I was lucky enough this past week to visit a first grade classroom in my district. Students and teachers are winding down the year, but they are still learning and investigating every day, especially in science. I watched as students wrote about their favorite things about first grade, and in every instance, science played a key role. One girl wrote a small, 12 page book about how much she loved studying pebbles, sand, and silt. Another student wrote many pages about insects. Once again, I am reminded that students learn best when they are learning about something.
My visit reminded me of the wonderful book Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies by Brad Buhrow and Anne Upczak Garcia. Brad and Anne work with English Language Learners in Boulder Valley School District. The book provides insights into how all students – including langauge learners – benefit from an inquiry-based reading and writing classroom. I love this book because Brad and Anne look at students and see possibilities. They foster the wonder all students view the world with when they enter our classrooms. Rather than seeing students who do not speak English fluently, they see students who are ready to explore, to dive in and learn about their world.
Just like the first graders I recently visited in my own district, students are eager to learn, and to share what they have learned with their peers and their teachers. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to focus on content while embracing literacy. Kids love to learn about “stuff”, so why not encourage this?