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Kindergarten Teacher Inquiry Jenny Soehner

Summative Project for Kindergarten Specialist AQ 2013
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Jody Soehner

on 28 March 2013

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Transcript of Kindergarten Teacher Inquiry Jenny Soehner

Where it began Plan of Action Documentation of Science Documentation of Math Reflections Major Findings Offering choice increases engagement, and when children are engaged, they are more willing and able to talk, draw, and write about their thinking in order to demonstrate their understanding. Background Information Kindergarten Teacher Inquiry I wonder if the factor for change for these students was actually offering choice, or if it also may have been in the introduction of provocations in the form of pictures, books and videos about a new building topic, in the introduction of new building materials for them to try, and in the introduction of a the class journal as a new way of documenting their thinking in math in order to have students communicate the way they use tools and materials with others. I wonder if a big part of the change in engagement comes from me having conversations to discuss their questions and ideas and then documenting them and repeating their words to them later on in order to continue and extend their thinking. It makes sense that they are better able to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding when I am interacting with them actively during many phases of the process of building, rather than asking them to communicate their understanding at the end of the process. It is difficult to change an isolated factor when teaching. Simply giving an area of learning more attention means I changed more than just offering them choice of materials. What is the impact of offering choice of tools/materials in math and science on students' ability to demonstrate their learning? Research Summary by Jenny Soehner, Kindergarten Specialist 2013 Next Steps Resources Over the past 3 years, I have been taking steps towards an increasingly play-based learning environment that honours the emotional, social, developmental and cognitive needs and interests of my students. My experience is that results vary depending on how much control I let go. I am constantly seeking the balance in letting children lead and knowing when to guide and direct them so that they are learning and not being too wild or silly. My questions are always around how much choice should be offered. My experience is that sometimes too much choice means children play immaturely or repetitively, rather than growing, focusing, thinking, being creative and extending their knowledge and thinking. Where is the line? Do I offer choice of topic or method of demonstrating learning, or both? Can choice sometimes be offered between a and b rather than wide open? Where is the “sweet spot” for optimum learning through play? I explored these questions in the online discussion during module 3. My online peers helped me to see that offering choice is key in play-based learning. D: We’re using concrete blocks.

L: There’s a place for the water to go through underneath.

B: This is a whole big bridge.

A: I know they all have a flat bottom so the cars don’t fall in the water and also the people.

L: When we’re building, we have to remember the water underneath. We can use triangles and rectangles to build. When Br and La built a bridge on the carpet, they found out that the boats were crashing into the bridge when they tried to get under. They needed to raise the bridge up.

Li: You need a drawbridge if boats are going to go under.

M: What’s a drawbridge?

O: You could have a double drawbridge that opens up the road like this (he showed us with his arms) when the boats go under.

Br and La tried lifting the bridge and then decided to put more blocks under it to raise it higher from the river. Then they needed triangle blocks for ramps so that the cars would not fall off of the road. Mrs. S brought in some pictures of famous bridges around the world. We had a chat about what we think, know, and wonder about bridges.

O: We could build city bridges.

M: Our bridge is connecting the station to the jail on the other side of the river.

Aa: If you don’t put things up, people might fall in the water.

M: Yeah... railings! B. and E. were building in the sandbox. Mrs. S asked how the animals could get all the way across the sandbox without stepping in the sand. B. and E. worked together to dig some logs into the sand to make posts. It was tricky to get the other logs to balance on top, but they did it! We watched a video clip on Learn 360 about bridge disasters.

D: I’m a little bit scared that it’s gonna fall down ‘cause they made a mistake when they were building it.

M: He’s wearing a harness to keep safe.

Aa: If the bridge falls down then the cars fall down.

A: You have to make it strong on the bottom so when the wind blows it doesn’t break.

EM: Make it really really strong, make sure it doesn’t fall. Use concrete.

Al: What is concrete.

D: It’s like cement.

L: You could use bricks.

D: If a bridge breaks you have to call police and firetrucks to help.

Mrs. S: What else could make bridges break? What do bridge builders have to think about when they are planning?

M: Earthquakes.

L: Boats crashing into them.

EM: Wind.

A: Ice in the cold weather. There are some shapes that we build with that are stronger than others. Our newspaper roll bridge keeps collapsing. It is made of rectangles and squares, We looked at pictures of real bridges to help us solve our problem. We noticed lots of triangles in bridges and decided that we need to add triangles in the middle to make it stronger.

Em. asked: Why are triangles the strongest?

A. said: Are they the strongest? B: You have to be careful on a bridge so you don’t fall down in the lake.

D: The water is dangerous. You could get eaten by a shark.

