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inquiry based learning


In continuation with our beautiful stuff project, the children used real wood piece to create home, buildings, bridges and other various structures.  The children created, draw their designs, labelled some parts, glued and painted their designs.  It was a great and fun experience.

    This student independently drew a picture of his neighbourhood when we were writing in our journals.  He carefully selected shapes that are parts of a building, told me about the buildings-some stores and houses and added stairs that go to the bed on the top floor (blueprints show stairs!).


The emphasis on play-based and inquiry-based learning in the FDK program has profound implications on learning outcomes throughout a child’s academic career. Here are several links to supporting play in the early years. 

The program has evolved with the introduction of FDK.  Educators are more facilitators, listening to the children’s ideas for exploration (the emerging curriculum), placing materials out that are more exploratory–that provoke questioning and research to find out answers.  When children are engaged during play time many skills are developing including reading and writing. Oral language is a huge premise in the entire program.  Talking is most critical! Getting children to talk and model appropriate language is the foundation. .  Here are some great prompts and questions to get you thinking about how to assess oral language and some self-reflective questions about the program in your classroom.

Initially in the school year rules and routines are established that need to be followed both in and out of the classroom.  Some children have not been expose to a structured routine/environment at this point in their life and it may take sometime to get them to know the expectations.  As they enter opportunities at various point in the classroom the ability to problem-solve, get along with others, share toys, ask for support is all part of self-regulation that will be needed for grade 1 and up and for the rest of their lives. 

The two year play-based program provides children time to hone those skills necessary for life. When they enter the block centre or dramatic play they set their own rules and self-monitor how roles should play out.  It is at this point they will have to regulate what appropriate behaviours (within the paramaters) are acceptable–they need to talk out disagreements using problem-solving skills, they need to share and/or take turns, ask for help when needed, and adapt to various situations in the day.  Within the program the Educators model appropriate behaviours (some boards may follow programs like Second Steps to support), and provide ample opportunities for children to work on self-regulation at different points throughout the day. 

In my experience it does take some time for many of the children to acquire these skills.  They need to have a firm base of appropriate behaviours before they move up the grades.  In my opinion when children don’t know how to self-regulate they take on less desirable behaviours and find themselves in trouble.  In the K program it is important to build in the leadership skills by giving them roles and responsibilities, make them feel valued, and allow them to make good/positive choices.  The structure of the program then changes are they move to grade 1 where they are expected to sit long for lessons, often more large group teaching occurs, and pencil/paper tasks are required for learning.  I am a believer that the inquiry model is appropriate for all grades due to the fact that many skill sets can be acquired with a more emergent curriculum model.  Having taught in all primary grades there are some great opportunities to apply the inquiry model into social studies, science where we can apply math and literacy skills and meet the curriculum expectations.  

The New Learner: 

When children leave the K program they are learning to be independent thinkers, ask questions, apply learning and ideas into different contexts–link the concepts into new situations, have a firm base on printing, basic math concepts,  reading readiness skills, have the ability to appropriately problem solve, and understand rules and routines in a structure environment.

Our snow inquiry started from reading a book called Sadie and the Snowman.  We used the story over 5 days to focus on retell.  Day 1-discussed the pictures and read the story.  Day 2- Discussed Characters, Day 3- Setting and a KWL chart was created connecting our own experiences with snow , Day 4 focused on the events, and  Day 5 we reviewed all story elements and recreated the scenes with cutouts in large group. 

This story not only began the discussion of snow, but hot and cold, the fridge vs the freezer, experimenting with different ice cubes wrapped in various materials like newspapers, foil, paper, and with salt (Which melts faster?) and we tried attaching ice cubes to string using salt.  Throughout these experiments children learned new vocabulary, used a thermometer to record temperature, and they observed water changing from a liquid to a solid, they recorded time and charted change. 

Throughout this approximate 6 week inquiry on snow, the children communicated their learning in written and visual form to include in their documentation books.  It allowed us to explore many new things and the children had so much fun.


This is a monograph about getting started with inquiry.  There is a list on the last page that gives 6 tips on how to get started with inquiry 

This great line….

Inquiry allows students to make decisions about their learning and to take responsibility for it.



Today I had an opportunity to read through some research on why documentation is important to student learning. In the attached article there is some great reference points about how students learn and think and how we as teachers extend our understanding of documentation as we discuss, share and collaborate with colleagues.  Another topic that was interesting was peer feedback.  I tried this informally late last year and when I felt they were ready.  I also tried a form of strengths and next steps (one star, one wish) in  my literacy assessment. It was a great opportunity to have a conversation about the student work.   Again, I did this in late February.  I was amazed at how they were able to share not only what they are good at, but where they need to improve!! 

Another important part that stood out the most for me was the accountability.  We are constantly defending the play-based learning approach to parents, the public and what better way to display learning through prompts, pictures, and questioning.  Display student work with their dialogue, questioning. Have their portfolios out and accessible for them to refer back to, display learning over time–history from previous years.  Create a communication board on inquiry and show students engaged in learning!      Have a read and enjoy!


Communicating with parents on a regular basis provides them with information about what their child is learning.  Begin a parent of a school age child and not always getting the answers to “what did you learn today?”, I have a new appreciation for the monthly newsletter!  Communicating with parents and developing that open communication right from the beginning of the school year allows educators to develop a rapport and it allows parents to provide us with information about their child.  The link below will provide some ideas on how to engage parents throughout the year and during conferences.

Last year I revamped my newsletters and tailored them to show “what” we are currently learning as opposed to what we “will” be learning.  The layout was about 8 pages and it was in a book format.  I shared pictures of students engaged in learning with the oral conversations listed below.  I tried to include about 10 students or so and if I missed anyone I included them in the following newsletter.  I focused on our inquiry projects, but also included the activities that related to math, literacy etc.  On the last page I created a section for parents to provide me with feedback about what they saw or anything that they wanted to learn more about.  Be sure to check permissions before sending out photos!

I really enjoyed creating these newsletters and it was relevant to what we were doing.  Any upcoming events or information I need to pass along outside of the learning, I created a small section and kept it brief—my point was to showcase the student learning!   Well worth the extra time.

is important because it gives parents an idea of what the children are learning and certainly includes them in the learning going on in the classroom.


Late last year I read an article about learning stories in a PD session and decided to give it a go.   It is a great way to showcase student learning and development as it is happening within the centres.  It is a narrative of the conversation that is occurring at the centre with students and possible the educator.  I took photos of what the students were doing and recorded the oral conversation.  If you have an Ipod or a video recorder this is helpful as sometimes the conversations are so quick, it was hard writing it all down (you can review later)!  Learning stories tell about where a child is at and where I need to plan for further learning.  You truly learn so much about a child’s learning when we just sit down to hear the conversation.  I love to play the videos over just to ensure I got everything. 

You can place these learning stories into books to keep in the classroom or in individual portfolios.  They are a great conversation piece to share with parents.

As outlined in ETFOs resource Primarily Play , documentation is important in the play-based learning program. Qualitative assessment through observation will begin to tell a story from beginning to end showing how the child has changed in his/her learning over time.  Portfolios are also a great way to capture the learning .  This year I have purchased binders for each student so I can place pictures and documentation of their learning through the inquiry process and in centres.


Here is a link to some video resources on : Flow of the Day, Inquiry, Observation & Documentation, Play-based Learning, Self-regulation, the Learning Environment, Literacy Throughout the Day and Numeracy Throughout the Day.