Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Full of Wonder

Happy, our class pet, the inspiration behind all our wonders

 This summer many of us at the Think Tank read A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. We met a few times throughout the summer to share our ideas, reflections, and thoughts about the book. Jenny even started a wiki for us so we could collaborate there. (I admit I have been terrible about checking it once school started- but this summer I had the best of intentions.)

I finally got around to opening up the Wonder Center during reading workshop.  Right now, since we're not doing reading groups yet in kindergarten (those start next week), the center is teacher led. This has been great because I've been able to sit with them, direct their attention, include interactive writing activities, and set the expectation that we're asking questions, looking at books to learn, and then writing. Next week when I start doing guided reading they'll be more independent (we hope).

Observing the parts as a scientist
 To start out I am picking one topic each week. I started with our class frog since she is the bane of my existence and yet a big part of our classroom community.

I'm dividing the center into 3 different parts. First we start with interactive writing and coming up with a question about what we want to know about frogs (or our topic). I've been surprised that this is actually hard for my five year olds. They are so egocentric that they think they know the right answer, even if they don't. Every "question" is a statement. This is usually how our conversations go:
 "Mrs. Lipstick, I have a question. Frogs eat lizards." 
"Friend, do you want to know if frogs eat lizards?"  
"No, I know frogs eat lizards."
"How do you know that?"
"In my brain"
"I wonder if all frogs eat lizards. Can I write, 'do frogs eat lizards?' ?"
"I'm looking for a QUESTION. What do you want to know about frogs?"
We go on and on.
So I'm trying to start with one group initiated question. We do a quick interactive writing which plants vocabulary and gives them some literacy (F for frog) they use the rest of the center to label their pictures.

I'm out of room in the classroom so our wonder wall is outside in the hallway
Our wonder center materials
 Then I let them go at it. There is a box of books on the subject they can browse through, along with a basket full of index cards, pencils, markers, crayons, and magnifying glasses. They can draw the parts of the frog, they can write or draw their questions, or they can browse through the books and then write/draw what they learned.

To be honest I was pretty unsure of how this would go, but I've been amazed. The kids LOVE looking at the books and then "writing" what they found. Every child seems to be able to access the center at their level.  Last week I was working with a little one who has no English. Because he had the common vocabulary from our intro question, and because we'd done a quick "F" for frog, he was drawing lots of pictures of frogs and labeling "F". This prompted him and his friend to try to write other letters they could hear, and quickly their little index cards were full of strings of letters. It was the most literacy I'd seen out of either of them and to be honest, I was surprised.
Both boys showed little interest in what was happening in the classroom and in academics. Suddenly, though, something about the frog truly delighted them.  They both also seemed to love looking through books and then writing down their findings. They took the task so seriously despite their lack of any sort of literacy knowledge. Walking by you would have assumed they were fourth grade students working on a research project the way their heads were buried in the books.

Today I watched one little boy carefully and quietly go through each book, infer a fact from looking at the pages, and record the fact on an index card. The thing was, I'd never seen this little one do anything carefully or quietly before.  He's all boy, and has yet to really show that he understands school is important. He's certainly not a behavior problem in any way, but I always have the sneaking suspicion he'd rather be at home playing outside. For one of the first times all year he settled into work without any prompts from a teacher. What's more, he wrote all of the words himself- never asking how to spell something. We had no idea he could write so well.  Check out his writing above! He copied 'frogs' and 'eat' but look at his other words~ we were blown away. Somehow writing workshop hadn't inspired any of that yet.  (poor kid, tomorrow writing workshop will be totally different now that we're on to you and your awesome writing ability...)

Our next topic will be trees. I went back and forth between doing trees and dinosaurs and settled on trees because it's in our science curriculum.  However, if it doesn't fill us with wonder the same way our frog did I'm going to disregard the science curriculum for this center and just develop it around what I notice they are interested in. After all, we have another opportunity for science. My real objective here is to get them asking questions, using books to get information, become inquisitive readers, and really (the main objective in kindergarten) practice their literacy skills.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I saw these ideas hanging in the hall today and I was so impressed. I'm even more so after reading this!