Sunday, October 29, 2017

Inquiring About Apples

The kids have apples for breakfast every morning but never really looked at them or noticed them.  They just ate them without really thinking about it...until one day, one group of kids started looking closer at their apples.  They were noticing details and marks in the skin, whether they had stems and were eating to the core to dig out the seeds.  Then they started wondering.  After I pointed out what this one group was noticing, others started doing the same, so I set up an area for them to look closer at apples and use art materials to document what they noticed.

They started looking closer and documenting what they noticed.  They started asking questions and wondering about the apples.  "Do they all have seeds?" "What colors can they be?" "Can they float?" "Why is it turning brown?"(Wondering if things sink or float is a consistent interest I am noticing with this group). We are keeping track of these wonderings so that we can answer their questions later!

Here is an observational drawing using oil pastels of a rotting apple.  They are noticing it changing more every day.

We did an experiment to see if the apples would sink or float.  The predictions were about half and half!  They floated but we wonder why?  If we throw it in the air it falls, but it doesn't in the water!  We may revisit this in a future inquiry! They used their emerging writing skills as they recorded their predictions and the results.

We cut up the different apples and created signs for them for an apple tasting!  They were so excited for this!

After tasting, we made a graph to collect some data.  I asked them what data this graph gives us.  They said, "Green has most." "Gala has fewest."  But then I asked them what that means.  What does this data mean?  I want them to extend the graph and connect it to the experience.  "Most of us liked the Granny Smith apples the best." "11 of us like Granny Smith apples."  This is very hard for them at first, but they are learning!

We set up a STEM challenge to get the kids to start using their critical thinking skills.  "Can you build a bridge that can hold an apple?" They then started trying to build a bridge that could hold the most apples and then started trying to figure out how to improve their designs to make them more sturdy. Here are just a few of the designs!

Each table created a giant apple to show the different colors apples can be.  This was the first small scale project where the kids worked as a team to show what they noticed.  They had so much fun creating these. "This is the best day ever!" was heard more than once as they were working!  If they loved working on these, I can't wait to do a large scale project with this group!

They started by mixing colors that would make the perfect matching color for their apple.

They looked closer at their apples and added the small details.

We incorporated writing as they came up with words to describe what they noticed about their apples and labeled them.

After exploring apples all that we could, they dictated what they learned to me as I typed it on the computer.  They started shouting out all of the sight words that we have learned so far that were popping up on our sentences!  They went up to the promethium board and pointed them out to me and asked if I would highlight them!  Here is our list of what we have learned about apples.

I took all of our projects and displayed them out in the hallway to show what we did as we explored apples!

 I also put out examples showing what they saw using oil pastels.

Here are some examples of labeling what they noticed on the inside of an apple and individual projects showing the seasons of an apple tree.

Because I use my own curriculum I make sure to post the standards worked on during the experiences in our inquiries.  These are not the only standards worked on as we also have reading, writing, and math stations covering even more.

Here is the whole display in our hallway showing all that we did.

Next we will look closer at pumpkins as we continue to practice looking closer and showing what we see, think and wonder!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Inquiring About Leaves

We are so lucky to live in an area that has all four seasons!  Fall is often a favorite.  The leaves turn so many amazing colors!  Every year, I wonder out loud to my students as I am modeling having an inquiring mind, "I wonder what color leaves can be?" Every time I ask this question, I am reminded of how young these kids are!  They really don't have a memory of what Fall looks like.  Before this year they were mostly aware of themselves, their wants and their feelings.  They explored and experienced Fall, but don't have much schema other than the leaves fall off the trees and that they can play in the leaves.  They predicted that leaves could be every color in the rainbow! Red! Pink! White!  Orange! Blue! Yellow! Black...etc!  I always have a hard time believing they are serious, but they are!  They truly think leaves can change every color of the rainbow!  We made this the driving question of our Fall Inquiry and went to work learning how to look closer, notice new things around us, wonder, investigate, explore and inquire! This is the mindset that we will base everything we do in our classroom so it's important to make them aware of this mindset!

We started off by going outside and playing in the leaves. They were also picking them up and having conversations about what they were noticing!  "They are crunchy!"  "They have lines!" "There are lots of brown ones!" "They smell bad!" "They smell good!" "This one had three colors in it!"

Next we learned about Observational Drawings. We learned that sometimes we draw and use art materials for creative art, but sometimes we use them for scientific purposes. When making art, we can make trees any color we want!  When we make an observational drawing, we are trying to draw as scientists, capturing everything we notice as we look closer!  Of course, these observational drawings are a type of art as well!  We started out by looking at a Fall trees and collecting leaves, then drawing what we see/noticed!

I set up an area for them to explore leaves but it was too small...

so we created a bigger area for science!

The kids started exploring both outside and at our inquiry table.

I believe that children can use a variety of means to show what they notice.  I love putting out artists materials for observational drawings.  I put out watercolors and sharpies for my littles who speak through art.

I put out clay for my littles who like to show what they notice through sculpture.

Here are some of their observational drawings!

They started creating observational drawings of other things they wanted to look closer at.  One group loved exploring the milkweed pods that have been growing all over the area of our playground that we call "Genevieve's Garden."

After they had time to explore and look closer at leaves, I set up our science area to answer our driving question! What color can leaves be? Some kids changed their minds about leaves being all colors, but many still thought there may be some of each color.  As we found leaves we glued them on the paper that matched its color. 

Here are the results of our experiment!

We came to the conclusion that most leaves turn red, orange, yellow, green, purple and brown.  Not many turn black or pink (I couldn't believe someone found a black leaf but they did!). None turn blue,  or white.

We had a lot of leaves left over so I read my favorite Fall book "Leaf Man" by Lois Ehlert.

The kids made all kinds of leaf creatures, inspired by her work!

As we have been learning to record like scientists, the kids are also starting to experiment with using what we call "kid writing" to label pictures or the different parts of their pictures. They have been learning the letters and the sounds that go with them. Now they are starting to apply this base knowledge as they sound out words and write down the letters they hear.  This starts to happen naturally as they get into the mindset of making their thinking visible.  I am seeing the beginning signs that they are starting to think this way!

Here is our Fall Leaves Display outside our door.

Here are some other things that has been going on in our classroom! The kids have learned that we have an area in our room where they can be architects and builders and their designs have been getting bigger and more intricate. Their creative and critical thinking skills are both being fostered and used in this area now! Everything is very purposeful.  They are also learning how to collaborate and work as a team!  A very important skill they will need in their future academic years and jobs! They are starting to record what they made for others to be inspired by.  We have a special binder to hold their designs.  I am also starting to ask them, "What stories do you see with your structure?"  We will start incorporating stories they see during our Exploration Time into our Writer's Workshop time soon...but that is another blog post! Here is some of the products of their hard work!

We have been practicing connecting letters to sounds and letter i.d. but we are also starting to use these letters to practice sight words (we call them popcorn words because they "pop up" all the time). We learn them as they "pop up" naturally in our reading and writing!  So far they have learned I, a, is, in, the, for, go, we, red, and blue. They are noticing new ones popping up all the time!

Here are just a few of the literacy stations in our room at the moment!

Matching pictures to initial sound:

Create a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree and see how many letters you can balance on it before they all fall down like in the story!  Record and name the letters on the recording sheet (STEM and literacy rolled into one!).

Letter Bingo. We also have picture cards to make it a bit more challenging.

The kids are diving into apples right now!  You will see how they are getting into the "Project frame of mind" in the next post!