A: We need to make parts strong. This is a lazer to make it strong. It’s a red line.

N: They help you get all across the river safely.

Br: We have to be careful. If you step on they might fall apart.

O: I'm using lots of glue to add my next floor. Mine isn't a bridge, it's a building.

Mrs. S.: Did you know that there is a bridge in Italy that has buildings on it?

M: My mom went to that place. There are no roads. You have to take a boat to get places. There's lots of bridges. Hey, let's put your building on my bridge! I will make it really strong. It's going to take more days to get done.

O: The glue has to dry. I'm doing another floor now. It takes lots of glue. I will need lots of popsicle sticks, like a whole room full! Teacher: How many are you putting on your ten-frame.
N: (shoulder shrug)
Teacher: Let’s count the card together.
N & Teacher: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
N: There’s 8.
Teacher: Do you have 8 on your ten-frame?
N: (counting quietly) 11.
Teacher: Are you sure? Let’s count together.
Teacher & N: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.
N: I have too many.
Teacher: A-ha! Can you make it show 8?
N: (makes 8)
Teacher: What does the next card say?
N: 7. (starts putting counters on 2nd ten-frame)
Teacher: Oh, let’s just keep going from where we left off. (showing her how to move the counters up into the last 2 spaces of the 1st ten-frame)
N: 1,2...3,4,5,6,7
Teacher: Now how many do you have altogether?
N: I don’t know.
Teacher: How can you find out?
N: Count.
Teacher: How many are in the top 10-frame?
N: 10.
Teacher: So we know there’s 10 here...
N: ...and that’s 5 more.
Teacher: How did you know that?
N: I just know.
Teacher: So how many is 10 and 5 more? 10... (pointing to 1st ten frame and then to 2nd ten-frame and looking at N) 11...N: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. There’s 15.
Teacher: Good for you! So what did you find out when you put on 8 and 7? (pointing to the cards)
N: It makes 15. Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. "Thinking It Through: Teaching and Learning in the Kindergarten Classroom" - Playing is Learning, 2010.

Ontario Ministry of Education. "The Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program" (Draft). 2010.

Shanker, Stuart, "Self-Regulation: Calm, Alert, and Learning", Education Canada, 2010

Small, Marion. "Making Math Meaningful: to Canadian Students K-8." Nelson. 2008 Choice With colleagues at school, and with the support of learning services from our school board, I have been participating in learning cycles that have evolved to explore the role of choice around the topics of science and math in the play-based environment. Once again, my reflection has been that the variable of choice permeates the discussion in different ways. How do we offer choice in different ways during the school day? When do we offer choice and how much do we choose as educators? What are the consequences (pros and cons) of offering choice? I decided to put all of these wonderings together to explore the results of offering my students choice in how to demonstrate their learning. Self-Regulation Thinking It Through FDELK Program Document Math Problem-Solving Method The Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program Document (p.25-27) gives information about how children choose to demonstrate their learning by saying, doing, and representing. Throughout the document, examples of ways that children might demonstrate their understanding of curriculum expectations through saying, doing, and representing are provided. The descriptions and examples explain that children have the choice of whether they want to "articulate observations or explain their thinking", "learn though active engagement, activities, observations, experimentation, and social interaction with others", and "represent their thinking in different contexts and in different ways (e.g., in a painting, talking, creating a structure, writing)". (p. 26) The emphasis is on the child choosing a natural way to demonstrate their learning, and the educator interacting by "responding" to their ideas and wonderings, "challenging" them by asking questions, adding materials or suggesting they share their learning with others, and "extending" the child's learning by "support(ing) them in gradually applying their thinking in different contexts." (p.27) ETFO's Thinking It Through Document offers a large amount of information about the value of offering young children time to play and to choose their own developmentally appropriate way to learn and to demonstrate their learning. The many benefits of this approach include deeper engagement, and more prolonged, richer learning by the students. The chart on page 31 and 32 of the "Playing is Learning" section booklet sums up the decisions that are made by the educator and those that are made by the child. The educator plans for the structure and routines, decides on learning goals, provides materials and invites, involves, suggests, models, observes, and supports children. The child decides which materials to use and how to use them, who to work with, how long to remain involved in a task, what strategies they want to use to solve problems, if they want to repeat an activity, and is involved with creating plans. In his article entitled, "Self-Regulation: Calm, Alert and Learning," Stuart Shanker describes a classroom where children whose learning is self-directed have the opportunity to practice and demonstrate self-regulation. They are supported by educators who help them to focus within their chosen method of demonstrating their learning. The children in his example are completely engrossed - neither off-task, nor day-dreaming - in their self-directed activities. This suggests that offering children choice of how to demonstrate learning will provide educators the chance to help them to develop self-regulation skills while focusing more deeply on learning. Marion Small offers a great deal of valuable advice on math instruction. She explains about how math problem-solving can be taught using the inquiry process for authentic problems. Students have a variety of tools, materials, and strategies available to them in order to solve the problem, and as they discover different ways of solving problems, the teacher explicitly explains or labels them in order to communicate to others that these are possible strategies for them to use in future problems. She says that “the acti-it-out, use-a-model, and draw-a-picture strategies are particularly suited to young students” (p 42). She also makes suggestions for appropriate manipulatives for early learners of math, including counters, linking cubes, dominoes, playing cards & dice, 5- and 10-frames, a walk-on number line, a beaded number line, and a pan balance (p. 96-98). Step 1:
Observe a few key children who are showing repetitive, un-purposeful play, or poor ability to demonstrate new learning in the relevant areas of math and science in order to complete the pre-change checklist. Step 2:
Science: Post photos of famous bridges from around the world in the building center as a provocation. Observe how students react to the provocation. Have discussions with students about what they know and wonder about bridges.

