Hello again. Today I’d like to discuss a couple of things I’ve used with early childhood kiddos or with older students that aren’t quite reading that have worked within a Guided Inquiry unit. Let me start by saying that I really like doing GI with younger students. They are more likely to try new things without skepticism and negativity. They aren’t embarrassed that they can’t read yet because nobody else can either. They are used to working in groups and doing centers. They don’t know that failing to meet a learning objective is an option. They jump right in with both feet and are eager learners. Yes, you do have to do things a little bit differently, but a little bit of planning goes a long way with these guys.
I’ve done a space unit with PreK the last two years. The interesting part about this is that all four of the PreK teachers that have willingly agreed to go on this journey with me have not been trained in GI. You would think this would be a setback, but these four ladies have been incredible. They have trusted that because I believe in the process, it will go well. They were involved in planning the unit together, even though they hadn’t done Guided Inquiry before. They are the experts on their kids and what is age-appropriate for them. They are the ones that know exactly what their kids can do. I just gave a quick description of the purpose of each phase, and off we went. All four teachers have asked to do other units or asked “Why don’t we teach like this all the time?”. One of my PreK teachers had to move to another state, and she has taken GI with her (and we still occasionally text and plan stuff together even though she is on her own for implementation). PreK is the perfect place to do GI. They aren’t bogged down by testing or grades yet.
Our district is very lucky to have a portable planetarium that fits nicely in the library. I have borrowed it from the district to open this unit. Students can go in the planetarium with their teachers and me and look at the stars. We can talk about constellations and the reasons that people in the past used constellations. They can make up their own constellations and tell stories. This has been a huge hit with the kids. Check around your community and see what is available. Often people are more than willing to come in and share their passion with kids and then you have yet another adult on your GI team.
Often for Immerse with PreK and kindergarten I do centers in the library. They are already accustomed to doing centers in their classroom and they can pick whatever is most interesting to them. For this unit we did centers that focused on astronauts and space travel. The units included: iPads to watch videos of astronauts in space, astronaut snacks (dehydrated foods, squeeze pouches, etc), astronaut exploration box (see picture below), moon walk area, moon sand (okay, I know this isn’t a legit thing, but we needed another hands on activity and we talked about if surfaces are different on the moon), and pictures of the moon, stars, and space as taken from telescopes. These students and teachers did an amazing job.
The good ol’ standby. I use a KWL chart for younger grades almost every time. I do the K and L between explore and identify. This lets students hear and build off of what other students in their class are thinking. Often if a student is struggling to think of something that is interesting to them, hearing from other students will get them started. I just take a big piece of bulletin board paper and have the teacher call on students while I write. We do the K first (this is just a list of the things that the students already know… it can be anything they find interesting). I mostly write down everything the students say as close to word-for-word. Then we move on to the L (this is just a list of things the kids still want to know… on this part I try to flesh their questions out to be a little deeper). Even though most PreK students can’t read, I write down what they say. This models writing for them and lets them know that their ideas and questions are important enough to write down.
This is it. My favorite phase. PreK kids ask approximately one zillion questions a day. That doesn’t change just because we are doing formal questions for GI. I like to use an iPad APP by Duck, Duck, Moose called “Draw and Tell” to identify. Students can draw a picture and then record their voices to go with it. I have students draw one thing that they think is interesting in the drawing. When they record their voices, I have them tell me one thing that is interesting to them and one thing they still wonder about. Since four-year-olds are quite proficient in working with iPads, the classroom teacher and I can wander among the students and talk to each one about what he/she is thinking. This last set of PreK kids that did this unit came up with some really interesting questions. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Do animals ever travel to space?
- What happens if too many astronauts get in a rocket?
- Why does Saturn have rings?
- Why do astronauts eat hard and dry food?
- How big is space?
Here is one of the Draw and Tells that a PreK friend did. It is a picture of earth as seen from space. His question “What I want to know about space… how big is it?”