Monday, June 2, 2014

Medieval Times in Kindergarten

This morning two children collaborated on building a really long wall of blocks that reached from our big carpet to the sand table. I mentioned that it reminded me of the Great Wall of China, and another student said, "That wall is very long, very big, and very old!"

When we gathered at the carpet, I shared a photo I'd taken of the children's wall, then one of the Great Wall. The discussion turned to why people long ago built such a wall, and I mentioned the movie "Mulan". Drawing on the children's experience led them to recognize that the Great Wall (in the movie) was built to protect the people of China from attacks by invaders.

We wondered together what other kinds of defensive structures humans have made. I drew a picture on chart paper of a wooden palisade (I remember visiting them at historical sites when my family drove across Canada in 1983!). The children became very animated and thought the sharpened logs looked like pencils. naturally, this led to the idea that we could create pretend palisades in our classroom!

Then I mentioned that castles were also built as defensive structures, and that was it: a new inquiry was born. Incredibly, the children sat completely rapt and attentive for 40 minutes while we generated questions about castles! Some of the questions were:
 During recess, I gathered as many books about castles as I could find, and borrowed a beautiful model made by one of my co-teacher's son. When the children came in, they pounced on the books and learned a new word: RESEARCH! Some of the children spent the next 40 minutes engaged in conversations, heads leaning together over books about the Medieval period, generating more questions (which I recorded as I circulated around the room, to add to our "I Wonder" chart). 
What does this say, Mrs. P?

A large group of students collaborated with a variety of blocks to build a giant castle on our big carpet! As I observed their work, I heard them discussing towers, the crenellated ramparts of a castle (not in those words, of course!), and what tools builders might have used to create a stone castle. 
A few students were busy drawing and cutting out castles, copying pictures from a book to draw the portcullis. Another used paper and a stapler to create a bow and arrow!
The children have begun creating a list of materials we'll need to start building our own castles! They are very excited and motivated. This inquiry will include finding out about what children played with long ago, and how people made their clothes. Some of the girls were wondering what the clothes looked like, and how they were made. 

I brought in a wooden castle of my children's, and borrowed some other models made by older students. It didn't take long for the children to call in the recruits, and played at "siege", where the turtles, pigs, and dinosaurs were breaking through the portcullis and into the castle! I believe that's Mickey Mouse on top of the gatehouse.

To further our inquiry, I've asked parents to send in boxes of all sizes, paper tubes, and low-temperature glue guns. I'm betting I'll have lots of busy hands in my classroom tomorrow, creating their own models! I've also started a Pinterest board here to gather ideas for further exploration. I look forward to where we're headed with this!

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