Sunday, October 18, 2015

Inquiry in the Primary Grades, Part 2

If you haven't had a chance to read Part 1 of this post on Inquiry , please click here.

Well, tomorrow officially marks the beginning of our non-fiction unit. I wish I could tell you that last week just clipped along, and that I was able to accomplish everything that I had planned.

But, that would be a lie. 

We ran into this little, inconvenient obstacle called....reality. What is reality?  

Rain in Southern California (Think, Chicken Little, here.)

Performance Task Assessments for both reading and math (Think,"watching paint dry", here.)

PLC (This was a good one! Think, Oprah Winfrey's Book Club, here.)

A fundraiser assembly (Think, The Price is Right, here.)

A firefighters assembly (Think, Magic Mike, here. Oh my, maybe that was just me.)

... and an earthquake drill (It was the first time we had done one during recess time. Enough said. )


This week, I was still laying the foundation for our inquiry work. Here is what we were able to accomplish:

Compare and Contrast Fiction & Non-fiction:

1) I usually spend the first 8 weeks studying and reading mostly fiction text with my students. So, the first thing we did was make a list about what we learned about fiction.

2) Then, the fun part begins! We start a mini-inquiry for non-fiction.  Our essential questions are, "How is Non-fiction different from Fiction?" and "How do we read Non-fiction differently than Fiction?"

I set out boxes of non-fiction books around the room, and have the students discuss what they notice. They chart their observations. For time reasons, I asked them to choose one recorder.  However, in the past, I have given each member of the group a different colored marker, so that I could hold each student accountable for at least one comment on the group poster. You're the "boss of the applesauce" here.

I was very pleased to see that this year, my second graders knew more than ever before, and that their understanding of non-fiction was more accurate than in prior years. (Thank you to our fabulous first grade teachers!) So, this is where we start from...

Quite a few gaps to fill in. But, a good place to start from, nevertheless. We will continue to fill in this chart as we go through our inquiry cycle. You will find that, since you are not frontloading all of the information, students will be super excited to find, and share out, new features to put on the wall.

3) Next, we practice applying what we know. At this point, there were a lot of students who were still confusing "fiction" and "non-fiction".  They knew they were different, but the titles were not clear in their heads yet. (If your students are clear on this, you can choose to skip, or accelerate, the next few activities.)

So, I grabbed a mix of fiction, and non-fiction books, out of my library. (TIP: Make sure you grab at least one non-fiction book that has illustrations, instead of photographs.  Otherwise, students will think anything with a drawing is,  automatically, fiction. The key word here is "Flexible") One book at a time, I do a "think aloud" about what I notice. "This book has photographs about real butterflies." "The title of this book is Bats. That doesn't sound like a character's name. It is telling me what the book will be about." "This book is called "Arthur's Tooth".  Arthur is a make-believe character." I do a few on my own, and then start asking the kids to look at a book cover, and make a prediction. They share with a partner, and must support their prediction with at least one piece of evidence.  I give my students sentence frames to support their language.

I think this book is ____________ because __________.
                       fiction / non-fiction     

4) When I feel like the students are close to "getting" it. I send them back to their tables. Each table has a stack of fiction and non-fiction books (one title per student). Students choose a facilitator, who holds up each book for discussion.  

The group decides if the book is non-fiction or fiction, gives reasons why, and then sort the titles into 2-3 piles.  (I say 2-3 because each group had at least one title where the author had chosen to combine both fiction and non-fiction elements. "Flexible.")  

Each group then presented. Each group member presented their book, if it was non-fiction or fiction, and the reasons the group came to that conclusion.  The audience gives a quiet thumbs-up, or down. It normally takes about 3-5 minutes per group. (Make a note during the presentations, of any misunderstandings, especially if they were class-wide. Plan your next steps accordingly.)

5) Last step for us this week was "anchoring" our learning with something we could add into our Reader's Notebook.  I gave students an old Scholastic book order, and a sorting sheet.  They cut out covers, and glued them into the appropriate category.  Then, students brought them back down to the rug, and they shared their work with a partner. We will place them into our notebooks, and refer back to them, as needed.

Afterwards, we talked about any other features of non-fiction the students noticed, and we added it to our compare/contrast bulletin board.

By the end of this activity, all but two students have the terms "non-fiction" and "fiction" clear in their heads, and are no longer confusing them.  Mission accomplished :)

6) Had there not been so many interruptions last week, I would have liked to have done a KWL chart for bats, with the class. That will have to wait for Monday.  You can see a KWL chart for bats that will be similar to the one I will use, by visiting my Pinterest board on Bats. Click below. 

Read Part 3, in this series on Inquiry.

Thanks for stopping by,


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