I remember a couple of years ago when I made the move from teaching Grades 1 and 2 to teaching Grade 6. I was both nervous and excited about this change. At the time, Angie Harrison, a fantastic educator from York Region, gave me this advice, “Kids are kids.” Good teaching strategies benefit students in all grades, with the obvious changes of course! 🙂
I’ve been thinking about Angie’s words a lot this year as I try to use inquiry more in the classroom. Inquiry is a key component of the Full Day Kindergarten Program. I’ve found that the new Social Studies and History/Geography Document is helping to bring this style of teaching and learning from Kindergarten all the way up the grades.
As I try to learn more about using inquiry in the classroom, I find myself talking more to the amazing Full Day Kindergarten teachers that I follow on Twitter. They have helped me understand the power of provocations, and how to use these provocations to generate inquiry questions and get students exploring topics that link to curriculum expectations and matter to them. So on the weekend, when I was trying to get organized for my new Social Studies unit, I looked to Twitter for some help with provocations.
I was amazed with the responses! Here’s just a snapshot at what people suggested over the course of the weekend.
It was when Nancy Niessen, a fantastic Kindergarten teacher in our Board, asked me what I needed that things got interesting. Almost right away, she direct messaged me with options of objects that she owned (from animal skins to a medicine wheel) that I could use for provocations. Then she even arranged to drop off the box of items to me. How exciting!
I was as giddy as a child at Christmastime when the box arrived yesterday afternoon. So now the big question was, how was I going to use these items to get students inquiring about First Nations Peoples?
Last night, I initially thought that the solution was to formulate guiding questions about the items, put them out on display, and get the students talking. After creating these questioning cards, I started to second-guess myself.
It was around midnight last night, that I was inspired. I needed to start thinking more like a Kindergarten teacher. As I said before, “kids are kids.” So when I should have been in bed, here’s what I was doing instead …
This morning, I started the day by generating some excitement with the perfectly placed box.
I didn’t have to say anything about the box because “kids are kids,” and the moment they walked in and saw it, they were talking.
As they grabbed their pencil cases for French, they all stopped by to read the note, and I heard them talking about First Nations Peoples on their way out the door. Success! 🙂
This is when I let things be until after second nutrition break. Then I picked up the box, put it on the table, and told the students that when I came in this morning, I found this box on the floor. What?! One student said, “Oh, I thought you put it there.” Another student said, “Well I wonder who did put it there.” A third student added, “I know that he’s dead, but if not, I thought that it might be Dr. Seuss. The note rhymes just like his rhymes.” 🙂
Now the students wanted to know when we got to open it. Not today. I explained that I was left with instructions to open it once the students showed me that they had shared what they already knew about First Nations Peoples. We read through the note together again, and then we looked over at the books and artifacts that were currently on the shelf to help us out. All the students have to do is have a look at these prompts, think about what they already know, and share with me in some way their prior knowledge about First Nations Peoples. Students spoke about using their inquiry books, writing blog posts, drawing and labelling pictures, and tweeting their learning. Excellent! They all know what to do.
Then the talking started. Some students started looking at the books. Others discussed what they knew, and they slowly started to brainstorm ideas together. Tomorrow I’ll remind the class of our job, and then I’ll wait to see the writing and drawing take shape. Students of all ages will get excited if we make learning exciting for them! As the bell was about to ring, I captured this video of “inquiring minds at work.”
Even when the discussion is not on Social Studies, you can still hear the inferring, and you can certainly hear the excitement. In fact, when the bell rang, I needed to encourage the class to leave. Students that want to stay and learn: I can’t imagine anything better than that!
How do you get students excited about learning? What strategies can we borrow between the grades to increase student thinking, generate excitement, and produce more inquiry? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Wow Aviva – this is inspiring!
Thanks Maryann! It really was a matter of so many people that inspired me though. Today made me really excited about inquiry possibilities. It helped me see how that Full Day Kindergarten philosophy really can be applied to the older grades. Now it’s a matter of keeping that momentum going (as Nancy Niessen tweeted recently). This may be my next blog post! 🙂
I will be following along and learning from you.
Thanks Maryann! I’m sure that I’ll be sharing much more learning on my blog this year.
Have a great night!
I share your sentiments regarding thinking like an FDK teacher exactly! As well as the idea that kids are kids. Something as simple as changing the scale of the paper that students are recording their responses on or leaving a provocation on Edmondo or moodle to get students talking works and captures their engagement. I wonder if you could build in provocations into projects and have students introduce their projects with their own provocations for the class?
Thanks for the inspiration and reminder that all students (even the older ones-I teach gr 7) love something new!
Vanessa, I think that we think very similarly on this topic! Having students leave their own provocations for the class is a great idea! I know that one of my students did so when she brought in her pet hamster. She wanted students to start thinking about animals and life systems, so she used questions to guide them (in addition to the animal itself). I hope that more students will try this too. Definitely something to think about!
It’s great to hear that you’re thinking about this too as a Grade 7 teacher! This approach to teaching and learning is definitely not something that is only for Kindergarten students.