Your Federal Quarterly Tax Payments are due April 15th Get Help Now >>

Measurement The Long Short of a Kindergarten Project by xyd32971


The Long & Short of a Kindergarten Project
        J. Erik Jonsson Community School
                   Dallas, Texas
                Table of Contents

    Overview …………………………………………….                       1
    Measurement Projects Timeline ………………...           2
    Messing Around with Measurement ……………             3
       Brainstorming & Planning …………………..             4
       Time 1 Drawing ……………………………….                   5
       Measurement in Math Centers …………….             6
       Graphing Names ……………………………...                  8
       Venn Diagram …………………………………                    10
       Math Journals …………………………………                   12
       Family Portraits ……………………………….                12
       Measure Families with Paper Tape ………..        13
       What We Know about Measurement ………            15
       What We Want to Know about Measure-
       ment ……………………………………………..                      16
       Elaborated Question Webs …………………..            18
           Can you measure your house?
           Who measures animals?

    Animal Measurement Project ……………………              19
       Animal Groups ………………………………..                  20
       Field Trip to the Zoo ………………………….             21
       Reflections/What We Learned ………………            23
       Animal Groups’ Questions & Answer Webs.       24
       Animal Groups Reflect ……………………….              25
       … and Investigate Further …………………..           26
       Animal Books …………………………………..                  27
       The Final Performance ……………………….              29

    Pumpkin Measurement Project ………………….             30
       Timing …………………………………………..                     31
       Introduction ……………………………………                   31
       What We Know about Pumpkins …………...           31
       What We Want to Know about Pumpkins…          33
           The Team’s Reflection …………………...          33
       Pumpkin Carving & Counting Seeds ………          34
       Toasting Seeds ………………………………...                36
       Organizing Questions for the Field Trip …..   37
       Field Trip to the Arboretum …………………           38
       Additional Research …………………………..              40
           Circumference …………………………….                40
           Weight ……………………………………...                  41
       Pumpkin Pie …………………………………..                   42
       Pumpkin Books ………………………………..                  42

    Contacts ……………………………………………..                     43


This booklet documents how J. Erik Jonsson Community                 the team agreed to offer children several activities during their
School’s kindergarten team combined a year-long emphasis             daily Math Centers and see what developed. Their reasoning
on ‘Measurement’ with children’s interests to form projects          was: Even if nothing related to projects immerged from Math
during the first semester of school. The focus of our work was       Center activities, the children will have learned math concepts
more about how teachers supported student learning than on           in the process. They called this ‘Messing Around with Meas-
student learning per se.                                             urement’ (from Judy Harris Helm). As you will see,
                                                                     “Messing Around with Measurement’ led to simultaneous
’Measurement’ is a huge topic, and the more this team                projects—one lengthy and completely derived from students’
planned, the more overwhelming the possibilities became.             interests in animals and another shorter project based upon
After some discussion about how to manage the large topic,           seasonal interests (Autumn, Halloween).

                               Measurement Projects Timeline

                     Week 1   Week 2   Week 3       Week 4   Week 5    Week 6     Week 7      Week 8     Week 9     Week10       Week11

Messing Around
School begins        X
Math toys            ->       ->       ->           ->       ->        ->         ->          ->         ->         ->           ->
Graph names                             X
Venn diagram                            X
Time 1 Drawing                              X
What We Want to                                 X        X
Know @ Measmnt.
Measure family &                                             X----->
Draw your family                                                       X
Animals Project
What We Want to                                                    X
Know @ Animals
Introduce zoo trip                                                          X
Form animal                                                                 X
Question webs                                                               X->   ---->
about 4 animals
Trip to the Zoo                                                                           X
Answer questions                                                                               X
(whole group)
Additional animal                                                                                  X->   ------->   ->
Write final animal                                                                                   X   ->         ->           ->
Group practice                                                                                                                    X->
Presentations                                                                                                                         X
Pumpkin Project
Introduction                                                                                                        X
What We Want to                                                                                                      X X
Know @ Pumpkins
Seeds – toasting                                                                                                         X
and counting
Pumpkin Patch                                                                                                                X
Circumference                                                                                                                X
Pumpkin pie                                                                                                                  X
Weigh pumpkins                                                                                                               X
Pumpkin books                                                                                                                    X

