Often times, Topic Studies emerge when children take a particular interest in a facet of class or a part of a lesson that wasn’t necessarily intended to be a focal point. Great teachers are keen observers and respond accordingly by taking the opportunity to expand both in breadth and depth on their students’ innate interests. When this happens, the kids have an immense amount of intrinsic motivation to learn and further develop a subject. From there, teachers can connect literacy, math, science, technology, etc. to intertwine skill-based knowledge as the kids learn about what interests them most.
From Ms. Julia and Ms. Ofe
Friends and Family Topic Study
Duration: January 2019 to the end of March 2019, roughly 2.5 months
It was really hard to pick our most prominent Topic Study this year, because each one felt so unique to our energy, our hearts, our collective spark – but I feel the most significant to us as a group, and the one that felt the most organic, was our Family & Friends Topic Study.
This Topic Study really came out of a simple activity that we had incorporated into class at the last minute back in October. We made a giant Class Family Book together as a side project. The goal was to further the connection between school and home by providing a tool to the kids to inspire discussions about who they are as they showed and talked about their families with their new classmates.
Each child made a page, with their family photos we collected from their parents. We asked for individual and family shots, and the children also worked on writing the sentence “This is my family.”
Ms. Ofe and myself also had a page, and then the children collectively decorated the front and back cover. With no prompting, one day the children decided they wanted to put it in our class Library Center so they could look at it after snack time. It became a sort of ritual, with everyone finishing snack and then running over to gently and carefully pick up the book and then take it over to our the carpet where we gather for circle time.
We observed the children taking turns and negotiating: who would get to turn the pages, who would get to hold the book. But, every single child got to yell out each one’s name as we turned the pages: “It’s James!!!” “It’s Zoey!!!”
The children would point to their photos and often kiss their family members and then allow the page to be turned for the next name to be called. This ritual took place every day of our year together!
After myself and Ms. Ofe observed this for many days, we began talking about what Topic Study to do after our Architecture and Building Topic Study. We quickly landed on a Family Topic Study with the main manifestation of learning being each child creating his or her own mini-version of the Family Book and some kind of 3D family tree.
Through the project, the kids completed a synopsis of their own Family Book on one page to give to each of their classmates, which we also made into books. Every child now has a book of photos of all of their Owl friends and their family, with photos and the child’s writing on each page. We also enjoyed visits from family members that came to read to our class.
We then learned about the difference between 2D and 3D by making 2D family trees and finally making 3D family trees out of glass jars, branches and photographs.
We also sang 2 songs throughout the Topic Study and performed them for our families before we presented all of our work. We sang Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch and At Last I See the Light, from the movie Tangled. When we introduced these songs, the kids said they and them think about their family and about love.