Sunday, 28 September 2014

How do birds make nests?

Since we are investigating how bats and birds are different, the students thought it would be best if we had two sets of wonder charts at the Discovery Area. One for bat wonders, and one for bird wonders.

As so often happens with inquiry in an emergent curriculum environment, the presence of one spark can ignite the interest of many! 

One afternoon, O. M. brought me a stick he found outside at lunch and told me he wanted to use it to create a bird nest. I asked him how he knew birds used sticks to make nests? He responded by telling me he saw sticks in the nests we had at the Discovery Area, and in some of the classroom books abut birds.

Seeing that some students were already creating nests using plasticine, and W. E. and E. E. posted the wonder question, "How do birds make their nests?", I asked the class what they thought about O. M.'s idea of collecting materials to try and make nests like birds? The students loved the idea and so began our investigation. 

I brought in some wonderful books about nests and placed them at the Discovery Area. 

It wasn't long before pages were filled with post-it-notes that students felt were important in helping us learn about the types of materials birds used to create their nests. 

We ventured outside! 

"We need string, sticks, feathers, leaves, all that stuff for the birds nest (looking at the book)!" J. S.

"We need to find moss." W. E.

"I found bark!" O. M.

"I found string for the birds to make a nest!" L. S.

"I found something for the birds, it is like string!" A. F.

"I think I found some seeds. They were on top of the leaves and I think birds can find them to build with." O. S.

"I found string! Birds use string to make nests." M. O.

Back in the classroom, we decided to sort the material.

"I found lots of little tiny sticks and rocks. I think birds use them to make their nests." J. K.

"I gathered lots of sticks and put them in the bucket." R. S.

"I got some string to make a nest." L. S.

"I found rocks, leaves, and bark so the nest is warm." O. M.

"I saw some sticks in the book, then I went and grabbed them." J. S.

"I found mud, and I found leaves and bark so the nest stays in the tree and doesn't fall." A. F.

"I found one tin foil and I found lots of sticks. I'll try to make a nest." M. S.

"I picked a stick cause I want to make a nest." B. P.

The next day, I placed the provocation out for students to explore and investigate nest making with the materials they collected. 

To further support their learning, I showed them parts of a video I found of a Robin building her nest. 


It was interesting to listen to conversations and observe students as they created their nests.

They experimented with the best way to make their nest like a bowl. Some made a flat round shape and lifted the sides, others rolled and made a sphere, then used their thumbs to make the center hollow. When they added different materials, they used some of the books to help them figure out which nest they wanted to create.

"My nest is the shape of a circle." H. S.

"The birds spin around in the nest and makes the shape of a circle!" W. E.

"The nest is made of feathers." C. C.

"My nest is shaped like an egg, an oval." O. S.

Bats have fur, birds have feathers! Using a Venn Diagram to support our learning!

As we continue to explore and investigate how bats and birds are different, I thought this might be a great opportunity to introduce the Venn Diagram to students and demonstrate how it might help us with our comparison. 

With the support of natural artifacts such as nests and feathers, as well as various fiction and non-fiction books about birds and bats, students independently deciphered important facts and information to add to the Venn Diagram. 

Wonderful story comparing bats and birds.

Students seemed to enjoy using the Venn Diagram to document their learning about bats and birds using drawings, adding labels, and writing descriptions.  

"Bats hang upside down." J. S.

"Bats are nocturnal." W. E.

"Bats hibernate in the winter." E. E.

"Bats have fur." P. I.

"Birds have feathers." C. C.

"Birds have beaks." L. B.

"Birds make nests." O. S.

When I introduced the diagram to students, I asked them what information we would place where the two circles intercept? Right away students mentioned that we would put things that bats and birds have that are the same.

"Bats and birds have wings." Z. G.

"Bats and birds fly." O. S.

Our Venn Diagram continues to be a working document. Students are adding to it daily as we discover new information about bats and birds.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

From lines to letters...the co-construction of our Alphabet Wall!

As a way to engage the students at the beginning of the year, I set up a provocation (invitation to learning) on exploring lines. I felt this was a safe and motivating topic that would support students at varying abilities to feel confident in expressing themselves creatively. Keeping in mind the many ways that children learn (Hundred Languages of Children), I placed plasticine, crayons and paper, as well as wire (large twist ties), to allow for exploration using various channels.   

Simultaneously, we also read some wonderful books about lines to further enhance student learning!

While observing the students, I noticed them rolling the plasticine into a ball, then using their palm, they would press and flatten the ball, and start rolling it up and down their hand using the table to give it a worm like appearance. Then they would shape it to their desired line. The students who used the twist ties loved creating swirls and zigzags which they related to looking like lightening (E. E.) or the first letter in Z. G.'s name. The lines drawn on paper were of multiple colours and shapes! As students worked, it was interesting to listen to them identify the lines they were creating by name. 

"I made a curved line! P. I. 

"Look Mrs. Ralph, it looks like the hermit crab shell! It's a swirl!" W.E.

