Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Have You Seen Birds?

Inquiry can be a funny thing. Like a flock of birds, it can start off in one direction but before you know where it might be going, it changes direction. Some of the birds go one way, while others go another way. It can be challenging to keep track of them all, but exciting to witness!

Our students had so many questions and conversations about birds. We always start our inquiries with some little activity or book to spark the children's interest, followed by co-creating an "I think I know" chart. We call it this because it allows the children to "change their thinking" if the knowledge they gather through the inquiry contradicts a preconception they may have had. It also allows us to get an idea of the children's background knowledge and previous experience with the topic we are exploring. 

Once we have an idea of the kinds of questions the children have (by creating an "I wonder" chart), we create a "map" for ourselves of ideas for discussions we might have, resources we can gather, and ways to link their explorations to the Kindergarten Document. This is an exciting task, revealing the vast possibilities presented by following the children's interests. We don't write anything in stone, because as I mentioned, the direction can change quickly (and often in ways that we can't anticipate!). 

A combination of books from our classroom, school, and community libraries ensures that the children have many resources to explore!

The books we gather inform much of our inquiry, and inspire the children to ask deeper questions. Themes of diversity, compassion, healing after loss, caring for the environment, and the connection between humans and animals flow through the rich literature we read aloud to our students, and we're continually amazed at the children's ability to grasp of deep topics.

Activating prior knowledge is a powerful tool before we read a rich text.

Soon, the exploration spills into other centres around the room, particularly the creative centres. Without prompting, the children create play dough birds complete with feathers, eggs in nests, and mama birds to sit on them. As they create, we circulate and discuss their work with them to learn more about their understanding of the topic of inquiry.

"Why do you think the mother sit on the eggs? How long do you think it takes for the eggs to hatch? Do you think the father bird help? Is the baby bird in the egg when the mother bird lays it, or does it grow?"
A key component of inquiry is that we do not GIVE answers to the children, but discuss questions with them and help them find information they need. The end result is not necessarily the RIGHT answer, but a deepening of their ability to ask questions about the world around them.

As the days and weeks pass, the children widen their exploration into dramatic play (by building nests with blocks and flying in search of food), science (by observing the birds that visit our feeders, studying our field guide, and enjoying non-fiction texts and videos), language arts (through read-alouds, poems, and fingerplays), and mathematics (keeping track of bird visitors on a tally chart, graphing types of birds we've seen, and learning about egg sizes). 

The word family list on the right arose spontaneously as the children noticed the rhyming words in this poem. They were very excited to think of lots of "est" words!

We investigated bird behaviour through the seasons when we read this beautifully illustrated fiction text while learning about how a bird-loving boy takes care of the wildlife in his backyard. We also enjoyed reading Riki's Science Journal as we read the story.

With the warm weather, we've observed the return of the Canada Geese, and are starting to hear a greater variety of birdsong! This is an exciting time of year to delve into the feathery world of birds!

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