Sunday, October 22, 2017

Inquiring About Leaves

We are so lucky to live in an area that has all four seasons!  Fall is often a favorite.  The leaves turn so many amazing colors!  Every year, I wonder out loud to my students as I am modeling having an inquiring mind, "I wonder what color leaves can be?" Every time I ask this question, I am reminded of how young these kids are!  They really don't have a memory of what Fall looks like.  Before this year they were mostly aware of themselves, their wants and their feelings.  They explored and experienced Fall, but don't have much schema other than the leaves fall off the trees and that they can play in the leaves.  They predicted that leaves could be every color in the rainbow! Red! Pink! White!  Orange! Blue! Yellow! Black...etc!  I always have a hard time believing they are serious, but they are!  They truly think leaves can change every color of the rainbow!  We made this the driving question of our Fall Inquiry and went to work learning how to look closer, notice new things around us, wonder, investigate, explore and inquire! This is the mindset that we will base everything we do in our classroom so it's important to make them aware of this mindset!

We started off by going outside and playing in the leaves. They were also picking them up and having conversations about what they were noticing!  "They are crunchy!"  "They have lines!" "There are lots of brown ones!" "They smell bad!" "They smell good!" "This one had three colors in it!"

Next we learned about Observational Drawings. We learned that sometimes we draw and use art materials for creative art, but sometimes we use them for scientific purposes. When making art, we can make trees any color we want!  When we make an observational drawing, we are trying to draw as scientists, capturing everything we notice as we look closer!  Of course, these observational drawings are a type of art as well!  We started out by looking at a Fall trees and collecting leaves, then drawing what we see/noticed!

I set up an area for them to explore leaves but it was too small...

so we created a bigger area for science!

The kids started exploring both outside and at our inquiry table.

I believe that children can use a variety of means to show what they notice.  I love putting out artists materials for observational drawings.  I put out watercolors and sharpies for my littles who speak through art.

I put out clay for my littles who like to show what they notice through sculpture.

Here are some of their observational drawings!

They started creating observational drawings of other things they wanted to look closer at.  One group loved exploring the milkweed pods that have been growing all over the area of our playground that we call "Genevieve's Garden."

After they had time to explore and look closer at leaves, I set up our science area to answer our driving question! What color can leaves be? Some kids changed their minds about leaves being all colors, but many still thought there may be some of each color.  As we found leaves we glued them on the paper that matched its color. 

Here are the results of our experiment!

We came to the conclusion that most leaves turn red, orange, yellow, green, purple and brown.  Not many turn black or pink (I couldn't believe someone found a black leaf but they did!). None turn blue,  or white.

We had a lot of leaves left over so I read my favorite Fall book "Leaf Man" by Lois Ehlert.

The kids made all kinds of leaf creatures, inspired by her work!

As we have been learning to record like scientists, the kids are also starting to experiment with using what we call "kid writing" to label pictures or the different parts of their pictures. They have been learning the letters and the sounds that go with them. Now they are starting to apply this base knowledge as they sound out words and write down the letters they hear.  This starts to happen naturally as they get into the mindset of making their thinking visible.  I am seeing the beginning signs that they are starting to think this way!

Here is our Fall Leaves Display outside our door.

Here are some other things that has been going on in our classroom! The kids have learned that we have an area in our room where they can be architects and builders and their designs have been getting bigger and more intricate. Their creative and critical thinking skills are both being fostered and used in this area now! Everything is very purposeful.  They are also learning how to collaborate and work as a team!  A very important skill they will need in their future academic years and jobs! They are starting to record what they made for others to be inspired by.  We have a special binder to hold their designs.  I am also starting to ask them, "What stories do you see with your structure?"  We will start incorporating stories they see during our Exploration Time into our Writer's Workshop time soon...but that is another blog post! Here is some of the products of their hard work!

We have been practicing connecting letters to sounds and letter i.d. but we are also starting to use these letters to practice sight words (we call them popcorn words because they "pop up" all the time). We learn them as they "pop up" naturally in our reading and writing!  So far they have learned I, a, is, in, the, for, go, we, red, and blue. They are noticing new ones popping up all the time!

Here are just a few of the literacy stations in our room at the moment!

