Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time for some real inquiry

How many yellow flower per square metre? How many white flowers? Run a line across and counts numbers of flowers touched ( a line transect). Great maths. What are these flowers? Look , draw and research. Simple stuff but fun. While you are at it lie down in the lawn and write what you feel -maybe a three line poem. Get kids to explore through their senses. All too simple I guess.Could be all over in an hour or so.

The world is full of things to explore, to inquire into, or to wonder about.How come so few teachers seem to understand this simple idea. If you look around your school ( or your classroom) at this time of year you ought to see rooms full of inquiries - particularly exploring the environment. My experience, however, is that you won't see much. Just lots of literacy and numeracy and little else. Even the art is formulaic. Boy have we lost the plot over the years. So much for all this 'best practice' and an obsession with testing. Might as well go the whole hog and get into National Standards.

Term four , with the weather improving, is time to get out and about and to explore the immediate environment. And in term four all the students should have in place all the literacy ( language expressive arts), observational skills ( basis of art and science) numeracy and science skills to work independently. I, of course, realize that this is not the case! Hope I am wrong!

Here are some suggestions:

What plants grow along side the roadside, the fence line or in a waste area. Choose one to study. You don't need to know the names of the plants.Just number or invent names for them.Or take digital photos with macro lens setting. As the study progresses children will learn a few of the common and scientific names. Study one plants in depth during literacy time and later children can choose one to study for themselves. Develop some criteria to use to study e.g shape of leaves? height? spread? how common? describe flowers or seeds etc? Is it a weed -what is a weed?

Study a common flower as a class to 'scaffold' how students could study plant of their own choice in their own garden. Once again children could gain real knowledge as the study progresses. For art, after looking at some real flowers ( observational drawing), invent some magic flowers in a vase. Write a few thought poems. Forget this genre nonsense!

What plants grow in your school lawn?

Study the monarch and swan plant.

What do children know about common vegetables.Display some vegetable .Draw them. Cross sections of some plants are interesting. Research the history of common vegetables and where they originated from.

Study a tree
of note in the school grounds.

What are the common birds in the school grounds?

Once you start looking the ideas are endless -and then there are pieces of bush, swamp, and seashore to study.

Why bore kids with teacher planned lessons - there is a world of difference to explore 'just outside the window'.


Unknown said...

Yo Bruce..come and see our skeletons and bird feeders! Bring back the fun in teaching I say1

Bruce Hammonds said...

Am planning to come and see skeletons ( and fish eyes) this week with my camera. You are one of a handful of very creative teachers I know of. Teaching is so straight-jacketed these days.

stellabella said...

I am a teacher in Australia and last year our year sevens did a unit which included studies of our local area. One task set for the kids was a tree observation where they took notes about the tree and then wrote up a scientific report. In this instance I felt that adherence to the genre of science writing definitely assisted the children and helped them produce a very vocabulary rich piece. They found it difficult at first but months later they still talked about how valuable this experience was. If I had just gotten them to write a narrative or some general, non-genre specific report they would not have used such specialized vocab or made such comprehensive conclusions from their notes. There is a place for genres and used properly they can be an excellent scaffold for writing in different contexts.

Bruce Hammonds said...

sounds like real inquiry and writing for a purpose. Rich contexts supply possibilities for all the genre writing students will ever need. Covering genre for their own sake is often not worth it.