Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Long Term Investigations--Caretaking Unit

Let me first warn you, I'm new to this Reggio inspired business.  Our school uses a lot of different philosophies to round out our instuction and approaches with our students.  Some of the other approaches we implement are Waldorf, Conscious Discipline and Love & Logic.  I personally like to sprinkle a lot of Great Expectations, too.  However, while I'm really familiar with all the other approaches, so I'm trying to learn more about why we do the Reggio things we do at our school.  IT. HAS. BEEN. A. PROCESS.  (Big props to my Pre-K Team, I could not have done this without their help!)
So, in my path to understanding long term investigations, I have been doing A LOT of reading.  I found this awesome article about long term investigations on NAEYC's website.  I loved how the teacher made the learning process visible and communicated with the parents, which is a big emphasis in the Reggio world. 
Now, you can't rush a long term investigation.  I started my year out doing all those get to know you things we do as teachers to bond with our class and that are so neccessary to build a classroom community.
A big part of discovering the long term interests is to sit back and let the classroom environment inspire the children.  Then I watch, like a stalker, observing them, recording conversations and seeing what they are interested in.  Through my observations, I quickly discovered three themes/investigation possibilities.  My students were pretending to cook and build stores in blocks, pretending to be monsters (this was mid-October) and pretending to dogs/cats on the playground.  My assistant and I talked about their interests and decided to ask the students in morning meeting what they would like to investigate further.   I was quite shocked at the results.  Hands down, I thought they would choose something else...
However, my students choose to investigate pets. 
Side note: For simplicity's sake, I just wrote one word on the smartboard so we could sound out the onset sounds.  Also, during the vote, I was surprised when one of my students said, "Remember, I can write my name."  So some of the names are written by me and others are written by the students. 

Now our class is exploding with interest and engagement.  Not to say they weren't engaged before, but now it's so much more purposeful and it's so student driven!  I'm amazed, I really am.  Just look at my little caterpillars here in our block center.  They decided our reading buddy Valentine needed a house.  On their own, they built him this structure and began discussing how many blocks and then they added a door for him. 

I just can't wait to see where this investigation goes next!  Have you ever worked with an emergent curriculum?  What kind of long term investigations have your students explored?

As always, love the comments!  Keep 'em coming!

Happy Hump Day!

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