Matching pictures to initial sound:

Create a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree and see how many letters you can balance on it before they all fall down like in the story!  Record and name the letters on the recording sheet (STEM and literacy rolled into one!).

Letter Bingo. We also have picture cards to make it a bit more challenging.

The kids are diving into apples right now!  You will see how they are getting into the "Project frame of mind" in the next post!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

How Science and Art Led to Our Child Created Math Wall

I don't buy things like color, number or letter charts from teacher stores because the kids make them so much more beautiful! I don't have classes make all of the charts every year, but when the children do create the tools, they understand the reason behind them so much more.  They take ownership of them and love to use them.  When they make these tools, they are more noticeable and don't  fade into the background like store bought tools that were there when they walked in on their first day.

Inquiry Based Teaching has taught me how much math, science and art are interrelated! As I have learned with the kids, I have noticed that you see math in science. Math is all over nature!! You can use science to make art! We also see math in art in patterns and shapes. I have even heard that there is science in Van Gogh's "Starry Night!" It really is amazing how connected they all are!

The kids had been mixing colors in our science area and loving the new colors and shades they were creating! Here is the science invitation I had set up for them to explore.

After they explored with mixing, I set up an invitation to explore different shades of the same color.

This book is amazing for showing colors have different shades! The kids liked to use it as a reference.

Since the kids were enjoying mixing the colors in our science area so much, I thought of an idea for a number chart! It would also be a work of art! I found a huge canvas at Michaels for 70% off! It would be perfect!  I gathered the materials and told the kids that we were in need of a new number chart to help us with making and identifying numbers, number words and counting. I taped the canvas into 20 sections.

The kids were very excited to start creating, especially after I told them they would be able to mix paint colors to create their own unique color for our chart! I called them over during our Purposeful Play time to explore color mixing and create their color!

They painted one square with their color.

After mixing their paint, they named their colors. Some were very creative like jelly and deep ocean blue!  When the colors dried, we wrote the numbers on their color with a pencil and them they painted the number with black paint. They counted up to their square and we talked about what kind of lines they had to use to make their number and the correct way to print their number.

I wrote the name of the color they created with a sharpie.

I realized we would not be able to fit the number words or ten frames for showing how many in the squares so we made those separately. They practiced counting one to one correspondence and matching numbers to objects as we did this.

Then I called kids over to help spell the number words.  Many did not realize that you could spell a number!

Here is our finished number chart!

Our math area is now complete with the tools we need, and if I do say so myself, I could not buy anything better or more beautiful at the teacher store! It is a work of art! Kid's work is always so beautiful! Here is our math area.  I have math books about counting under the table for them to explore for now.  Under the table is where I put books relating to the focus on top of the table.  They can relax and explore math at the same time under there!

The focus in the math area this week is numbers.  This provocation was created to provoke their thinking about different ways they can make numbers.  They pick a number and use the materials available to make it or show it in different ways.  They then share it with their partners.  We are also taking pictures and letting them share what they did on the promethium board. Skills/standards practiced here: Number i.d, counting, subitizing, matching numbers to objects, and addition!

One of our math trays has this game on it called "Race to 20." They roll the dice and put that many beads on their number card and tell their partner what number they are up to. Whoever gets to 20 first wins! Skills/standards practiced: Counting, one to one correspondence, the concept of adding more, and number i.d.

Here is another game they can play in the math area. They roll the dice and put that many wool balls in to their section. Whoever fills their section first or has the most at the end is the winner! Skills/standards practiced: Counting, one to one correspondence, the concept of adding more, and being able to tell more/less by looking at objects.

Another math tray that I do not have pictured are number cards to guide them to make thes number with pattern blocks or with the geo-boards and rubber bands. Skills covered here are number i.d. and how to write the numbers as they record the numbers they created.

This post gives you an idea of how math works in our room.  We have a math area as shown here, but math is definitely not limited to that area!  Math happens all over our room! It happens in our Engineering and Maker's Space as they build magnificent things! It happens in our Building area as they build with our wooden unit blocks and loose parts!  It happens in our art area all the time!  Math is definitely not limited to one area!

The kids are now exploring leaves as they are falling from the trees right now on our playground! Stay tuned to see where that takes us!