We hope that you are enjoying the first steps towards spring! The sky stays light later, birds are chirping, and our children are edging towards the next grade. For Kristi, the spring thaw is also bringing opportunities to study the active construction site next door to the school, and a renewed sense of purpose to inquiry.
Inquiry is one of the areas that Kristi wanted to focus on when she returned to the classroom. How do you teach children to cultivate thoughtful wonderings, develop theories, and follow those theories up with study to confirm or revise them… all while teaching the social studies and science content for the grade?
Inquiry can exist with different amounts of scaffolds: the teacher can choose the topic and guide the inquiry, or the entire study may be driven by student interest. Kristi knew that kindergarten was entering the neighborhood study, but she let the children’s natural curiosity drive what part of the neighborhood they studied. Of course, the construction site right next door drew the most amount of lingering attention, and so the construction site inquiry was born.
Charts and Tools to Support the Study
One of the first things the class did was visit the site to observe and sketch what they noticed. At the same time, Kristi took photos. She printed and enlarged the photos and the class studied them. As they read books about construction, and interviewed people connected with the site, they labeled the pictures with their new knowledge and vocabulary.
The class visited the site repeatedly and were fortunate to see some major demolition in action. Kristi used her phone to record video of a column being pulled down and the class later watched and rewatched the video to understand what was happening. From that, the following how-to class book was born:
As the process went on, the questions children asked changed from, “What is that?” while pointing to a machine, to bigger questions like, “How do they know how to make the building?” which has led the class off in the direction of architecture and blueprints.
After a few visits to the construction site, children began to replicate some of what they had seen in choice time. In this way the vocabulary was used and reused. To help children imagine the possibilities, Kristi taught a choice time lesson that showed them that you can make what you saw on an investigation!
Construction is everywhere in choice time now: blocks, legos, and even in cardboard!
This is a two story cardboard dollhouse, made by two students, complete with people!
The class inquiry is continuing on in the direction set by the children-blueprints and models-and Kristi is referring again and again to the standards for social studies to ensure that she is also covering the requirements through read aloud, interviews, and videos.
Happy charting, and happy inquiring!
Kristi and Marjorie
In the sports world this month may be referred to as March Madness, but in the world of schools it is March Marvels. March is a marvelous month for children and teachers alike because this is the time of year we traditionally see great spurts of growth in our children, both physically and academically. They are taller, speak more eloquently, and can read, write and compute at new levels of achievement. And teachers can marvel that all their efforts are paying off. With this in mind we thought we would share some charts that celebrate effort and expectations as we head forward towards Spring.
For most teachers increasing children’s reading stamina is an ongoing goal because of its importance in strengthening their reading abilities and fluency. In fact it is often something that was fussed over quite a bit at the beginning of the year as routines and expectations for reading workshop time were set up. We saw many a stamina reading chart hanging up in classrooms during these beginning months of school. But, as with most charts from the beginning of the year they were replaced by more current charts that focused on critical reading strategies and skills. But as students are preparing to read more difficult and varied texts the issue of stamina is one worth revisiting. Making a chart that records the increasing time spent reading (or writing) announces to the world that this is something important and increasing the time reading books is worth striving towards as a class.
Below we show some examples of charts that celebrate the effort being put forth by classrooms to increase their time reading books. Again, the message being put forth is that this is something important and that together we can accomplish great things and we thank the amazing teachers, Jung Choe, first grade, and CTT team Sarah Carolan and Lindsay Brickell, at PS 59 for sharing these with us.
This first chart shows a delightful bear on a bicycle riding on a meandering path. The markers show the times achieved, the current reading times, and the times the class hopes to reach. This chart did not just arrive one day because it was cute and fun. This CTT/Inclusion class spent time talking about their reading, how long they used to read for, how long they can now read for, and what it was like to keep reading even when they got tired or distracted. Together they decided to try to increase their time reading like they try to ride for longer times on their bicycles in the park.
In another first grade classroom the teacher used a favorite character, Pigeon from the Mo Willems series, to pump up her children’s enthusiasm for the challenge ahead – to read longer without stopping. Again, the goals were developed with the children and they took turns keeping track of their reading stamina. This is a chart that is referred to often and steps moved up when the class is able to maintain the increased time consistently for the week. In other words, this is not something we do once, give a shout out, and call it a day. This is something that will take time to become a habit, to reach a goal. It requires effort.
Kristi also found a need to increase reading stamina among her students, so she created with her class of Kinders a plan that increases stamina by reading in increasing increments of time by including independent reading, partner reading, and library reading time. By providing varied opportunities to read in various situations, the children are encouraged to keep reading for increasingly longer periods of time. Again, the more children read, the longer they read for, and this increases their ability to read successfully and well. It also allows the teacher increased time to confer and teach small groups.
These are but a few examples of how teachers are setting challenges and celebrating effort in order to help their students, not only set goals, but develop agency and a ‘can do’ attitude that will be a life skill that each and every child can carry with them throughout their life. Let us know what other ways you are sparking your students to increase effort and drive to accomplish set goals.
Until next time, happy charting!
Marjorie & Kristi