very fast!
This is the first one… I have gotten even better footage today… watch this space!
Think they are the foundation on which all knowledge is built… something that never changes?
A lesson in facts… Good bye Pluto!
The first idea the children had was to have the title of their animation about Pluto. We found images of Pluto and discovered it is no longer considered a planet.
The background to this inquiry.
The children started their own inquiry into space in August. They created a dramatic play area, created a whole class scenario where flight manifests were created. They built space ships and all manner of devises to stop alien invasion of their space ship.There was an incredible amount of writing, reasoning and problem solving. They were using high order thinking skills to solve issues. There has also been a great deal of social interaction and development of social skills. I had NOTHING to do with any of this.
In our current unit How We Express Ourselves Elif Raskin (elementary IT support) offered to help the children make a stop animation film, which she would edit. The children were excited to see an example of this. They decided to take one of their favourite books “There’s nothing to do on Mars” Chris Gall and retell the story in new way.
Back to space we go!
There is just so much to share with you. The blog would explode! I will put a little bit on each day. It is incredible. The research and thinking is amazing.
I am supporting this inquiry by facilitating the use of technology, finding apps and other research tools. I am making sure the children have access to as many art supplies as they need. Most importantly when the children plan their own day we make sure there is them plenty of time to inquire and design.
Talking and sharing ideas.
I have given lots of time to talking about their ideas. We spent some time discussing the title of the animation and this generated a huge amount of discussion. You can see from the video showing their preexisting ideas. They wanted to see Pluto and then discovered it was no longer considered a planet. A big discussion followed.
We want to our Mars to look real. Art from research. on PhotoPeach
I know the highest level of thinking is now considered to be creativity, so is my child thinking at this level?
KP have had a passion for space. This was started by Matthew and Hashu but everyone has joined in at some time during the year. The loft area in the classroom has many functions, construction area, book area, home, paper areoplane launching area (their knowledge of design and aerodynamics is very impressive), but mostly it is a space ship. One afternoon during free inquiry time the whole class engaged in a scenario where the children were getting ready to launch into space. It was decided that a flight manifest of everyone who was going on board would be needed. They cooperated and helped each other write down names. Some children found the names on the wall and read and copied them, some tried to sound them out and some asked for potential passengers to write their own names. This process was sustained for over 45 minutes before the launch commenced. It was a highly creative process which showed problem solving, collaboration and application of taught skills.
Great, but are they learning anything?
Meta-cognition (Having the ability to express ideas verbally, explaining thought processes. Remember many of the children are doing this in two languages).
Problem-solving (Coming across an issue, being able to work through many stages and use different strategies to find a solution).
Cooperation (Work with others to find solutions for using resources. Listening to others and respecting different ways of achieving the same end).
Writing (Understanding that we use writing as a way to communicate and help us organise ideas. Knows about letters and that they have a corresponding sound.)
Phonemic awareness/sight words/reading words (We are not automatically readers and writers, the way we are walkers and talkers. Try and remember how hard it is to learn these skills. The children used many strategies to help them write the words they wanted).
Lists (Picking the write kind of writing for the job. Showing an understanding that we write in different ways for different reasons, for example lists, cards and emails).
Now do you see why we have a class of rocket scientists!
Who will go on the space ship? on PhotoPeach
How technology helped us.
We used the digital cameraand Iphone to take pictures and recorded the children’s work with a photostory. This time I took the pictures but it is usually hard to get the camera out of the children’s hands. It is important to teach them about respecting the technology. Mostly it is just a case of practise makes perfect with taking the pictures.
Photopeach (free) Is simple to use. If you make a file of pictures that children can access they can upload them by themselves and add music from the site. Photopeach honours children’s work by presenting it in a professional manner. In this case I typed down what each child said and this is a record of their thinking, so I could assess their level of understanding about writing shown through this free inquiry.
You Tube (free)We searched You Tube for videoes that showed launches and reentries to earth. You can also use teacher tube, which may give you more educational chooses. The children were able to see inside the space shuttle. This is very easy to do but it is a good idea to preview video if possible. There has seldom been a topic I can’t find a video on. It is fantastic for maths and Language Arts. I am still a big fan of Sesame Street.