Math: Introduce several different tools and materials (5- and 10-frames, dice, counters, number lines...) through games and activities at centers that will be accessible for use later on for solving math problems. Step 3:
Science: Provide further information about bridges (video clips, non-fiction books) and challenge students to build bridges using their choice of any building materials we have in the room (Lego, foam blocks, straws & connectors, wooden blocks...). Observe and Interact with students while they build and record their understandings and questions. Provide opportunities for children to share what they have built, how they built it, and what the purpose is of different aspects of their building.

Math: Discuss and record a relevant, authentic math problem (inspired by a story read aloud or by listening to the children’s conversations) with a group of students. Step 4:
Science: Provide new materials (newspaper rolls and tape, toothpicks and marshmallows, white glue and popsicle sticks) for building bridges that require different skills and strategies but also provide an opportunity to build in a different way and implement some more of their learning about structures.

Math: Provide a variety of tools and materials and challenge students to find a way to solve the math problem. If they find one way, challenge them to use a different tool to show their thinking. Step 5:
Science: Observe and interact with students while they build. Record observations and take photos.

Math: Observe and interact with students while they solve the problems. Record observations, and take photos. Step 6:
Science: Provide opportunities for students to share what they build with their classmates, to communicate their thinking about the new materials and to show the connections they have made to prior knowledge, previous conversations in class, and learning from photos, books, videos.

Math: Meet with all students who worked on solving the problem. Record their comments and ideas about how to solve the problem in a class math journal. Step 7:
Complete the post-activity checklists for both topics and groups of students. Offering choice means students work at a productive activity for a longer time without being required to do so. My findings in offering students choice of tools and materials to demonstrate their learning in science indicate that these students were already good at solving problems in their building and explaining what they were doing. However, they rarely show the desire to write or draw about what they have built when they have not chosen the tools or materials. When they have a choice of materials, they are much more highly engaged and will independently choose to draw or write about what they are doing in order to communicate their learning to others. The problem I really found in their demonstration of learning prior to this project was in the area of making connections to new concepts or engaging in new themes.

I was surprised to observe that it required some persuasion to encourage students O and M to try one of the new building materials that were offered. In the end, I asked them to pick one of the 3 new building materials to try, as they would have preferred to have chosen their old favourite (Lego) again, where they often play repetitively. When they did try a new building material (popsicle sticks), their conversation instantly became rich with prior knowledge and connected to all of the new learning we had been doing about bridges and structures, and they remained engaged in their building for an extended period.

Students A and EM showed an increase in their desire to work creatively and persistently to solve problems encountered when building with the new materials offered (newspaper rolls and tape). They demonstrate much more learning about scientific concepts and general engagement when working with materials of their choice than they do when they are assigned a task with set materials. In fact, for all 4 students, when I ask them to participate in a task with no choice, they most often just say, “No, I don’t want to.” If I insist, they will often comply just long enough to complete the bare minimum. I observed that when they have choice, they become very enthusiastic about working with the materials they choose, and are unwilling to stop at recess time. Rating scale: 1 = little evidence 2 = some evidence 3 = clear evidence
Data Collection for Science
When building a structure, the student: My next step is to continue to work to find the balanced position of guiding students gently to use effective tools and materials to demonstrate their learning, through the use of documentation, reflective conversations, and the use of open questions during interactions with them. The balance is in resisting the temptation to dictate what tools or materials they should use and remaining open and flexible to their ideas while taking the educator’s responsibility to invite and suggest when necessary, and to give them specific and immediate feedback to keep them heading in the direction of demonstrating their understanding effectively.

