Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pondering and Inquiring

The easiest way to get young students used to asking their own inquiry questions is to practice two types of statements. 
  1. I noticed...
  2. I wonder...
I use these strategies often to help develop the art of questioning to further learning. Bringing in realia, for students to see and feel, makes this process even easier. The statements generated by students push learning further for everyone and can be used during the rest of a unit to tie everything together.

I use inquiry with realia, interesting pictures, reading passages, and informational text.

Below is an article I wrote after visiting Adena's 1st grade classroom. She kept her students wondering, noticing, and learning throughout her unit on pumpkins!

Pondering Pumpkins

Mrs. Connelly holding a pumpkin during a discussion as the children watch and discuss.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in October and 17 first graders sit on the carpet listening to Mrs. Connelly read from a book called, A Day at the Pumpkin Patch, by Megan Faulkner. Next to her rocking chair is a chart stand with a large piece of paper on it. The paper is covered with sticky notes arranged in groups. Two pumpkins sit on a table; a large one with a stem and a smaller one that is too small for a carved face. She pauses in her reading to refer to a sticky note. “I think this page might have answered one of the questions we had about our class pumpkins last week,” she says.  Then she reads from one of the notes, “I wonder why one is bigger than the other one?” Several hands pop up as a little girl infers that their smaller pumpkin is a “pie” pumpkin. Other students nod, and then, Mrs. Connelly reads on. She stops several more times to think aloud or ask questions. One little girl asks if they can make a pie with their little pumpkin. A boy raises his hand and announces that he wants to plant the seeds and grow more pumpkins in his backyard. A girl volunteers that the word “related” must mean that gourds are kind of like pumpkins.
This isn’t the first day this class has been wondering about pumpkins. Last week, when the two pumpkins arrived in the classroom, the questions and “I wonder” statements flew about the room. Each question was carefully recorded on sticky notes and the class sorted them into groups of questions that might belong together.  They had been reviewing their chart a few minutes before beginning the book so their thinking was current and their minds were looking for answers. As they started the book, Mrs. Connelly had reminded them that they were continuing their research and that is their attitude as they delved into the topic.

 First graders write in their pumpkin journals.

After finishing the book, the students return to their desks amid conversations with each other about pumpkins at their house or a trip they have taken to a pumpkin patch. They pull out and open their pumpkin journals, which are decorated with colorful pictures of first grade pumpkins. On the inside of each one is bright orange paper on which to write their wonderings and learning. Today, they are beginning their sentences with, “I learned…”
I spend some time visiting with some students about pumpkins as they share with me what they have learned. As I leave the room, I take with me some words I don’t usually hear in a first grade room. Slimy seeds inside the ribbed fruit, tendrils curling around vines, peduncles on top of pumpkins…

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