General Suggestions for Leading a PLC about the Lesson: (These suggestions remain the same throughout all the lessons in Nonfiction Inquiry. See Specific Suggestions for this lesson below.)
- Facilitator Preparation for the Session:
- Read (or review) the Unit Plan and Lesson Plan in Supporting Documents, and the “Purpose of the Lesson” segment online, to understand how this lesson fits into the overall Inquiry Unit.
- View the clips, decide on your own responses to the questions, and anticipate other possible responses from colleagues. Then review the suggested responses in the “Facilitator Notes.” Please note that the responses given are suggestions only. Your insights and those of your teachers will shape the most meaningful discussions.
- A Teacher Commentary video clip accompanies some of the lesson clips. In this Commentary, the teacher of the lesson provides her own insights into the segment of the lesson. We recommend viewing the Commentary after the discussion of each lesson segment.
- You may want to download some of the Supporting Documents and copy them for use in the session. There is also a transcript available for each lesson.
- During the Session:
- Give teachers time to read the Unit Plan and Lesson Plan in Supporting Documents, and read the “Purpose of the Lesson” segment online. Discuss how this lesson contributes to the unit as a whole. Usually a “Prior to the Lesson” segment will aid you in doing this. You may want to refer to the four phases of inquiry and where this lesson falls within that process.
- Before viewing each video clip, note the “Segment Focus” and “Questions” for the segment.
- As you view each video clip, encourage teachers to take notes related to the focus question but also about their own questions, ideas, and thoughts.
- After viewing each clip, have teachers turn and talk with colleagues about what they noticed, their questions and other reflections. Then lead a whole group discussion about the segment.
- If there is a Teacher Commentary about the lesson segment, view and discuss it.
- Concluding the Session:
- Discuss how the session supports teachers’ current efforts or plans for their own inquiry units, what additional support is needed, and how you can facilitate that support.
“Stations to Support Research” – Possible Responses to Questions
Please note that the responses given are suggestions only. Your insights and those of your teachers will shape the most meaningful discussions.
Prior to the Lesson: View the initial Individual Animal RAN Charts. What do you think about the children’s beginning knowledge and wonderings and how they frame the study?
- Children have varying background knowledge about the animals, and some of it probably comes from cartoons, other unreliable sources, or confused interpretations (e.g., spiders throw spider webs at people’s faces; frogs “lay seeds”). Identifying what students think they know helps them to alter misconceptions and build a more scientific view of the animals as they learn from informational texts and text features.
- Some of the children’s questions and background knowledge seem influenced by the penguin study. Kids are interested in what their animals eat, and several groups wonder if they lay eggs or how the babies are cared for, which were big topics with the penguins. These children are beginning to transfer the scientific concepts they discovered about penguins to wondering about other animals.
- The questions are a clear reflection of the children’s own thinking, and therefore serve as a source of connection with the topic and motivation to learn more. The inquiry proceeds from the children’s own interests.
- The new group RAN charts contain the same basic information as the penguin chart. This will make it easy for the children to continue building from their prior knowledge and questions to conduct their research. (They will later mark misconceptions and confirmations on their own charts, even though there are not separate columns for these.)
- From using various stations in their penguin study, the children are familiar with how each station can support their research. They will be able to focus on the content of what they are learning, not on how to use the station appropriately.
- Throughout the penguin study (e.g., categories in Sketch to Stretch, the content of the penguin books, the teacher’s conferring, sharing, and noting new learning on the RAN chart, etc.), the children have been developing knowledge not only of specific information about penguins, but of the types of information scientists study to understand animals. These are reflected in the State Life Science Standards for kindergarten (e.g., learning about how body parts help with eating, protection, and creating homes; what animals need to grow and survive). Therefore the penguin study will provide background knowledge that the children can use to focus their attention on important aspects of learning about their new animals.
Small Group Lesson: How does the teacher conduct this small group lesson to help the children begin their research?
- Every child is asked to contribute.
- The teacher helps shape some of the initial comments, but she reflects the children’s thinking under “What We Think We Know.” All thinking is honored.
- Proceeding from the children’s prior knowledge and questions places the children in charge of the inquiry and motivates their participation.
- The teacher does not try to rush to answers. She knows that the children will have several days to conduct research, that she will be able to confer with them, and that over time and exploration of the different resources, they will expand their knowledge.
