1. Where are you now in the inquiry process? What are your next steps?
As we go enter the home stretch of the school year, I continue to wonder how to make our prescribed ECE inquiry based curriculum feel more authentic. I keep wanting there to be some type of set protocol or linear routine for me to follow and I have to remind myself that inquiry can be messy. Instead of thinking about a linear structure I should think of it as a web of investigations that culminate in the development of schema or deeper understanding of a topic for our little guys.
Where I struggle is that our curriculum usually provides some very basic investigations around 5-6 essential questions. Time is left at the end of each study for children to explore their own investigation. The issue for me seems to be that most of the questions posed my students tend to be covered within the 5 prescribed ones or they are not seemingly meaty enough for larger investigations.
I've come to the conclusion this is where I need to refocus, be flexible and consider even the smallest types of inquiry. For example, we recently used the See Think Wonder routine during our Building Study. When the children looked at a picture of a person building an igloo, the questions were less around less about the person building the igloo or the material he was using and more about what was inside the igloo leading the children to think/wonder if it was a home or a trap for animals. There were a variety of interpretations about the picture and yet none of the groups I worked with considered the igloo a home for a person and it took a ton of modeling for them to think about how something could stay warm inside something made of cold ice.
Considering their misunderstanding of igloos, I am thinking about using it as a topic for a mini investigation at the end of our building study. Maybe it will be as simple as reflecting on our disucssion about the picutre and modeling where to find information about igloos and what makes a building a home for people. Any ideas are welcome. Ideally, the chidlren could build their own igloo!
*Instead of taking dictation during our igloo discussion, I recorded it so as to keep the conversation flowing. I therefore do not have pictures to share outside of the picture I used of the igloo. (will attach later)
2. Use the 'I used to think, now I think' protocol to tell your reader about the progression of your thinking.
As for literature circles, I used to think...how in the world does this apply to ECE when our kids don't even read. Then enter Ann Christensen and her amazing guidance on shared cognition. Her recent PD helped me understand how we as ECE and Kindergarten teachers can more effectively provide rich literacy experiences for our students. The foundation she shared with us is sometimes referred to as reading readiness where children are labeled as “ready” or “not ready.” The questions she explored with us were “How do children get ready? What does it look like when they are ready? What happens to children who are not ready?” To support reading readiness, she introduced us to the 3 Ts (Thinking, Talking, and Text) and the definition for rigor in early education. Rigor in ECE equals actively engaged students and the ability for them to do independently what a teacher has taught them in small group.
While I feel like her ideas were already at the core of my teaching practice, they made me think about how to engage my students during read a loud and use small groups more effectively. Before this PD, I thought I was doing well by modeling good reading strategies during whole group and using small groups for more hands on learning experiences/activities. I now understand how this may only be supporting some of my students (those who already have a strong language base and are not shy in using it) and not all.
Ann recommends continuing to use whole group read a loud but then supporting all students by doing the 3Ts in small group using carefully chosen reading material and realia for the children to explore and drive discussion. This way, we offer all students a less intimidating environment to talk, explore and inquire which in turn hopefully engages them in the learning experience and deepens their understanding/connections about a topic and/or the reading material.
This PD was really powerful considering all of our discussion about literature circles. I can now see how they can apply to ECE. I therefore plan to use the 3 Ts strategy both in our investigation about igloos using a non-fiction text as well as during our investigation of what makes buildings strong using the book The Three Little Pigs along with building realia such as straw, bricks and sticks etc.
* I will use my next post to share photos and my reflection on these experiences.