Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Using iPads For Our Spider Inquiry

Yesterday we began our spider inquiry.  We have been reading Charlotte's Web for the Global Read Aloud and the students were fascinated about how Charlotte sucks the blood from her victims.... So, our inquiry about spiders was born.  This was a perfect time for this inquiry because we have been talking about how to link reading to non-fiction writing in our school and this project practically fell into our laps!

Step 1 - The Wondering Stage

We started with a schema chart to find out what the students already knew about spiders. Each student was given a sticky note and they had to draw or write one fact they knew about spiders and add it to our chart.

We generated questions about spiders that the students were curious about and that would drive the inquiry process.

Step 2 - The Planning Stage

I have some new students in my class this year and some students that may need some reminding, so I wanted to model the planning stage.  We talked about the questions that were generated and I told them I wanted to pick a question that really interested me.  I chose a question that was not on our list to model because I did not want to take away the possibility of someone being disappointed because I chose the question they wanted to research.  I then gave each child another sticky note and I chose a book from our "spider library" to read to them.  Students wrote down new learnings on their stickies while I read, "National Geographic Readers: Spiders."

Tomorrow, students will begin mapping out ideas from the wondering stage and begin to focus on which question they want to learn about and answer.  I will then group the students according to what question they chose.  Students will use books, the internet and our very own school yard to come up with the answers to their questions.  

I will post step 3 of our inquiry process as soon as we complete it. 
How does your students' interests drive your instruction?

Update: November 6, 2012

Step 3 - The Gathering Stage

I did some learning and reflecting during this stage.  Students chose their question by putting a sticky note on the chart according to the number that corresponded with the question.  We had a few very popular questions and a few that the students were not interested in at all.  Here is a picture of how the students selected the question they wanted to research.

We had spider books, I showed the students how to search for answers on the internet and we watched videos about spiders.  I thought this was going to be a breeze.....However, I was wrong.  I didn't take into consideration that some of my students had never done a search on the internet before.  They couldn't decipher all the information they were receiving.  I also did not take into consideration that I have 8 grade 1's that were not in my class last year.  Needless to say, our first "gathering day" was a flop.  I had to regroup and try a different approach the next day.
I decided to do more of a whole class approach and model, model, model.  Instead of having each group focus on one question we all focused on all the questions that interested them.
The following day, I put a shortcut on the iPads for Wallwisher.  I had students share what they had learned by watching videos, reading, listening to their peers share facts and listening to me do non fiction read a loads.  This is what they came up with:

The students were so excited about the topic, we had students bringing in spiders they had caught around the house.  Of course, we had to get the document camera out and get a closer look at them!  Here is Mrs. Belanger showing the class our first furry friend under the document camera.

While watching the spider under the document camera, students were wondering if this particular spider would bite.  We had our fearless principal come in to test our hypothesis.  The spider did not bite him.  However, we did have another student bring in a wolf spider a few days later.  The first question the students wanted answered was, "Will the wolf spider bite Mr. Cowper?"  Again, Mr. Cowper came in and gave up his hand in the name of science.  Thankfully it did not bite him.  (He said it was because of his large principal hands.)

I learned from this that even though things did not go as planned, the students still were engaged, learned a lot and we had fun doing it.  I had students bringing in books that they created at home about spiders, many students brought in books that they found at home or went to the library to find spider books, I even had students bring in spider books that they read to the rest of the class.

Step 4 -  The Creating Stage

This is where students created something meaningful to them using the facts and information they learned about spiders.  We had been practicing with the iPad app Popplet.  Therefore it was unanimous that this was what the students wanted to use to share their learning.  Here is one of my grade one students' Popplets:

Step 5 - The Sharing Stage

We decided to share our Popplets by putting them on our blogs.  Students were excited to use the new Kidblog app on their iPads.  They also wanted to generate some interest and comments for their blogs.  We just did this step today, so I have put a request on twitter and have asked my principal to add some feedback to their blogs.  I am also going to ask one of junior classes to leave some comments because I know that they have just started blogging with their students.  I was thinking my students could share what they know about writing a good blog comment and then they can try it out on my students' blogs.  We would love for you to leave a comment or two here.


  1. I love the idea of using the iPads to make Popplets. I like how you also used the wallwisher. I have learned so many great ideas from your class blog. Tomorrow I will show my class your Popplets and the spider wallwisher. We are learning about spiders too!

  2. I loved reading about the research process you are putting in place Oddly enough it mirrors just what my kids are dying to begin. We've done research for ages, but I feel that we need to modify the format to incorporate more higher level thinking. I like the use of 'Wonder' vs. 'find out'-- just a small change. I like trying to answer specific questions rather than just reading ad writing down the facts. As I was reading, I thought of Popplet right before I got to your section. Think it will be a great tool for them to use. They've seen it used for older kids, and have been dying to try it -- here is the perfect opportunity. I'll have them heck out your blogs.