Lately I have had many questions about how inquiry-based learning works in our kindergarten classroom. I must give credit to Darla Myers for my approach and tons of inspiration. My student learners even look at her blog and Instagram feed for inspiration. A HUGE THANK YOU DARLA!
Kindergarten inquiry is an interesting and timely journey due to the scaffolding that takes place throughout the school year. In the fall, we begin with setting the stage for sharing lots of wonders, questions and passions. We share our passions daily, we do whole group brainstorms to share our wonders and questions, and together we started using our research booklets to record our wonders, questions, findings and interesting facts about our group topics.
This year, after the winter holiday break, as a whole group we did an inquiry about Penguins. We then shifted into partner inquiry about any chosen topic. This was a fabulous experience for our student learners due to the choice, learner agency and the invitation to incorporate their passions into our learning. This inquiry lasted two months, the interest and learning went deeper than I’ve ever experienced with kindergartners. After spring break, myself and a fabulous kindergarten teacher across the hall, Bianca McEwen, decided to embark on a collaborative bilingual inquiry. We set an overarching theme of the Salish Sea to fit with our Salish Sea Concert and learning. The Salish Sea topic quickly shifted to a general ocean inquiry, due to our student learners’ interests, which I’ve learned is OK and SUPER important to follow their lead.
General steps for executing inquiry-based learning in kindergarten:
1. Begin with provocations to inspire, provoke and challenge student learners.
2. Observe, record and note student learner interest, discussions and play.
3. Compile non-fiction resources for book look. Depending on topics, this can involve learners and your school library. I also tend to go to the public library for books as well.
4. Invite student learners to look and learn from the non-fiction texts.
5.Share thoughts, observations and areas of interest. This usually takes form in mind-map or whole group Padlet or Popplet web activity.
6. Learners choose a topic they are passionate about, that interests them, or they have a question about. They usually form small expert groups, typically maxing out a 4 learners in a group.
7. Share wonders. This might be in form of a reflection, illustration, journal entry, audio recording. Each child comes up with a question or wonder, something they wish to discover about their topic.
8. Research begins. This year we have been using a research book template. Our Kindergarten team collaboratively developed it. I tend to do one page at a time. Everyone is researching using their specific texts, iPads or videos to find information, but we are all working on the same page in the research book. For instance, we are all researching about our topics habitat. Or, we are all looking at environmental concerns or impact of our topic. Depending on the readiness of your student learners, some may be labeling illustrations whilst others may be writing simple words or sentences. I like this research booklet because it is open ended and each learner feels successful while using it as a guide for recording their research. Having small expert groups is great for support during research time. When there is only one of me, it is nice to have young learners collaborating in small groups it opens up discussion, sharing of facts and found ideas and support when illustrating and recording research.
9. MODEL! MODEL! MODEL! I cannot stress this stage enough. I typically have taken on my own inquiry topic that I am curious about and each step I model the research activity or learning using my inquiry topic as an example. This has worked really well so far with young learners.
10. Depending on if there is an overarching theme or topic, we may do some group learning as well. This might be whole group experiments, building challenges, art activities, watching of video clips, etc.
11. Show what you know. In kindergarten this step does require some educator guidance and support. I set up many open ended opportunities to show what you know. Some activities everyone participates in, others are during free exploration time, others are invitations and optional… and my favourite is when expert groups have their own plan and ideas on how they will show what they know. This really gets student learners thinking about audience, others’ opinions and perspectives, presenting their learning and takes their research and learning even deeper and further! YES!
Here are some of our ideas in the past:
-Open ended art activities
-Science experiments: volcano making, environmental group experiments
-Model creating and designing in our MakerSpace
–Pic Collages created to share knowledge, research and artwork
-Posters to share interesting information
-Dioramas big and small to display models created in MakerSpace
-Green Screen using Do Ink app to share interesting facts with a neat on topic background or video
–Puppet Pals app to share interesting facts using characters in a puppet show style
-Creating an art studio to share different facts
–Draw and Tell app to create story about topic to share research
-Illustrating, painting and creating a book to share stages, research facts or learning processes
–ChatterPix Kid to share interesting higlights
-Creation of Stop Motion videos that shares facts and research
-Skype/FaceTime/Google Hangouts with a group of learners to share our learning
–Adobe Voice to share research process, or documentation of some type of creation/model creating process
12. Celebrate your learning!! This piece for me, is not the most important part… that is the learning process, but it is a special part and is an extremely proud time for young student learners. As a group, we come up with a way to share our learning past our classmates. This might look like a virtual hangout, a class project expo, a museum, student led conferences, creating a class movie to share with all our families, a gallery, a fair…. The list is endless. As I just mentioned, this is not the most important part… but to see your five year old learners running around a project expo sharing their learning with others just beaming with excitement and this evident love for learning is an INCREDIBLE and unforgettable experience for everyone.
I have so much more to share, but this post is already too long! I will update again soon. Shoot me some questions, if you have any or would like to chat primary level inquiry-based learning because this is what I am passionate about and it the experiences hold a huge place in my heart.