Question Quivers


The old “Cootie Catcher” was given new life in my grade 1 classroom this month. My grade 1s have grade 8 learning buddies. Last week the challenge for the pair was to fold and make a Question Quiver; an idea that came from the book Q Tasks: How to empower students to ask questions and care about answers. The outside had colours and colour words, the inside sections and numbers and inside the triangle flaps were the question words where, when, why and how.  The buddies then played with the quivers, using the question words to help form questions to learn more about each other.

The Question Quivers have now made their way to the Wonder Table in our classroom. The children use the quiver to form a question about the object on the table. Its been interesting to see how we now have more questions rather than comments about the objects on the table and the questions are becoming more diverse (not just “Why did you bring this in?”, but now “Why are there so many seeds in it?” “How did it turn red?”). My hope is that there will be carryover from the quivers to other learning throughout the day.

I wanted to know if my students knew about numbers –  more specifically, could they talk about themselves numerically, recording their ideas in a poster using numbers, pictures and maybe words.  I modeled the activity first, using my numbers, starting with my house number, and number of people in my family. I asked the students if they could think of any other numbers that might be important to me. The kids came up with lots of ideas; phone number, age, license plate, birthday, number of pets I have etc. I was quite impressed with the range of ideas that developed. I then gave the task to them, to create their own “My Numbers” poster. As I walked around it was quite evident those who knew their numbers (house, phone numbers, birthdate) and those who didn’t. I was impressed to see kids correctly write correctly the year they were born. I was a little shocked to realize a couple of kids only knew their age and number of people in their family.

The children really enjoyed the activity, some even challenging themselves to write larger numbers by estimating the number of books they have at home or the number of Lego pieces.  I saw lots of reversals, which is what I expected. The activity was a great start for our learning about number over the next few weeks.

My grade partner and I decided to try ‘wonder windows’ with our classes. This is an idea that came from a wonderful book “A Place For Wonder” by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough.  We decided to make our windows using 4 popsicle sticks glued with white glue. We then created an observation page for them to draw what they see in their windows, when we go on our observation outings. There were 2 blank windows on their page and space for written observations and questions.

Our first outing was on a warm sunny day last week. We decided that it would be best to stay close to the school, as we were just getting familiar with all the idiosyncrasies of our children. The kids were so excited to head out to the grassy area and sidewalk at the front of the school and drop their windows!  Some of the children did an amazing job of drawing everything they saw in their windows, while others just drew what they thought we wanted them to see – grass growing straight and tall, a perfect leaf etc. I had one child come to me with 1 straight line in  one of his windows. He told me it was a crack in the ground. I asked him to show me the crack in the ground. When he did, I had him put his window over the crack again and tell me what he saw. He was amazed at the week leaves, grass and small stone he saw. He added those to his picture.

When we came into the school a few children had the opportunity to share their observations and wonders.  We were pleased with the observations the kids had but were surprised at the lack of wonder. One child talked about a large mass of grass and twigs that looked like a nest, on the ground between two trees. It was a struggle to finally get someone to ask “How did the nest get there?”

We plan to take the children out each month to record observations from their wonder windows.  Hopefully their sketches will become more detailed and they will begin to actually verbalize their thinking.

Wonder Window Observations

A detailed drawing of what the sidewalk looks like in the eyes of a grade 1 child.

 I had high hopes for a first day of school activity which I thought would illicit a plethora of questions from my grade 1 students about what they saw in our classroom and what they might be doing.  After having the children wander the classroom, stopping them often to question them about what they saw that was the same as their kindergarten classroom and what was different, I brought them back to the carpet to ask them what they wondered about what they saw. Did they have any questions?  No, questions, but lots of excited discussion about new pencil cases and markers that were in their back pack just waiting to be opened!

Day 2 of the first week I decided to try the activity again but without  the talk of similarities and differences from Kindergarten. I just wanted them to look at all the things that we have in our room and wonder about it.  The questions came, all of them “What will . . .”; but at least there were questions!

The Wonder Table that I had set up with porcupine quills under a magnifier and a short story about my sisters’ dog that tried to bit the porcupine garnered 1 question on a sticky note, and quite a few “I like it” comments.  The question was thoughtful, “Why did the dog bit the porcupine?” It created a wonderful discussion during Friday’s circle time and more questions. I look forward to seeing what wonders they have about this week’s ‘wonder’.

Here it is, a week before school starts and I’m organizing then reorganizing my classroom. Despite teaching 20 + years,  I still have not found the ideal arrangement for student learning. Every year I try something a little different, move the book area, create a larger writing area. This year I have a “Wonder” table, which I haven’t had in many years with sticky notes for kids to ask questions about the ‘Wonder’ that is being displayed.

I’m giving the kids the inside of their desks right from the first day, with their own pack of crayons, a pencil and eraser. No more communal baskets. I’m hoping this might teach kids responsibility or let me know quite quickly who cannot look after their things!

I wonder how many days before I’ll rearrange once the children come in??

It’s early August and I have been asked to share my thinking about Inquiry in my grade 1 classroom through a blog.  Blogging is new to me; but I’m thinking it will be a great way to share my thoughts on everything that will be happening with my students as we explore new learning together this school year. I’m a little nervous about the blogging part – but so excited about the months ahead!

Changing Views

Skating where the puck's going, not where it's been.


Where learning and curiosity mingle.