After spending the past two summers as a full time student, I thought I would enjoy the extra free time with my children. Of course I do, spending wonderful moments with family and friends, but I find a little too much free time on my hands. During that time, I’ve worked on future bulletin boards, extension games, reading strategies, organizational papers such as transportation home in Excel or creating “Absent Folders”, plus independent professional development through my readings. I really do not like being idle. Because of this, I searched Google for online courses to claim some of my time productively. I found Singapore Math Model Drawing for Grades 1-6. I’m pretty excited. This sounds like a really useful class to provide another tool students can use. Any visual I can provide that gives children access to the relational nature of math will be beneficial in the second step of cocrete:pictorial (or concrete repesentational, but that’s a mouthful): abstract. With word problems, it’s the organization of the material which can often be difficult. I think if I can provide a consistent method which can be used throughout various types of word problems such as the bar method, then perhaps it will ease some of the organizational issues. Both districts in which I worked sometimes used a similar concept of Singapore, using the example of a tape diagram. It’s a 6 week class which begins in a couple of weeks; I’ll post again at the end of the course. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy family trips to Schlitterbahn, card games, trail walks, and continued professional preparation. Today, I’ll seal the stool I painted ages ago and begin another one. Next summer, I need to teach summer school or begin my graduate classes.
A year ago, I began reading Why are School Buses Always Yellow? Teaching for Inquiry Pre-K-5 because I have an interest in student led inquiry/project based learning. This summer, I’m working through it more closely. I have to tell you several years ago, I thought I was being original when I came up with the idea of a Wonder Wall. What a shock when I saw this concept being used in nearby districts – at least I was in line with current research.
Now I’ve learned someone has already beaten me to the idea of an Inquiry Journal as well. Again, I’ll take it as validation. Here are my thoughts. The wonder wall is great; let’s get the mind juices pondering. However, I don’t want it to end with a brief discussion. Where can the students take their ideas? Also, what about the random questions that occur during a Read Aloud or watching a video in science? Enter the Inquiry Journal (or Wonder Journal for younger students). I plan to give my students a composition book to encourage development of questions and ideas, with some time given to searching out answers – a place just for independent questions and answers – not just questions that coordinate with current lessons. Using natural curiosity, I plan to extend/supplement lessons with student led questions to teach students how to determine whether sources are valid and determine a plan to problem solve. The idea isn’t a formal lesson, but rather naturally searching answers to satisfy personal curiosity. Time is carved out during writing, a few minutes of computer time during one of the guided reading blocks or actual computer time, perhaps when assignments are complete for early finishers. The details are specific to the classroom/school environment. Many inquiries will be the result of class discussion in line with objectives being taught merging assignments with interest, but I hope to encourage students to take those mini-lessons, such as observing as a writer, into their personal thoughts. That’s our goal, right, that students realize the relevance of the classroom, applying gained knowledge to life?
Without the journal, I’ve used this idea successfully with one student. A group of TAG students presented their independent studies to the class. A student not in TAG, interested in a specific topic, asked if I would give him time to research and present. Each day, during one of the Guided Reading blocks, I gave him approximately 10 minutes with a computer. He researched, then created a Power Point on his topic. One afternoon, before recess, he presented his discoveries to the class. It was time well used – reading, researching, writing, using computer skills, and finally presenting in front of an audience – all student initiated. Giving students a journal to record wonderings and ideas, then small chunks of time for investigation can only add to this process. I’ve begun my own Inquiry Journal as a model, adding tabs to organize my ideas (PD, Classroom Management, Math, Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, STEM, Organization, PBL/Inquiry).