Can We All Say Goodbye To, “What’s Your Favourite Colour?”

I have taught primary grades for 13 years, and I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve had students survey others about …

• favourite colours.
• favourite foods.
• modes of transportation.
• mittens, gloves, or bare hands.

And then this year happened, and our updated Kindergarten Program Document made me see things differently. The document explicitly states that we start by observing the child, and then make the links between his/her play and program expectations. That’s when I started to wonder, is this the kind of data that matters to childrenMy teaching partner, Paula, and I talked about this, and we decided to wait, watch, and link data collection to student interests.

In the past, data collection was always something that I introduced early on in the school year. This year, we waited a lot longer. It’s hard to wait. Sometimes I wondered if the interest would ever be there, and if not, how could I speed things up? But then students started to orally collect some data at the snack table. They began to ask questions like, “Do you like …?,” or “Who else likes …?” These are the kinds of questions that tend to slow down eating, but to me, this is less troublesome when you see the connection to math. Now the students provided us with a reason to introduce how to conduct more formal surveys and keep track of data. This is what the “noticing and naming” component of math in the Kindergarten Document is all about: the math is already happening, and now it’s up to us to help students “name” and extend this math behaviour.

This is what we did here, and slowly students started to develop their own surveys. The questions that they asked were meaningful to them. Not only did they collect the data, but they also began to analyze it: commenting on total numbers and why people may have made the choices that they did.

As the survey interest progressed, we were able to structure some mini-lessons around our observations. Paula noticed that students were using checkmarks to keep track of student responses, so this is when she introduced tally marks and counting by 5’s.

This led to students changing how they kept track of their responses. We continued to also reinforce having children reflect on their findings and make sense of them.

Students also started to think more about why they might want to collect information, and they made tally charts when they wanted to find out what people thought about different topics, when they wanted to find out the most popular answer, and when they wanted to convince adults about something new to try (e.g., using GoNoodle at the end of the day).

While I realize that collecting data about library groups, computer options, and toilet names, may not seem like particularly deep topics, they are ones that are meaningful to this group of Kindergarten children. They also allow our students to move from collecting the data to analyzing it and making decisions based on the results. When I think back to what I had students collect data on in the past, I wonder if this was always the case. How often did we just stop at collecting the information? Did all of the topics lend themselves to much more than that?

I share this thinking now because on Friday, I saw this tweet from one of our instructional coaches, TJ Rooth.

This tweet came out of a Board in-service for Junior teachers. My thinking is that these “favourite colour surveys” should be reconsidered for all grades. Are they really enough? What do you think? How do we make data collection more meaningful for all students? I would love to know what you’ve tried and what you’ve observed.

Aviva