In Support of Scientific Inquiry: Building Literacy Development in Kindergarten
What happens when you engage kindergarten children in a process of asking their own questions and designing ways to find the answers? This is what Denise Tarrats, a New York City kindergarten teacher, found out when she participated in an eighteen-month study of inquiry sponsored by the New York City Writing Project. Along with her students, Denise explored student developed questions about the hamsters they kept as classroom pets.
Denise writes about this experience in the article you'll find below. In this article she describes the amazing learning opportunities that students experience. She details how the inquiry process adds to an already strong literacy program in dramatic ways, such as increasing vocabulary development and providing time and space for talking and writing.
What does this have to do with technology? At one point Denise considers using the Internet to enhance the students' learning experiences. She notes,
"I had wanted to take my students beyond the classroom to visit local experts, such as the pet store owner, or to interview a veterinarian over the Internet."
Time constraints and other issues caused her to abandon these ideas. But, how much richer would the students' study of hamsters have been if they could have interviewed an animal expert or talked with other students who were caring for hamsters in their classrooms? What other technologies might this teacher have used to capture students' conversations or record hamster behavior when no one was looking? The possibilities for using technology to contribute to good classroom practices are many.
As you read about the students' experiences, think of where you might add technology and how that addition would contribute to the learning taking place. We'd love to hear your ideas. And, if you try some of them, they may become another resource to be featured on this Web space.
Denise's work is one of eleven stories about classroom inquiry projects produced by the New York City Writing Project's Elementary Leadership Program. Her story and others can be viewed at the Lehman College, Institute for Literacy Studies website: Making Time for Inquiry: The Elementary Leadership Program