Monday, March 21, 2011

Following Their Lead--with a Plan in Mind

Some resources currently available in our research center

We've been exploring maps and globes in my room lately. We've looked at maps, acquired a globe and began studying it, and asked our librarian for help finding books about maps.  One thing I try to do is find ways that we can link our learning across instructional contexts, so when we were ready to begin a new interactive writing project, I asked the kids if they thought we might want to do something to remember what we've been learning during our map study.

They jumped at the chance, and eagerly began calling out suggestions for what we might do. "Hey, we need some stuff to make something," shouted C. above the others.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, like lots and lots of paper," he replied.
"Yeah, and maps--you can get us maps," added H.
Others chimed in, calling out what maps they thought we'd need.
"Wait," I laughed, "let's start a list--I can't remember all this!"

So we started our list. As we wrote, we put to use things we'd been learning about word parts during our word study time. Part way through our work on the list, the one of the kids suggested that maybe they could make groups and each work on one of the maps. Then we could put it all together to hang up for other people to see what we know about maps. While not exactly the direction I had in my head, I followed along. We could still do a lot of the learning I knew we needed while following their interests and plans for the project (after all, it is their project).

They proceeded to direct me to make sign up sheets so they could choose groups.  We used part of our math time to figure out how many kids each group would have--I put the question to them as a research question, and they had it figured out in about 10 minutes. When we started to talk about the work they'd do in groups, J. and E. had thoughts about what information the groups should include. One was that they should use our "important words"--our academic vocabulary that relates to our map study.

The kids are ready to begin their group work tomorrow. I'm not sure exactly how it will go, but I do know that we'll be revisiting and solidifying our knowledge of the academic vocabulary for this topic. I know that we'll integrate our phonics learning into what we do. I know that we'll use the table of contents to find the information we need in books, and we will study captions so that we know how to make our own.

I am able to follow the kids' lead in terms of their interests or their ideas for projects because I know some things. I know our learning goals. I know the strengths and needs of my kids. And knowing those things well allows me to teach the kids what they need even if I'm following their lead. No matter what project they'd have come up with--even if they had gone with another topic--I would have been ready to connect our work to the teaching and learning in other parts of our day. It's all part of following their lead, but with a plan in mind.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I love all the authentic reading, writing, and math that seemed to be going on. I loved how you followed the kids' lead! In my mind, this is a perfect example of child-centered learning! And I loved how I felt like I was right there learning with you.