“I really want my children to embrace being a researcher. I think it’s a really authentic way of teaching; I think it makes sense. It’s how we learn as adults, so I think my role in kindergarten is to give them skills that will help them become proficient, successful adults.” -Kindergarten teacher Irby DuBose
In the Animal Inquiry Unit, Ms. DuBose teaches her kindergarten children the literacy strategies of researchers while meeting many of the Life Science Standards for South Carolina. Her classroom provides abundant evidence that young children can learn from informational texts long before they can read all the words in them; that not only does the children’s content knowledge increase but their reading, writing, listening, and speaking grow as well; and that children at all different levels of developing skills engage and thrive in this type of learning.
The unit proceeds as follows:
Phase of Inquiry
Video Clips and Supporting Documents
Before the Unit
From the beginning of the year, the students have been learning what nonfiction is, how to use text features to support their understanding of nonfiction, strategies to think about nonfiction text, and how to use a variety of stations to explore nonfiction materials and record their thinking and new learning.
The students vote to choose one animal (penguins) to research as a class.
Ms. DuBose creates a Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction (RAN) Chart that covers the entire wall in her classroom, and posts what students think they know about penguins and what they are wondering about penguins on the chart.
Students begin their research by using one station to learn about penguins. Ms. DuBose models and guides first, and then the children go off to their stations. She confers while they work, and they return to the carpet to share and add to the RAN chart.
Students continue each day to use another station to conduct their research and follow the same pattern of adding to the RAN chart.
Children plan how they will present the information they have learned through a nonfiction book about their animal. Through a series of Writing Workshop lessons, the teacher guides them to create an outline for their book with the facts they want to include.