“What have we been studying in kindergarten this spring?” Heather asked her students.
“Things that hatch!” They sang.
“And how have we been doing that?” Heather asked.
A jumble of ideas poured out of them at once, and fingers were pointing to different corners of the room, where a bunch of creatures were in the process of hatching:
“Today, we’re going to take the next step in our learning. We’re going to become researchers. I wonder what that word means,” Heather prompted them, and everyone started thinking aloud.
“I think it means I need to search for something,” Zion told her.
“I already did some research!” Brianna said. ” I know a lot of facts about things that hatch from eggs from watching our chicks and butterflies, but I want to find out more.”
“When we research, we use different tools to uncover facts and learn things we didn’t learn before,” Heather explained. “What kind of tools can we use?”
“We can ask our friends!”
“We can ask our parents!”
“We can look on the computer!”
“We can look in books!”
“We can use the iPad! You are going to let us use the iPads today, right Mrs. Bitka?”
“Sure I am. First, let me show you a strategy that can help you make notes as you find facts during your research today,” she said, grabbing Norma Gentner’s book, What Hatches from an Egg? “I know we read this last week, but we’re going to reread it together today as researchers on the hunt for what?”
Heather used the first story in Gentner’s text to demonstrate what facts were and explained that researchers often collect facts by making notes. Then, she modeled visual note-making for her very eager audience:
“Next, I’d like YOU to show me that you know what a fact is by making a note of your own about a fact that you found in the story,” Heather challenged them. They fired up their iPads and opened the Draw 4 Free app without prompting. As they worked, we were able to:
- Check in with each of them in order to assess their understandings of what facts were
- Assess their abilities to locate a fact within the mentor text that was studied
- Provide feedback to these researchers on their note-making skills
“I like your use of color here,” I suggested to one writer. “It helps me understand what color the chick’s wings are. I’m wondering what they would feel like if I touched them though? Do you know?”
“If the chick just hatched, they would feel wet,” Austin told me. “Then, they might get fluffy.”
“Those are important details. How can you add them to your notes?”
He leaned into his iPad and began drawing again.
Our formative assessment revealed that each student was able to identify and make notes about at least one fact from the reading.
Next, they were invited to research other creatures that hatched from eggs. This began with a bit of enthusiastic book-browsing:
Some decided to roam the room a bit and skim the wide variety of books available to them before selecting a topic. Others seemed to know which creature they were interested in learning more about and went in search of the texts that would help them.
Once they settled in, they began reading independently and flagging the facts that they found:
As they worked, Heather, Sheri, Kay, and I chatted with each of them once again, asking them to share their notes with us and to describe what their visuals revealed.
We learned a great deal from them, and as the morning block drew to a close, we began reflecting on the spot about what we were noticing, what we were wondering, and what we would do next as a result.Most of the kids flagged every single fact that they stumbled upon in their reading. This generated an abundance of facts, some of which were relevant to multiple topics. Other facts didn’t seem important at all. This provided us an entry point into the next lesson that we would teach: how to choose ONE topic and connect the most important facts from our reading to it.
We wondered how their process might have been altered had we provided them guiding questions from the outset. In the end, we were glad that we decided not to do this for several reasons, though. First, we knew that doing so would limit their exploration of the books that they were reading. These questions might have narrowed their paths and the amount of information they took in. We also thought it was important to see what would happen if these researchers were left to their own devices. Our job involved paying close attention to what they were teaching us about their actual needs as they worked and to respond in ways that were aligned. In order to enrich our perspective about this a bit more, Heather decided to print each researcher’s visual notes that evening, and we met the following morning to discuss what they revealed.
To be continued……
This post is the third in a series about Heather Bitka and her kindergarten researchers.
- To learn more about this project’s purpose and outcomes, you might want to read the first post.
- If you are interested in understanding how this project enabled the teachers and coaches involved to position themselves as learners, you can click through to the second post.
- Tomorrow’s post will reveal how learners were taught to make connections, determine importance, and revise their work.