Student talk during the process (rather than looking at the end product) is where I found that I actually captured the deeper learning and understanding. I would like to continue to explore how to capture this process piece effectively through the use of documentation.

In the coming months, I would also like to explore this concept of providing choice by offering a variety of art materials for students to choose from to express their ideas and observations on a topic. I have observed that sometimes too much choice of tools and materials can result in un-focused, un-purposeful, or repetitive play. This leads me to reflect that perhaps my role as educator is to purposefully choose a range of tools and materials for students to choose from. This idea is supported by the research resources I have summarized, that the educator plays a role in providing and organizing materials for the children’s use. Offering choice can sometimes mean the educator provides a variety of choices and the student chooses from within the choices offered. Previously, I was using math bins as a way to offer students choices of ways to explore mathematical concepts in a variety of ways. Recently, for a few weeks, I tried assigning groups of children to a math bin for 10 minutes and then rotating to a 2nd bin for 10 minutes, in order to observe if this would help to focus their explorations. My observation was that children were compliant about going to the bin I had chosen for them, but that the results after that varied greatly. When I chose for them, some children did not become engaged with the tools and materials at all, some just made a mess of the tools and materials, some tried the activity briefly and were then done with it, while others who really enjoyed those particular materials were not anywhere close to being done with them when I said their time was up. I spent a lot of time policing and less time observing and asking questions to understand what knowledge children had to show me. Since then, I have dropped that plan and allowed them again to choose what materials to explore, which allows me to interact much more effectively with the students and glean more useful information about their strengths and needs. I have also started to introduce a math problem and allow them to choose how they would like to solve it, working with small groups in order to observe their thinking process. The “giant class math journal” that I have started to use is a way to document children’s effective use of a variety of tools and materials to solve math problems. The ideas for using materials to demonstrate their thinking are coming from the children, but I am selecting the ones that make sense to highlight and share with the other children through photos and drawings. When a child is successful in demonstrating their thinking to solve a problem, I encourage them to show and tell someone else about their thinking, so children are learning from each other. I am noticing that children who have good metacognition skills are better able to choose tools and materials that are well suited to them in order to demonstrate their learning. Certain children seem to benefit from some educator guidance or limited choices in order to find a way to express their ideas effectively. I wonder if how, when, and how much choice offered should be differentiated based on children's needs and abilities. While reading, "Hop On Pop" by Dr. Suess, we noticed that when the critters all fall off the wall, there are 8 on the wall but only 7 fall off. We wondered how many were still on the wall because we couldn't see in the illustration.
Teacher: I see you're using a number line to solve the problem.
Dy: Uh-huh.
Teacher: How did you start?
Dy: At the 8.
Teacher: Why 8?
Dy: Cause there were 8 critters on the wall.
Teacher: Then what did you do?
Dy: I jumped down 7. They're the critters that fell down.
Teacher: What number did you get to?
Dy: 1.
Teacher: What does that 1 mean?
Al(another child watching the scene): There's 1 still on the wall. Teacher: How many cubes did you use?
Aa: Um... 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.
Teacher: And what will you do with them to solve the problem?
Aa took 7 off and held them down low and held one up high.
Teacher: Is this one the critter that is still on the wall?
Aa: Yes.

Teacher: Le, what do you have there?
Le: Blocks.
Teacher: How many.
Le: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
Teacher: How many critters were there?
Teacher: Let's look at the book again.
Le: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.
Teacher: Do you have enough?
Le: (shakes head no and gets 1 more block)
Teacher: How will you show the ones that fall off the wall?
Le: (pushing the blocks off the ten-frame wagon and letting them fall to the floor) 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
Teacher: How many are left on the wall?
Le: One! We were reading "Elephant and Piggie" books by Mo Willems. Mrs. S said, "I know we have 9 different E & P books in the school. I have 5 in our classroom. How many others will we need to get from the library?
EM: I know. 4!
Teacher: Hmm... Could you show me how you figured that out? Ru, could you show me too?
EM chose a hundreds chart with a whiteboard marker and coloured it as the in the photo.
Teacher: Why did you colour it like that?
EM: These ones are the 5 we have in our class, and then you still have to go to 9 because there are 4 more in the school.
Teacher: Ru, I see you have a math rack. What did you do to solve the problem?
Ru: Moved the beads. There's 9.
Teacher: Yes, 9 books. Which ones are the ones we have in our class?
L (another child watching the scene): The white ones.
Teacher: So, if the white beads are the ones in our classroom, how many more will we need to get?
Ru: 1,2,3,4. 4 more.
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