It’s the Questions!

One of the items on our “standards based report cards” addresses the asking of questions. It actually shows up in the area of science. For me, this one is a biggie. There is so much more work required of kids now in order to work collaboratively and at the same time develop higher level thinking skills.

Hands on activities like the experience we shared yesterday with Gini Traub, highlight the pre-teaching, teaching, and more importantly, exploration of learning that bring the most success. We are a community of learners. Yes, we find time to play with each other, but the work we do as learners and team members provides good opportunity for developing questioning minds.

I am looking for more all the time. “Why do you suppose? Where did the animals go? How can we help solve this problem?” are all questions I model and I watch them puzzle a bit over it, posit a response, and expand on the thinking. You can see it happen in their faces. Sometimes they will simply make something up but we have many Aha! moments as well.

As for answers, well I think they are all very nice to have. Yes, we can tie things up with answers. What I am striving for is a bigger bank of questions. I want to see students wonder more about the things that matter, and in particular, matter to them.

During our visit with Gini, we explored a few natural artifacts. We studied them closely using our senses. I also pulled some kids to the side to have them explain what they were seeing. Watch their faces as they speak. You can see the kids who are puzzling and wondering. Children have wonderful and fertile minds ripe for learning. They will long remember opening up pine cones and discovering seeds which will feed animals into the winter months.


Animals Get Ready for Winter

Today, we welcomed a visitor to the classroom to help us learn about how animals prepare for winter. We asked lots of questions, we answered a few others, we explored sticks and pine cones, and we looked over some books and pictures of local fauna. We also hopped and swooped and flapped around the room as animals do in their native habitat. It was wonderful!

Gini Traub, a naturalist from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, brought the learning to us today and the children had plenty of opportunity to interact with the study. Here are a few pictures from the lively visit. The slideshow was removed as permissions have changed.

More Visual Learning

I am not a big proponent of kids watching videos all day but there are a few times each week when our learning is enriched by them. For instance, we had part one of a direct instructional block on friendship. It was led by our School Adjustment Counselor.

Some children have had a rich personal experience with kids their own age, while others have not had those same experiences. We like to think that it is natural for kids to do the right thing but a little emotional bump here and there can change the outcome of an otherwise typical exchange.

So we watched a couple of dramatized problems and had conversations about what happened in each. The first was about hurting each others feelings and how we can talk about it so others can learn and understand each others feelings.

The second was about not listening to the little voice in your head but instead listening to your friends and following through on a bad decision.

Both of these scenarios were readily understood by most of the children and they gave some clear feedback that they understood the messages.

Here’s another video we looked at this week just because it gave us a great perspective of a real eagle eye view.

Skype Call With Australia

Last week, we read the story of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. While Alexander was explaining his tough day, he would always come back to leaving his trouble behind and going off to Australia instead.

I used the globe to show the kids just how very far away it was. That reminded me of some of my online friends, friends I have never met face to face but with whom I sharing teaching and learning conversations each Thursday evening. And it brings me to how we connected our class with Jo Hart.

In last Thursday’s Blackboard Collaborate session, Jo offered to help me with talking about weather and seasons by presenting her experience in Toodyay, in the western part of Australia.

As we prepared for our conversation the day before, we wrote down a list of questions for Jo. There is a 12 hour time difference with Jo being ahead of us. That was a neat part of the conversation as the children thought about Jo going to bed after our call. Some even mentioned it later in the day.

We had a good question and answer session with Jo, and the children, while a bit nervous at first, warmed up to the activity and everyone wanted a turn. So what did we learn?

  • Jo lives on the other side of the world.
  • Jo has 2 cats and a dog.
  • She used to have horses.
  • She said it was rainy and cold today.
  • Australia is moving into the summer.
  • At Christmas time it will be hot; they will have a barbeque and swim in the pool.
  • She often sees kangaroos in her neighborhood.
  • She sees emus when she drives to the city.

Our learning goals for the activity were met. I wish the Google Earth program didn’t repeatedly stop and freeze on my Mac as it prevented us from flying to Australia virtually. That is always a big hit!

I hope to schedule another Skype call to the western US, maybe even to our old friends in Hawaii.

We also have been talking about the seasons here and how the moon changes. We watched a NASA video on the harvest moon that we can see in the sky this week. In the olden days, farmers would be so busy bringing in the crops that they would work into the night by the light of the harvest moon.