Christine Dalman and I have been working together investigating our mutual interest in play and inquiry based learning in early primary. We have joined forces over the past year and a half and have decided to present our findings. We created a proposal and submitted it to the Western Canadian Association for Student Teaching ( WestCAST) annual conference committee. This years conference is being held at the University of Manitoba at the end of February. Our proposal was accepted and we are very excited to be sharing our workshop ‘Inquiry through play in a primary setting’ to fellow pre-service teachers! To help prepare for the conference we held a run through at VIU which was attended by 4th and 5th year Bachelor of education students. Below are a few pictures of our workshop.
‘In our schools today we see a unique diversity of students. As educators we are trying to find the most meaningful way to inspire learners to develop and grow as individuals. Play brings students passions and interests in an organic form’
-Christine Dalman and Lindsy Friendship, WestCAST proposal
Watch this space as I document our WestCAST adventure!
Through out this process I have learned a lot about all aspects of inquiry. I feel that it is important to share these key pieces of information for those who wish to start their own inquiry journey.
- Start small! Inquiry does not have to be big! It can be an investigation into a small topic that may only last a week
- It is OKAY for the initial process to be teacher directed, there is a lot of information and various ways to approach this way of learning. To be successful during this phase you need to find what works for you! It is a growing process, one that you and your students are learning together
- If the inquiry is based off of students interests their learning, participation and excitement will be meaningful and will help to facilitate a community of learners
- Share the learning with parents and community, this will provide parents the opportunity to have a concrete understanding of what is happening in your classroom. It may also encourage parent volunteers, they are your best resource!
- Have fun!!
These are a couple of my favourite resources for adults and children. Some of the adult resources are not Inquiry specific, I have included books on play, loose parts, Reggio, emergent curriculum and project based learning. I have used these various books for understanding and inspiration as they all have a common thread. Children’s voice is powerful and important, the adults role as a facilitator and most importantly Teachers learn alongside children.
Reggio inspired provocations
I have begun looking looking closely at the notes and quotes that I record during my last time with my practicum class along with the pictures I took ( posted in my previous post) One of the interests that emerged from their play was keeping their animals warm during hibernation. Pieces of tin foil and cotton balls had been added to the loose parts table to support the learning of winter. There is some background knowledge on this topic as the class had been learning about seasonal changes. I had initially begun to support this inquiry using a integrated concept map from Connecting the dots by Stan Kozak and Susan Elliot. I found this approach to be to ridged for the needs of my class ( based on previous experiences) and my approach as a facilitator so instead I used it to help guide the inquiry. I found a mind map to be more user friendly where we could easily add more questions and ideas. I also feel that having the mind map posted will help to make children’s learning visible as there will be connections to the curriculum, as well as student voice. Below is the beginning stages of our mind map, this version is more teacher directed as I have not had the opportunity to evolve this interest with my practicum class. This evolving document was created based on questions I had overheard while children were playing. There is a strong possibility that when I return to practicum in three weeks time this interest will have been met or changed. I felt it was important for my learning to start to develop this mind map to put my learning and experience into practice.
Photo’s that demonstrate this interest
Activity- Graphing our thoughts on which animals hibernate in the Comox Valley
-Make simple predictions about familiar objects and events
-Sort and classify data and information using drawings, pictographs and provided tables
-Make and record observations
Activity- Inviting L.O’S dad into our class to discuss his experience with tracking
Big idea-We shape the local environment, and the local environment shapes who we are and how we live.
Many more connections can be made to the curriculum including the core competencies, please let me know if you would like more information.
The last day of this workshop focused on the different methods and frameworks used to support, implement and connect inquiry to learning. Connections to assessment were also examined and many great discussions arose from this topic. Assessment was discussed as learning, of learning and for learning. Assessment as learning was described when students reflect upon their learning and the setting of goals based on self reflection. Assessment of learning refers to the meeting of curricular goals based on students accomplishments. Assessment for learning was occurs when Educators use observations from student progress to support their teaching. These topics were explored using the following resources :
When using the Connecting the Dots resources my favourite strategy was the Integrated learning concept map. This strategy allows for easy implementation of cross curricular connections, inquiry and project based learning. As a pre-service teacher this concept map is very helpful in laying the ground work for an inquiry approach. The concept map easily demonstrates the curricular connections, various assessment tools and student engagement. Key aspects which parents, administrators and other teachers have a keen interest in understanding how they are met through inquiry.
These are some pictures I took during free play in my grade one classroom. As the pictures progress notice how the play also changes and becomes more specific. I used these observations with the lens of assessment for learning. I have started a concept map based on these observations.Click to view slideshow.
As the slides progress you will notice how the play changes and become more elaborate as the interest and wonders of the children change. I supported the interest of building by adding loose parts to the tree blocks for children to use. As the class began to observe and learn about seasonal changes the felt and plastic leaves were added. As the slides continue you will notice the animals and seasonal materials change.
‘ Set up play situations that have some focus to them, where you as the teacher can just observe, listen, and throw in really casual questions in really casual ways so its not always perceived as ‘I’m assessing you’ (Natural Curiosity, 2011)
– Julie Comay, JK teacher
An inspiring weekend in a beautiful setting with a wonderful colleague Mrs.Dalman! If you ever have the opportunity to attend Making authentic inquiry work, go!
What started out as a weekend workshop presented by Natural Curiosity and learning for a sustainable future turned out to be a much needed guiding light. Through all of the investigating, reading and observations Christine Dalman and I have done , information overload was starting to set in. This two day workshop had no set in stone agenda and was guided by three amazing facilitators who ran the two day event based on the questions and needs of the group. The first day was spent brainstorming individual and collectively on what we though inquiry was, ways to implement it and the challenges Educators face with all aspects of inquiry. We also participated in a Knowledge building circle to enhance our brainstorming sessions. Below are some pictures of the questions and answers we developed as a group of 40 people through mind maps and further elaborations on chart paper.
This knowledge building circle took many different paths but always ended back at two key concepts. How do we best support learners to flourish and reach their potential? What supports are in place for Educators when implementing inquiry methods? One of my favourite parts of this KBC apart from the variety of ideas and view points was the etiquette of participating in a KBC. Instead of raising your hand to add to the conversation you put your hand into the circle. You only indicated that you had something to add to the conversation once the last person had finished speaking. Once the previous speaker called on the next participant the conversation would always continue with ‘ Building on your comments’ or ‘I connected to what you were saying…’ These techniques were incredibly helpful in keeping participants on track, respectful to other people’s thoughts and actually listening to what other people had to say. While this method worked well with adults, could it be done with young students?
While I have yet to try a Knowledge building circle with my grade one class it is definitely on my list. Until then have a look at this video to see a KBC in action!