- Children are bound to misinterpret information when they aren’t able to read the words and are trying to infer from the pictures. When she suspects a misconception, the teacher usually first asks the child to show her the information in the text. This allows her to not simply tell the child he/she is wrong, but understand why the child misunderstood. There is usually a reasonable explanation for the origin of the children’s ideas – we just don’t know what it is until they show us! In this case, the child seems to think corn kernels in a picture are eggs. The chicken group had lots of initial thoughts and questions about eggs on their RAN chart, so this was probably something on their minds as they explored their books.
- The teacher then involves the child in looking for the correct information. The child is excited and proud when she finds the picture of the “feed” on her own. It is much more likely that the children will remember this new learning, and that it will override her original misconception, because she found it herself.
- From the beginning of doing research with the children, the teacher has also established that misconceptions are not bad, but rather they are evidence of learning. As one of the students explained in the student interviews in Introduction to Inquiry, “It’s fun being a researcher…because you’ll be able to be right or wrong and being wrong is OK.” This attitude toward misconceptions is vital not only to research but to all of learning.
What do you notice about the children while they are working independently at their station?
- Students remain productively engaged over a long period of time. They are able to freely explore a variety of resources, exchange one resource for another, and spend time on parts of the books that interest them.
- The children naturally share things that interest them with each other. This supports some of the children who might need more guidance and keeps them engaged. It can also promote discussion leading to a variety of inferences, connections, new questions, and constructive disagreements as they try to interpret the information.
- Students strengthen their literacy skills and strategies as they practice using them for the authentic purpose of furthering their inquiries.
- The children extend their knowledge as they draw, notice details, add words, and have time to wonder and hypothesize about what they are reading and viewing. This relatively unstructured time is enormously valuable to learning!
- The teacher builds from what the children have already drawn on their graffiti boards. She first asks them about their drawings, and picks up on their interest in a specific aspect (the egg sacs). She points out the text feature of the label to show them what they have drawn. Having established their interest, she takes the opportunity to develop their understanding by reading to them from the text and leading a discussion about what she read. And finally she extends their learning by encouraging them to label their own drawing.
- The teacher also calls children’s attention to domain-specific vocabulary, such as the book title, “Arachnids.” She wonders about the title, and one of the children infers “Maybe that’s what spiders are called.” Again, the teacher creates opportunities and when the children pick up on them, she helps the children consolidate their knowledge in discussion and in writing and drawing.
- The teacher continually engages in joint inquiry with the children. She is modeling her own process as a researcher as she jointly searches for information, wonders, and makes interpretations of her own to guide the children. She often comments, “That’s interesting,” and her questions, like “How does it get sticky?” sound more like peer wondering than teacher interrogation.
How does the children’s knowledge develop over the course of the research session? (See Individual Animal RAN Charts and Student Work Samples. You may want to compare initial ideas with new learning on the charts. )
- In all groups, children begin to focus on more scientific information about their animals. For example, they learn specific facts about what the animals eat and where they live.
- In some cases, the children learn interesting facts specific to the animal, such as puppies not being able to see or hear when they are born, or spiders biting when they are scared. Discovering these fascinating facts is one of the joys of inquiry!
- Some children find direct answers to their questions.
- The teacher’s conferences greatly assist the children in focusing and deepening their research.
How does the teacher handle sharing with a variety of different animals being researched?
- She makes sure that children from each animal group get to share and put something under “New Learning” on their chart.
- She is prepared with notes, knowing what each group learned, so that she can focus the children as needed on interesting facts that they discovered.
- She lets the children place the sticky notes on their own charts. This allows for physical movement and for more direct ownership of the process by the students.
- She leads the sharing in a way that implies that it is for the benefit of the group and focused on interesting new facts, not just the children showing the teacher that they’ve accomplished the task. Her comments on how interesting many of the facts are, “I didn’t know that,” and asking if everyone heard a child’s comments, help establish this environment.
- The children are clearly motivated and excited about inquiry.
- Kindergarten children can acquire the habits and perspectives of researchers quite well!
Ms. DuBose first of all highlights the importance of keeping notes while conferring and of keeping artifacts of the children’s work over the course of the unit. There are many ways to organize these in an inquiry. Her structure allows her to keep track of each child’s progress, to note where she needs to focus more on a specific child, and to build ownership of their learning over time by the children themselves.
What are your overall thoughts or questions about the lesson? What insights did this lesson provide into the process of an inquiry unit and how inquiry helps develop both literacy and content knowledge?