Monthly Archives: August 2014

Inquiry of a Castle (Part 2)

Let the Building Begin!

After the art show, we had the time to focus more on our giant castle. We had also collected enough larger boxes and felt confident that the students were ready to construct a castle that could reflect their learning. Different students contributed at various times along the process and we could proudly say it was a collaborative process in which all students thinking and skills were involved.

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Top Row: Children painted boxes black and stamped grey bricks on with a rectangular foam block. Bottom Left: It was sometimes difficult to get this boy to participate in classroom activities and we were looking to find something he could connect with. The creation of the giant castle sparked his interest more than anything I had seen all year. He painted boxes outside in the hall for three days straight. Bottom Right: Children went inside of the castle to consider the arrangement of the boxes and what details needed to be added. Here, one boy runs in with his plan that he has drawn on a piece of paper.

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Inquiry of a Castle (Part 1)

After the worm inquiry, my SKs explored castles and Medieval Times. The journey we went on together was magical and filled with wonder and awe. Along the way, I kept digital documentation of how it all came to be and what unfolded. To give you a sense of my documentation style, I will insert clips from my “castle file” for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

The Provocation:

Since the release of the Disney film, Frozen on DVD, I observed my students routine engagement in role-playing games involving princesses, knights and Medieval Times castles. One day, I put on a video clip of the movie’s theme song, “Let it Go” and watched in awe as all of my students sang along word for word, drinking in the colourful images of magic and castles found within the scenes. My students’ interest in this subject matter did not diminish and it was days later that they were still fully inspired by the movie, singing the theme song and integrating ideas of princesses, knights and castles into their dramatic play, drawings and construction (some of the boys were even constructing shields and swords with building materials). I finally asked them the question that sparked our journey, “How can we make our “princess” and “knight” play more ‘real’?” The children almost unanimously replied,  “Let’s build a giant castle!”. 

Making a Plan & Engaging Families:

After presenting the question, I asked the class how we were going to go about building this giant castle. We made a list of things we might need and decided to send this list to our families to ask for donations. Items on the list included: large boxes, paint, fabric, costumes and books that could help us with developing a better understanding of castles. I sent the letter out to all of the families in an email that night and the response was overwhelming. It seemed almost everyone wanted to contribute or be a part of our giant castle. Throughout the weeks, parents volunteered their time to come in and assist with our inquiry in various ways (helping to construct, reading to the children, helping children with their designs, etc.). One parent donated a book that was precious to her and her family called, “The Story of Castles”. She explained how wonderful the book was and even wanted to read a chapter to us one day.

Donations poured in over the next couple of days after the letter was sent out. While we waited, I asked the children who were interested to begin drawing ideas for our castle. These were pinned up on a collage-style board in the middle of our room.

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Left: Children filtered in and out of the drawing station at will to create elaborate pictures of castles and plans for our giant classroom castle. Right: This child sat drawing her castle for an impressive 40 minutes! She was so careful and precise in her design and utilized books for accuracy.

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This is a shot of our collage-style, “work-in-progress” Castle Board after the first couple of days into preparing/planning for our giant castle. It was interesting to see each child’s initial idea of castles before much teaching had been done. I didn’t see this as my inquiry board, rather just something we threw up there as children were completing drawings quickly. I wanted to show how excited the prospect of this inquiry made the children. The actual documentation board that highlighted the focus of our journey began a few days after this was put up.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in which I explained where this worm inquiry came from and how I prepared for it (see the last post), I will now describe what happened when the children were introduced to the worms. Enjoy!

Engaging Students at the Science/Worm Centre:

My prized worm tank was complete and ready for its worm inhabitants. This new provocation was, at first, hidden from students when they came into the classroom the next morning. I started off reminding them of their wonderings yesterday about why there were no worms in the soil at the mud table. I told them I wanted to read them a story about a worm to get them thinking more about worms. I read, “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin.

As we read the story, certain questions arose about whether or not the book was giving us real facts about worms. Initially the students stated that the book was fiction because they could tell it was more like a story and did not have a table of contents like the non-fiction books we have looked at did. As students asked questions or made predictions as to whether or not something in the story was a real fact about worms, I recorded their thinking on chart paper. I was surprised when some children talked about worms being good for the soil and the environment! This was something I kept note of because it told me that some children had a fairly good background on worms. The chart paper became quite crowded and messy but the children know from me reminding them, that thinking is sometimes ‘messy’ and not always ‘neat and tidy’.

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Our ‘busy paper’ as we wondered and talked about worms.

After the story, we review our thoughts from the chart paper. I asked the children how we could find out the answers to our questions as well as find out more about worms. The children are becoming very familiar with this process of “researching” or “exploring”. Some answers included: Look on the iPad or iPhone, look on the computer or Internet, ask Scientists in Sweden (yes, Sweden!), look in non-fiction books, and finally…. look, study and feel worms by bringing real worms into the class. A few children actually suggested this last idea. A few children immediately stated that this would be impossible because there’s still snow outside and the ground is frozen. Other children brought up that fisherman have to buy their worms from a story so maybe we could buy worms from a store too. The children discussed a possible plan of action with one another for a few minutes while I left the circle to go grab the tank.

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