I've really enjoyed getting started at my new school and applying what I have learned with ProDivas in new Units of Inquiry. I was a bit spoiled for technology in my previous school...but my new gig had allowed me to start a love affair with anchor charts and have rekindled my romance with Sharpies! There is a bright side to everything.
I have also started teaching Grade 2, the youngest I have ever taught. They also are relatively new to the PYP and I was not sure how they would go with it. Turns out my fears were unfounded...after all, young children are the original inquirers of this world! What I will share are the summaries of how these units unfolded. These are meant for the children to use as they reflected on the unit so they are worded simply. They are also screen shots of documents so I apologize if it is not the clearest. Below each screen shot, I will explain things in a but more detail, and probably add a bit of reflection here and there...I never know how these blog posts will go! I wasn't sure how to format this so I took the idea from Kat Murdoch's "split screen" thinking. It will have to be a horizontal split so you can see the pictures better but you get the idea!
Before I split the screen, let me say that sharing an inquiry cycle with no white board to take screen shots from is HARD! Also, creating an inquiry cycle for Grade 2, with no projector/whiteboard set up was a challenge after having these tools available in the past! So, please be gentle with my first attempt! Also, I was conflicted about how much I was going to guide this inquiry...since it was their first one using an inquiry cycle, I took a bit more control than I would usually do. I laid off the Transdisciplinary Skills for this unit as well, I felt I was introducing them to a lot of things in this first unit and I was concerned if I started in too high of a gear, we would all be left behind!
I was not quite sure about this central idea. I probably will be revising it before we do this unit again. First UOI's are always some of the hardest for me, perhaps it has something to do with shaking off the summer cobwebs!
The class had a lot of fun trying to figure out how I came up with the Central Idea using the Transdisciplinary Theme. Even though the words are complex for Grade 2, they didn't need to understand the meanings of all the words to notice that words from the Transdisciplinary Theme popped up in the Central Idea. From there, I asked them if words from the Central Idea came up again in the Lines of Inquiry. That is why certain words are underlined here.
The discussion was a great way for the class to begin understanding how a Unit of Inquiry comes to be. Some of the classes observations after the discussion:
"We can't learn ALL about Who We Are...so we just do it bit by bit."
" Who We are is big, the idea is small and the line things are tiny, and they stick together."
The Graffiti Posters are a familiar strategy!
In the previous years of doing this unit, my new co-teacher had the children bring in items that the students felt represented aspects of their culture. I thought it would be a great Tuning In activity to see what they children already identified with and what was available to them at home already. Also, often the teacher brings in things to spark discussions at the beginning of a unit....so I thought it would be fun to have the students supply the conversation starters.
To start the conversation, we brainstormed question words as a class. We also looked at the difference between "thick" questions and "thin" questions (those that have one word answers). Students were them put in groups so they could practice their newfound questioning skills to ask about the items their peers brought in to share. It was a fun, relaxed way to get them to practice formulating questions.
Once we were finished interviewing, we shared the questions that we asked each other. Then, we sorted them out into thin and thick questions categories. I wish I had the anchor chart to show you ....but we had a ceiling leak down one of my walls and it was a casualty before I got around to photographing it! Sigh. But it is basically a T-chart...nothing fancy!
This primed the children for them to brainstorm the thick research question pictures above. We used the PYP concept of FORM to guide them to the question "What are my culture's beliefs and values?" This was going to be the question they would FIND OUT about in the next stage of their inquiry.
The Inquiry Cycle
Speaking of nothing fancy....check out my first post-tech inquiry cycle below. Two anchor chart sheets and a pile of tape. Yeesh. I shared this with the class so they could see where we were going. It's pretty battered because it got taken on and off the wall a dozen times, leaked on and the students pointed to it and fiddled with it a lot (a good thing!) I learned here that Grade 2 is not too young to share this sort of plan with them. They were constantly looking at it, referring to it and noticing connections to other things. This was my favourite...one of my particularly bright students notices something about the Tuning In, connecting it to Prior Knowledge (for reading) and PreWriting (the Writing Process)
"Tuning In, Prewriting and Prior Knowledge are what you do BEFORE you start something for real. And they are all red! I think they are all the same kinda thing but you just name them different."
Not going to lie, I almost died and went to heaven when he said that! I'll share my little "Inquiry Circles" at the end...they're pretty handy and are a simplified take on Kath Murdoch's Inquiry Cycle that the children can refer to.