Their new knowledge about lines was also evident in their drawings. They seemed to start noticing lines everywhere, in picture books, as well as objects in class and outside. 

Now that they were comfortable and confident in identifying various lines, I felt this was a great time to read the book, "Harold's ABC", hoping this would challenge them further to notice lines in letters.

I then added Harlold's ABC book and an alphabet card to the line exploration table to see what would happen. 

A few students rushed over and started creating the first letter in their name. Others chose letters they thought they could manage replicating with the plasticine. I also invited other students to give it a try. It was lovely to see the positive relationships forming, where some students started assisting others who were a bit more hesitant. I took pictures of all the letters created, showing the students what had been done and what letters we could still make. 

The article "Letting go of 'letter of the week'" by Bell and Jarvis (2002) discusses the importance of making all letters of the alphabet accessible authentically rather than introducing isolated letters and sounds sequentially.
-Make It Meaningful! Emergent Literacy in the Kindergarten Years By Laura Logaridis, Katie Tranter , and Leslie Siegrist. The Early Childhood Educator Summer 2012

Providing students with meaningful authentic experiences, enables them to connect with their learning in a positive way and allows them to put things in a context that is personal to them. In the end, we created all the letters of the alphabet! They loved seeing the pictures of each letter, and were excited every time they saw the letter each created! 

During a discussion with students I asked them, "what can you do if you forget what a letter looks or sounds like?" A few suggested to get the alphabet card, letter ring, or ask a friend or teacher. Then I showed them the pictures of our plasticine letters. "What can we do with these?"

"We can put them on the wall!" O. S.

Many were in agreement with this idea. I then asked them which wall they wanted to place their alphabet letters? We decided that a survey would be the best way to figure this out.

I handed the pictures of the letters to a few students and asked them to figure out how we could display them on our wall. 

I observed and listened to them reason with each other and was surprised at how great they worked as a team. They supported each other when they couldn't find a letter, and started singing the alphabet song when they got stuck on what letter came next. When they mixed up some letters, one student ran and grabbed the alphabet card and together the group looked it over and found their error. It was amazing to watch. When they were done, they laid out the entire alphabet for the class to see. We all sang the alphabet song again and agreed it looked great! Up on the wall it went in the Reading Area where they felt everyone could see it the best.

It is important that students are given the opportunity to engage in and design their classroom environment. This process supports their learning by giving meaningful experiences for them to connect to. 

According to Partricia Tarr, "Not only might children be involved with selecting work that goes on display, they also can be part of the process of creating the display."
Tarr, P. 2004. Consider the Walls. Beyond the Journal


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Batty for Bats!

The Discovery Area is a space that encourages children to ask scientific questions about the world around them. It is these wonder questions that enable children to develop theories and come to conclusions based on their own explorations and investigations. On the first day of school, I placed a provocation (intentional placing of materials without showing/telling children how to engage in order to allow for self directed exploration) about birds which included nests, feathers, and books hoping it would act as a motivator and entice them to ask questions, eventually leading to further investigations about birds. 

After a few days, only a few students explored the materials. Though they seemed engaged, I didn't notice a strong motivation from those children in wanting to investigate their wonders further. But this is the beauty of emergent curriculum, which is following the children's interests authentically, where they take ownership of their learning. 

During a group discussion a strong spark ignited! I wanted to get a sense from the children if they were at all interested in learning about birds or if we needed to find new discoveries. So I asked them if they had any wonder questions about birds that they wanted to explore? That's when our discussion became very interesting. 

M. O. responded with the fact, "Birds have wings and feathers."

"what about bats? They have wings and fly?" F. D.

"I think bats have black skin." M. O.

"Because they're (bats) black, they live in caves because caves are black!" D. C.

"The claws make the bats have grips to go upside down." 
S. C.

"Bats sleep upside down, that's why they have claws. Bats like to sleep upside down." W. E.

"How do you know this W?" Mrs. Ralph

"I thinked about it in my mind." W. E.

"Bats hang upside down because they need a rest." E. E.

"They hang in a cave. My mom told me." O. M.

"I think bats live in Gotham City because Batman has the word bat in his name." W. E.

"I watched a bat movie and it was scary because it was a lot of caves and it was 3-D and it felt like I was in it." P. I.

"Why were you scared? Mrs. Ralph

"Because it was dark and the bats were handing upside down." P. I.

"I saw a real bat once at my cousin's house. It had fur and it was eating fruit." L. B.

"When did you see it?" Mrs. Ralph

"It was in the night time." L. B.

The children had so many things to say about bats and they were so excited and passionate about their knowledge. Bats are different than birds. The big idea that was evident in their discussion.  

Creating bats out of plasticine. 

Using post it notes to mark important facts about bats! 

Drawing our bat! 

Telling me about what vampire bats eat!

Watching a National Geographic short video about bats!

Creating our Bat and Bird Wonders chart. 

I cannot say right now where the bat interest will lead, or if it will become an inquiry. It may be that we bounce back to birds or end up investigating many aspects of both, depending on the interest group of students that form.

I wonder where this will lead us? Stay tuned!