animals in the winter project…

It was about this time of year, last fall, when my Kindergarten class took the journey into their learning of habitat, hibernation, and bears. I wanted to share their learning process that I documented in the classroom.

We began our inquiry into the lives of animals during winter, by studying our first PWIM (Picture Word Induction Model; I’ll speak to this at the end of the post) poster. The children were intrigued by the bears from our Forestry Farm and had many questions. We labelled the picture and spent time learning the words. This is hard work for the beginning of Kindergarten but the children enjoyed learning to read some of the words from our poster and felt pride being able to use them in their writing.

From these initial inquiries, we branched off from just thinking about bears, to thinking about what other animals that live around us in Saskatchewan might be doing during the winter months. We read many books about migration, hibernation, and adaptations. After much research, we thought about what we had learned and how we could demonstrate our learning. There were many different avenues that the children took. Many decided that they would paint a picture of the animal of their choice to show what they had learned. Others wanted to create a model of a bear den, or a snake hibernating. The results were amazing. The children were able to demonstrate their learning orally as I recorded what they had learned. They spoke about the food their animal would need during the winter months, where they lived, or even if they had predators that would try to find them while they hibernated. It was fantastic to see the excitement of the children create their projects with such pride and determination.

The project approach to learning allows the children to engage in the curriculum of the classroom in a way that enables them to express their own personal learning in a variety of ways. Children have a strong disposition to explore and discover. The project approach builds on natural curiousity, enabling children to interact, question, connect, and reflect on their learning.

A side note about the Picture Word Induction Model (PWIM):

PWIM was introduced through my school board as an approach to literacy in the early grades (Kindergarten – Grade 3). No, it is NOT Reggio, however, it is highly encouraged to be taught in our school system. I have struggled with how to meet the requirements of PWIM and still follow the philosophy of Reggio-Inspired teaching, (this can be SO difficult at times!) and this is what I have come up with. When I set up an invitation that coincides with curriculum objectives, I peruse through the PWIM posters that are available to Kindergarten teachers, and set one up WITH an invitation. Then, I follow the PWIM model, by “pulling words from the picture,” (really, this is just labelling it with the children helping), and using these words as a sort of word wall. We use the words to build sentences, and help us in our writing in project work, and refer to it often as sight words through our learning. I know to the Reggio-Inspired teachers, this is like nails on a chalkboard, and I agree, but I have learned how to incorporate something that can be otherwise a monotonous and boring lesson, into our learning environment in a way that engages the children and aids in writing and reading. If you are interested in learning more about PWIM you can follow this link.

Sometimes in our teaching, there are things that we cannot cut out. Things that are written in our contract, or a school practice that doesn’t align with our beliefs and philosophy of teaching. I have learned that we have to do the best with what we are given and forgive ourselves for the things we cannot change. I know many educators struggle with incorporating time tables, curriculum objectives, and other teaching practices into their Reggio-Inspired classroom. Give yourself a break and know that you are doing your best as an educator.

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