more dots, curriculum, and inspirations from Goldsworthy

goldswrthyAround the time we were embarking on our 3-D dot project, we were also exploring creating dots using natural materials. We looked to land art and Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration. The students were quite amazed at the different ways Goldsworthy created dots and “not dots” and they took on the challenge of creating their own versions. As you can imagine, there was a lot of compromising, troubleshooting and problem-solving happening. Many of the students worked in pairs or small groups to create their own unique versions of their nature dots.

goldswrthy inspired1And so, the question arises…Why do you continue to play in Grade 1? Aside from the inspiration of watching the students engaged in this play, I began to think of the curriculum expectations. I knew we were addressing them, but I’m always surprised to see just how many are uncovered through one experience. Some of the obvious mathematics expectations around sorting were addressed in addition to the other 4 strands and the mathematical processes. Also uncovered were expectations in art, science, and language. While many of the children were interested in using these materials, some preferred to demonstrate their understanding in different ways and were given the opportunity to do so. Gr1Goldsworthy inspiredWhen I looked at our math text book, I realized that the entire unit was covered in just the first two weeks of school and we didn’t look at the textbook once. We talk about the importance of giving students experience with manipulatives and exploration, yet we often resort to, or begin with, textbook lessons where everyone is expected to do the same thing. ¬†Reflecting on this experience is yet another reminder to me that “play” is powerful and definitely has a place in Grade 1.

13 thoughts on “more dots, curriculum, and inspirations from Goldsworthy

  1. Powerful posting! Through the children’s own research- their play, they are constructing knowledge and gaining a deeper understanding of concepts and content. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  2. I am truly inspired by your work, after finding your blog in June, and am thrilled you are continuing this way of teaching into Grade 1.

    Our school started our FDK this September, and I was a support person for one of my colleagues who was trying to get her head around the shift. I was equally inspired by the FDK program shift, and saw great potential for moving that into my own classroom (a 2/3 split). I am one of those teachers who constantly looks to move my practice forward, even after 20 years of teaching, and am equally if not more excited to taking my current practices of problem-solving, critical thinking, and differentiated learning to the next level with Inquiry-based learning (blended with Reggio-based learning thrown in for good measure!).

    I am just beginning my own journey of transforming my classroom and my practice. From what I have already tried/established (atelier, homemade light table, design/build area, discovery/nature table, and inquiry-based math/sci/soc), I am seeing so much more motivation and engagement in this year’s group of students (and more than half of them are the same students I had last year in my 2/3). As they ‘play with purpose’, the students are slowly asking more questions, and taking more stock in their own learning, which is so wonderful to behold and be a part of. I really value this way of teaching and am gaining a lot of motivation and many wonderful ideas from your work and the works (blogs) of others like you here in Ontario (GTA).

    Your school obviously embraces this way of teaching and learning in the early years (K/1). I am curious: Does your whole school follow the Inquiry-based philosophy? If so, what does that look like in Grades 2 – 5? If they don’t, how do the students transition to a teacher’s methods after getting so involved in the personal and creative nature of learning in Kindergarten and Grade 1?

    Thank you so much for your willingness to share on your blog!!!!! I continue to really enjoy your blog and look forward to new posts!!!

    • Thanks so much Anna. I’m thrilled to hear you are taking a similar approach in your 2/3 class! The excitement and engagement of the students is so inspiring. I think taking this approach is also very beneficial for a split grade as it truly allows for differentiation.

      Our school as a whole does not follow the inquiry approach, however some teachers in some grades have expressed an interest. I am hoping we can support each other along the way!

      Good luck with your inquiries. I would love to hear more about what is happening in your program!


  3. Serge, I am so inspired and awed by your blog about your classrooms, and all of the rich, fun, creative learning that is taking place within them. Thanks also for sharing the links to other incredible teaching blogs. Your blogs are full of best practice teaching strategies, materials, experiences, activities and classroom environments. They are not only wonderful resources, but also terrific provocations to help me reflect and reconsider as I develop my practice and program. I am so grateful you and your students have taken the time to share your learning journeys.
    Elizabeth B

    • Thanks Elizabeth! I know so many of us are on a similar journey. Sharing our experiences helps us reflect on our practices while supporting each other in the process. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s been a tad busy, but I hope to post some updates soon!

  4. Another great example Surge of how our natural exploration does indeed cover the curriculum expectations in a way that is meaningful and engaging for our students. We don’t need textbooks to teach math, we need rich experiences that teach math in a purposeful context.

  5. I love how you have transferred your ideas from ELKP to grade one. I too have made the move from 3 years of full day kindergarten to grade 1 and could use some advice. Is your whole day set up as discover/explore/inquire with purposeful activities set up or do you follow a schedule of language, math, etc as we have to formally lay out. How do you engage all of the 20 students if their interests are not there? I love your ideas and posts! I teach in Niagara.

    • Thanks Tracey. I have scheduled the day with our Inquiry Centres the first two periods of the day. This is a time where where they investigate and research at a variety of centres. We then have a Math Inquiry block. I’m trying to pose more problems for them during this time for them to investigate and solve. As you know, literacy happens throughout the day, but I have a more formal reading workshop after lunch. The last period of the day is scheduled as our “reflection”. We reflect on our learning for the day. My intent is to begin to set a goal for the following day based on the learning that happened throughout the day. It’s a work in progress and there are some timetabling challenges. The biggest challenge is the blocks of time and I continue to experiment with it to see what will work best for this group of learners.

      • Thanks for your quick response. I wish I was as brave as you to dive into it like that. My struggle is managing the rest of the class while I am working with a group who is exploring and investigating a purposeful activity or provocation set out, as well as being able to document all the learning taking place.

  6. Yay! Another educator that adores and sees the validity in play and discovery! I’m a K-5 visual arts teacher in GA. Doing “dot day” activities all week to celebrate “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds and am doing an Andy Goldsworthy inspired lesson today! Keep up the great work-YOU are an inspiration! –Leah

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