Thursday, May 1, 2014

A New Approach: Discovery Learning

Inspired by two wonderful teachers, Connie Lowe and Devon Caldwell, I set out to introduce discovery learning in our Grade 1 classroom this spring!  I had a great conversation with these two ladies the evening before the Awakening Possibilities conference.  (Our conversation helped me "get going" on this idea and it was a reminder that sometimes the professional development happens outside of the official conference sessions - just talking with other teachers gave me some very useful ideas.)  

Next, I did some reading and exploring online to find out more about discovery learning, ideas for discovery tubs and how to organize these activities.  Some resources I found helpful included:
Miss Dyck, our student teacher, and I designed 3 discovery tubs related to our math learning about 2D shapes and 3D objects.  Once the tubs were set out at 3 separate work areas, I explained to students that there could be 5-7 people at a tub, they could choose which tubs to explore and when to change activities.  We discussed sharing, being kind and focusing on discovering new things.  Then, we got started!  Miss Dyck and I observed as students tried new things, worked together and created.  We took lots of photos and I put many of them into students' Evernote files to document their learning.  I took note of a few comments:
  • "I'm making something."
  • "Hey, watch this!"
  •  "Try this"
  • "Do ladybugs have antennae?" then, after an internet search and a close look at a ladybug diagram "So should I curve them (the antennae) a bit?"
  • "Give me the cylinder."
I heard lots of math language and many interesting questions.  I saw enthusiastic, engaged students working together or alone, creating new things and designing, learning and discovering!  After we cleaned up, students gathered at the carpet to share questions and comments. I asked for some feedback and it was overwhelmingly positive "It was fun" and "It was awesome" and even, "It was the best thing I've done at school".  Judging by our first experience, I think we're going to have to continue with our discovery learning! 

Discovery Tub Contents: 
2D shapes 
3D objects 
household objects that are cylinders, prisms, cubes, spheres etc 
2D shape & 3D objects label cards ie: cylinder, prism, square, circle, rhombus, hexagon 
Blank cards 

Students at this tub experimented with different 3D objects to create towers and they also sorted 2D shapes using the label cards.  

Discovery Tub Contents: 
2D shapes
shape "tracer" templates made from cardstock,
variety of paper 

Students at this tub created different designs by tracing shapes or cardstock tracers and they put shapes together to create pictures.  It was the most open-ended tub and it was interesting to watch what the students discovered when there were so many possibilities for them to explore!

Discovery Tub Contents: 
sample "shape bugs"
shapes copied onto construction paper (circle, oval, rhombus, rectangle)
blank construction paper

Students at this tub replicated the shape bug in the tub using preprinted shapes and/or shapes they cut out, created a ladybug shape bug and/or created other new designs using various shapes.

These tubs, along with those I will create in the future, are pinned here.

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