It is always exciting at the start of a new unit to think of ways to spark curiosity or capture the imagination of our students. The planning stage for teachers is an opportunity to explore different ideas and approaches to teaching and learning, and the FIS definition of High Quality Learning allows for this process to happen.
During a recent Grade 1 planning session, the focus was on the upcoming ‘Entertainment’ unit and how to approach the English Language Arts curriculum through this theme. We are all familiar with how Entry Points for the IPC units hook the students in and create curiosity about what the unit might be about. We have seen the positive impact these specifically designed learning opportunities have on our learners. So the decision was made to include mini Entry Points at the beginning of each writing unit to generate similar excitement.
Grade 1 are beginning their new writing unit which focuses on narratives. To make connections with the IPC unit, the theme of Entertainment will be the focus of the stories the students create. The first step was finding a mentor text that would be used to support the teaching and learning of this writing genre. The wonderful story titled ‘The Bear and the Piano’ by David Litchfield was chosen.
The beginning of the story is set in a forest. The main character, who is a young bear, discovers a piano hidden amongst the trees. What a wonderful scenario to try and recreate. This became the inspiration for the Writing Entry Point.
On Tuesday, Grade 1 students were invited to bring their favorite teddy bear or cuddly toy to school… but they didn’t know why and they didn’t know that they were about to discover their own piano hidden in the middle of our local forest.
As soon as they arrived at the forest, the students and their bears heard music being played close by. This sparked a lot of curiosity and questions from them as this is not something they usually heard. After searching for the source of the music, the students discovered FIS Music Teacher Mr. Seay standing amongst the trees, playing the piano. The surprised expressions on faces and excitement in the voices of the students were memorable. After listening to Mr. Seay play, the students then had fun singing songs in the forest and of course, the bears and toys joined in too.
While they were there, Grade 1 were encouraged to write down words or phrases connected to the forest and the experience. They used their senses to support this writing, using prompts such as I can see…I can hear…
They returned to school filled with wonder and excitement.
“I liked seeing all the trees and I liked bringing my monkey with me.”
“I really liked seeing Mr. Seay in the forest with the piano!”
“I read the book about the bear playing the piano in the forest and I also play the piano, too.”
Fast forward to the next day…Why was this planned?
The challenge given to the students the following day was to write a story based on the illustrations in The Bear and the Piano. This was their first attempt at writing a narrative story for this unit. Because the students had experienced hearing and seeing the piano in the forest, they were able to connect to the story at a deeper level. They had experienced walking through the forest, hearing the sounds, and seeing the sights of this particular setting. They had their list of important vocabulary they had created the previous day using the 5 Senses strategy. They were able to make connections with what they were presented with.
Grade 1 students were set up for success in writing and had a memorable authentic experience to connect their writing to.
Camelia Gezelbash and Melissa Tiedeke
Grade 1 Teachers