Monday, March 14, 2016

Magnets...Documenting through a "Learning Story"

We are always watching to see what the children are interested in, if something sparks their curiosity, and planning around those ideas.
Here's a great example of what happened when we watched one child explore a magnetic wand she found.

 This child was fascinated by the wand "sticking" to many things in the classroom.  She did notice that it didn't stick to wood!
She created a "magnet ship that pulls in all things that are magnetic".
After careful observation, we created a quick and easy learning story using PicCollage.

Learning stories were developed by Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee, both from New Zealand.
They are "narratives that describe learning and help children see themselves as powerful learners."
(Pedagogical Documentation in Early Childhood by Susan Stacey)

Although the above learning story is brief, it was a way for us, as educators, to see there was an interest in magnets and made us think of ways we could extend that interest.

The next day we created this provocation, or invitation for learning.

We wanted to start simple so a few types of magnets (wands and horseshoe) were placed on the table with various objects, some magnetic and others not.
Then we sat back and observed.

E.S.:  It sticks together and I'm not even using the wand!

M.R.:  I am trying really hard to put these together but they won't go this way! 

M.R.:  Let's try together!
J.M.:  It's still not working, I don't know why because I'm strong!  Let's keep trying!

We began to notice that the children realized that the magnets had 2 ways of working: "sticky" side and "pushing away" side.  They are certainly on the right track with their thinking!

We decided to try a fun experiment...we froze a variety of magnets in ice cubes to see what would happen.
Here are our wonders...
"Would the magnets be able to attract through the ice?"
"How would we get the magnets out?"
"Is everything in here magnetic?"

A.M.:  We stuck together!!!

This provocation was created by the children as we noticed that they started documenting their own learning by taking pictures of objects in the classroom that they found which were magnetic and not magnetic.  They wanted to continue to explore that concept.

After just over a week, the interest in magnets slowly started to fade away, despite our efforts to alter the provocations.  Sometimes these things just happen!  The children are telling us that they have explored, questioned, and learned all that they wanted to.

We wanted to compile our documentation so we sorted through the many photos we took and read over our notes.
Since it wasn't a big inquiry, we decided to create a learning story.

This was a wonderful way to show our learning!

Try it out!
I created this learning story in PowerPoint.  Simply add pictures, text boxes (which you can add borders around or shade them like the header).  I find it to be the easiest and most user-friendly program, especially is you are just starting out with documentation!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cloud and Air Inquiry

For the past month, the students have been wondering about clouds and air.
How, might you ask, did this inquiry unfold?

It was our first week back from Winter Break when we were taking a close look to see if any of our seeds had sprouted more when we got onto the topic of living and non-living.
Mrs. Albanese:  How do you know if something is living or not?
A.R.:  It needs lots of things like water, sun, air, food.
L.G.:  The plant is alive because it's food is soil and water.
After discussing further why we thought the seeds were living things even thought they weren't sprouting anything yet, one student wondered:
J.F.: We need air to breathe.  But I wonder what is gravity?  Doesn't it have to do with air?

As more students began wondering about air our discussion quickly turned to clouds.

E.M.:  What are clouds made out of?

M.P.:  Can you catch a cloud?

We created a large web using the questions that were formulated and dove into this inquiry.
The students were very interested in looking through the books on clouds and air and drawing their findings.

As we researched we learned that clouds are not all the same!
Here are the students painting and writing about the different kinds of clouds.

We studied an artist, John Constable, who was known for painting clouds back in the 19th Century.
His pictures inspired us to paint a few of our own!

Mrs. Albanese:  What do you think clouds are made out of?

J.M.:  They are made out of fluffy white cotton balls!

S.S.:  No - they are made from the stuff that's inside pillows.

M.R.:  I think they are made from stuffing.

 We tried a "cloud in a bottle" experiment (idea taken from Bill Nye The Science Guy).
The students loved trying to "catch the cloud"!
We realized that clouds are not made from pillows, feathers or fluff but they are made out of tiny water and ice drops.

To learn more about gravity, we set out this provocation: "Which object falls down faster?" with a variety of objects ranging in weight, from a rock to a feather.

My colleague in the classroom next door found this really interesting idea on Pinterest and we wanted to try it out with the students.  You can see how rain drops fall down fall clouds by using shaving cream on top of water and dripping blue food colouring in the bowl.
Before we added the food colouring we asked students to draw their predictions as to what would happen and how clouds release rain drops.

We added the food colouring!
(It actually took several attempts at making rain.  When we came back the next day, nothing happened with the food colouring!  So we tried it with less shaving cream.)

The students enjoyed mixing the shaving cream to get a "tornado" effect!

We thought our inquiry would head in many different directions (that's the beauty of an inquiry!) - a few children had discovered a section on hot air balloons and tornadoes in the weather books.
We will have to see if we will revisit those wonders and dig a little deeper!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Mixing It Up...Our Colour Inquiry

I truly believe that if you just take a moment to stop and actually listen to children, something magical can happen in your classroom.  Here's what I mean...
Several weeks back, a student came up to me while we were cleaning up and asked whether she should put this marker back with the red markers or purple markers (we sort our supplies by colour).
I asked her to think about it and she wasn't sure.
So I suggested we try an experiment to see what if this marker was either a shade of red or purple.

I set out white paint and red and purple paint.  Another student was very interested in what we were going to do.  So the two added white paint to each colour and watched what happened.

They quickly saw how both colours lightened and realized that the marker was actually a shade of purple.

There was so much interest from many other children to create colours of other markers.
We were mixing and creating new colours each day!
This was a perfect opportunity to introduce the colour wheel to the class, and discuss primary and secondary colours.

This provocation was set up for the children - using eye droppers to mix the primary colours and see what colours could be made.

After having many discussions around primary colours and creating secondary colours, we left primary colours of paint along with white and black paint and Q-tips to see what would happen.

The children began asking questions about making shades lighter and darker, and quickly realized that by adding more of either black or white, this could happen.

Our students also noticed that on the paint samples displayed where the markers are, each paint had been given a name.  We invited them to name their new colours as well.

For several weeks, we noticed how the children were quite interested in using various tools to create new colours.  They soon began using the drawing techniques we had introduced earlier in the year.  The students drew pictures in pencil and then traced with permanent marker before using their new paints!

To try something new, mirrors and watercolour paints were set up near the art area.
This new way of painting was truly a favourite by all!

In the hallway outside of our classroom, the overhead projector was set up to explore colour palettes and light.  

Another teacher leant us her colour prism and the students were so interested to see all the different colours that projected onto the wall!

One student spent a good part of the day trying to figure out how to make black on the overhead projector using all of the colours.  She quickly saw that black has shades too!  She represented her learning by mixing black and white to form these many shades.

We had printed many of our inquiry pictures for the students to see in colour and placed them in our inquiry binder.  Some students wondered what would happen if we printed the pictures of our new colours in black and white - what would the colours look like?
So we tried it!
One student took this photo of her friend and we learned about the many filters on our iPad.

Then we continued to print our pictures in black and white.  We noticed that the lighter colours, such as yellow and orange, were lighter shades of grey, and that the darker colours, such as blue or green, printed in darker shades of grey.

We couldn't imagine all the learning taking place from this one little question posed by our student.  Sometimes it's easier for a teacher to simply say the answer and move on.  Can you imagine if we had done that?  None of this amazing learning would have happened!