“I wonder if you can make patterns out of cake?” asked one of my five year old cherubs.
“I wonder if you can make patterns with trees?”
“I wonder if you can make patterns with boxes?”
It was the beginning of our patterning unit. I had explained what they were expected to learn, and the children were responding by telling me what they wondered about patterns. When everyone had had a chance, I gave each of them a card with I wonder printed on it, and asked them to draw a picture to demonstrate their question. When they had finished, they brought their pictures to me and I printed their question on the card. Then they traipsed off to our Wonder Wall to post their question. Some children had only one question–some had several.
The next day, I showed them the math manipulatives we had in the classroom and where we kept some of the other things they might need to find the answers to their questions. There was a momentary pause as they processed the fact that they were allowed to choose what they wanted to do, and then away they went. Some children chose to do crayon and paper activities while others built their answers with lego or other blocks. I walked around asking them questions about their patterns, taking pictures and pushing their thinking.
Truthfully, the only frustration of the day was their propensity to say “I’m done.” I think it will take awhile to convince them that they can’t be finished learning.
There were some I wonders that everyone wanted to do. The cake question was one of them. And when we got thirty-five paper boxes from the office…well, clearly no one wanted to be left out of making patterns with those as well.
For those who were able to answer their questions that day, I printed what they felt they had learned on a strip of paper and they copied it onto an I learned card so that it could be posted onto the What We Learned board.
Was it a successful time of learning? I think so. The students had a clear goal in mind and had to take responsibility for it themselves. They were able to practice the concepts they needed to learn by following their own interests. They learned with and from each other.
That sounds like success.