The class needed to do a lot of research to answer their question. We brainstormed where they could get this information and came up with secondary questions that would help as well. Then, it was off to FIND OUT using the 3-2-1 Notetaking strategy.
3-2-1 Notetaking is an AWESOME strategy that Natasha (miss you girl!) showed me and I have used it with the students again and again. The brilliant thing is, it is a skill they can use over and over, across so many disciplines. It is truly transdisciplinary!
#3 Read a Sentence
When reading, make sure you go through a text a sentence at a time. Just one! Don't read more than one.
If you are watching a video, watch the whole thing. Then watch it again but PAUSE it. This is easier to do if the video has close captioning.
If you are interviewing, record the interview. Then PAUSE it to consider each point afterwards.
#2 Trash or Treasure?
Does the sentence you read/heard above answer your question? If not, it is trash! Trash isn't a bad thing, it just means it is not relevant to what you need to find out. By the way, the word "relevant" is the new favourite word for Grade 2 now. Everything seems to be measured by its relevance to something or other lately! It really makes it difficult for me to go on any kind of tangent during class discussions because I get called out for not being relevant. Ouch.
Anyway, if the sentence is relevant to your question, then procede to the next step. If you really don't understand the sentence...it's okay! Just trash it and don't stress about it. Keep the research going!
#1 NO SENTENCES!
If your sentence passes the relevance test, then note it! However, it is important that you do not use sentences. This discourages just copying the sentence from a text without understanding it. Notes can include pictures and diagrams too.
This strategy requires practice and modelling. I showed them how to do it using books, voice recordings and videos. Some children took to it very well while some needed a bit of extra help to get more confident. For this to work, the students need access to a wide range of resources at school to research from. Also, by brainstorming interview questions for families that linked to their key question, the children made sure that most, if not all, of their interviewing would gather relevant information from first hand resources.
Once the children had their notes, we looked at all the different ways we could organize our treasure. It was fun to have the children name the graphic organizers... they even noticed that the Inquiry Cycle was a type of graphic organizer. They called it a "topic wheel"...again, I almost died and went to heaven.
This stage was interesting...the children who did not take a lot of notes quickly realized that they should have used their time more wisely during the Finding Out stage. This showed up in their reflections after the unit.
This anchor chart, along with the 3-2-1 Notetaking anchor chart are permanent fixtures in the classroom. To help with wall space, I put them on the ceiling!
I am very lucky at our new school to have not only Music, but also Dance covered by a specialist teacher. That leaves Visual Arts and Drama to be integrated on my side of things...luckily those are the two strands of The Arts that I feel the most comfortable with!
Also, in class discussions, the children expressed an interest in creating a drawing to show what they had found out about their key question. We looked at the Elements of Art, focusing on Line, Colour and Shape. We had a lot of fun experimenting with these three elements. However, once the experimenting was done, we had to use the elements to represent the values and beliefs of our cultures.
We used hand silhouettes to focus our drawings...another awesome idea from Natasha (did I mention that I miss her?). I was originally going to do this using silhouettes of the childrens' heads...but I was starting to feel a time pinch so hands were smaller and easier. Next time, I will give the children a bit more time for Going Further so we can fill up a head or two!
Here are a few of my students' hands and how they explained their use of Line, Colour and Shape:
Now it was time to eat some food and present our hand art! Parents were active audience members because they were assessing the students using the checklist above. In class discussions, students had come up with this criteria by looking at the Transdisciplinary Skills of Communcation. It was the first time I had explicitly talked about these skills to the children. I wish I had done it earlier since they seemed to take to using the Communication Skills very well to craft their presentation checklist. Also, we discussed the importance of explaining why and how they used line, shape and colour to answer their key question.
We honestly never got there on a formal level! However, the skills they acquired such as using graphic organizers and note taking have been used again and again throughout the year so far. At first, I reminded the students that we have learned this in Who We Are. Now, they are saying things like "We can use a graphic organizer!" and "Ms Fitch! You are notetaking right now...no sentences!" This unit made me realize that Action is not always applying content learned in a unit, but also skills. I will be posting my next units soon....thank you for being so patient with me!
Leigh Ann Fitch
Thank you for visiting! I am a Canadian who teaches and lives in Oman. My goal for this blog is to improve my teaching by learning from fellow colleagues all over the world and sharing my reflections!