Coming back after the holidays meant jumping into high gear, getting report cards ready and pulling together a winter inquiry with the SKs…still haven’t quite finished either, but regardless of how overwhelmed I may feel, the work always gets done. Although I dream of being organized and efficient in my career, at this point my work ethic is a little more like; procrastination/panic/pull-all-nighters and then I can relax. Not very professional, maybe, but I am so relieved when I hear of colleagues who work in much the same manner. I’ll be better next year.
In both of the classrooms I teach, I dedicated an area on the whiteboards to our winter inquiry. To make it a little more interesting and easier to see the information and the work the students produce, I covered the area with cobalt blue bristol board and delineated three sections as a giant KWL (I KNOW, I WONDER, I have LEARNED) in English and French (Je SAIS, Je me DEMANDE, J’ai APPRIS). This is how far I have gotten with the inquiry so far;
I KNOW/Je SAIS
The students brainstormed what they knew about winter. Most of what they mentioned involved plants dying, and animals, particularly bears, hibernating. In one class, I collected their ideas and wrote them in a winter web on chart paper, while in the other class, I asked the students to write their ideas themselves (using inventive spelling) on a strip of cardstock. I am not sure which method I prefer. Regardless of the fact that one process is faster and the other is more authentic, I feel that in both cases, the students benefitted from the discussion we had just prior to writing.
I WONDER/Je me DEMANDE
Our team found books such as, “What happens in Winter?”, “Who lives in the Arctic?”, and “Grandmother Winter”, that highlighted the cooling and darkening of the Earth and the variety of ways all creatures find ways to stay warm at this time. My English counterpart read a beautiful book called, “Ben and Nuki Discover Polar Bears” by Michelle Valberg, which is a wonderful story of two boys – one from a big city in ‘the south’, the other from a village in the far north – who learn about polar bears as well as each other’s cultures. As a provocation about polar bears and life in the arctic, it was a fantastic launch. As a result, the Wonder Wall quickly filled up with questions about animals who don’t hibernate in winter when we had assumed that they ALL do (“What do seals do in the winter?”), and about the people who live in a climate which is wintery for a much longer period of time than what we experience here in ‘the south’. The students asked questions such as, “How do they get their food?”, “What do they make their clothes out of?”, “What is fur made of?”, and, “How do they build an igloo?”. The students wrote their questions during our Writer’s Workshop period, always using inventive spelling when they were not sure of how to write a word, then they would share their question and the drawing they had done to accompany it, with me or with our ECE. We got a fine collection and were really able to see where their questions were going and how deeply the students were connecting with the topic as this helped determine whether we needed to find different ways to engage them.
The drawings and questions have now been posted on the bulletin board for all to see and to help guide the students’ inquiry. Stay tuned for the grand finale of our winter inquiry learning journey.