Messing Around with Measurement

     Brainstorming & Planning

It is two weeks into the school year when Heather
Bryant meets with both Kindergarten teachers,
Emily Rommel (Ms. R) and Jessica Turk (Ms. T), to
discuss plans for their first project. The teachers
have decided that they prefer a yearlong emphasis on
measurement that will perhaps divide into several
smaller projects, depending upon the children’s inter-
ests. Heather agrees that the plan could be incorpo-
rated into almost any topic and would enhance the                            Heather tells them to begin with the children them-
children’s math skills.                                                      selves – focus on getting to know the children and
                                                                             their families. Here are a few of their ideas:
The difficulty arises in how to introduce the concept
of measurement to the class. All three of these ex-
                                                                                The child’s name. Each child will measure names by counting the
perienced educators know that they are working with
                                                                                number of letters and comparing with words such as longer,
a population of children who not only require con-                              shorter, more, and less. They will also be able to talk about tall,
crete examples and information but are also less                                low, and hanging letters. Heather suggests beginning by having
likely to verbalize what they might wish to learn                               each child graph his/her name. Teachers will emphasize graph and
about topics. Heather suggests that the teachers pre-                           graphing. They will ask the children what they see in the graph and
                                                                                record what the child says.
pare a list of questions to ask the kids for the first
web in order to provide some structure. Here are a                              Heather once brought in a chrysanthemum and a delphinium and
few strategies that they brain storm during their                               did a compare and contrast with her students using a Venn dia-
first meeting.                                                                  gram. This idea appeals to the teachers because they can draw on
                                                                                their students’ common knowledge of last year’s gardening project
                                                                                and the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Hanks..
  Revisit pictures from last year’s garden project and discuss how the
  children used measurement in the garden.                                      Buzz books containing tallies or surveys. Possible topics include:
                                                                                How was your weekend? How many people do you have in your
  Connect and collaborate with other classrooms.                                home? Do you have a pet? What kind of pet? Students could graph
                                                                                the results.
  Put out several measurement books for children to leaf through
  (may increase vocabulary).                                                    Take home activities: mix up socks and how many pairs can you
  Put out a table with measuring things, such as balances, scales,
  measuring cups, rulers. Teachers will watch children’s activities             Trace your family members’ feet and order them big to small.
  around the area and eventually notice (to the children) that they             (This elicits another web.)
  are measuring a lot of things, and they will see where it leads.
                                                                                Measure objects in non-standard lengths, such as chain links,
                                                                                blocks, or hands.

                                                                                Incorporate measurement into science by placing measurement
During the following meeting, teachers remain un-                               tools on the science table: measuring cups and spoons; balance
sure about how to start the measurement discussion                              scales.; and sand, pebbles, and water for measuring.

with the children. Jessica has the Project Planning
                                                                                Determine what the children know about measurement – as deter-
Guide from Young Investigators: The Project Ap-                                 mined through a whole-group discussion as well as individual draw-
proach in the Early Years and suggests a web.                                   ings.
Knowing that the group will respond best to concrete
“what” topics, they focus on what children can meas-
ure in their lives: themselves, objects and people in                        The teachers appear relieved with the overall direc-
their homes, items found in the classroom, and parts                         tion of their planning. Characteristically, they start
of their community.                                                          on the following day.

                                Time 1 Drawing:
                  Draw Everything You Know About Measurement

                                               draws herself measuring Marisol with
                                               the tape measure. All together, six of
                                               this group are able to draw about meas-
                                               urement while six others require fre-
                                               quent prompts from Ms. T.

                                               Each shows the finished drawing to Ms.
                                               T, and she asks about the picture and
                                               how it relates to measurement. If it
                                               doesn’t relate, then Ms. T has the child
                                               to redo or clarify and talk to her again.
                                               For example, with one child Ms. T
                                               prompted: How can you show it? Then
                                               what happened? Where were you? How
                                               were you standing?

Each teacher takes half of the
class and asks her group to “draw
everything you know about meas-
urement.” Ms. T’s group starts out
with pencils and paper and will
elaborate the drawings later with
colored markers. But the children
have trouble drawing what they
know about measurement. There
is a lot of unfocused activity at
first – pencil play, stealing papers,
and talking. Unfocused. Eventu-
ally, Angellica draws herself with
the scales she used to measure
blocks. Marisol writes her name
in huge letters across the top of
the page and ponders how to pro-
ceed. Jose draws a flower and says
nothing when asked how to meas-
ure that flower. Juan copies Hugo
and says that his flower is bigger.
Stephanie’s paper is blank. Emilia

                                    Measurement During Math Centers

All children spend time every day in Math Centers.
As the larger Measurement Project evolves during
these early stages of Phase I, the children
increasingly enjoy a variety of measurement
activities. These pictures show math toy activities one
day in Ms. R’s group.

First, the entire group watches as Ms. R selects a
clump of plastic chain. She spreads it out in a line on
the floor and counts the links (29), pointing to each
one. Corinne selects a clump of chain, clips pieces
together, and lays it out next to Ms. R’s. Everyone
counts (59). Who has more? Which number is bigger?
Whose chain will be longer – Corinne’s or mine? How
much longer is Corinne’s than mine? [Ms. R marks
the difference with her outstretched arms.] That’s
how much longer it is. And all of the children count
how much more Corinne had. The children then play
with math partners using links, cubes, and other
toys. Ms. R reminds them to see if one construction is
longer or taller than the partner’s construction.

During that time, Marisol made a line of block cubes that was as long/tall as she is, and Jonathan and Jennifer stacked dice. Jose discovered
that he can uses the locking blocks to measure how long something is. He counts out 36 blocks that he lined up on the yardstick. And
Marisol made a line of blocks cubes that was as long/tall as she is.

Juan and Abel play with dominoes during Math Centers. Here,              Juan: Let’s see who made the biggest tower.
Juan counts ten dominoes in his tower.

Juan: Let’s see who made the biggest tower. [They match up the         Juan: I don’t know which are mine.
towers.] Abel, you got the biggest tower. [Juan has 10, Abel has       Ms. R: We mixed them. [Juan counts to 22.] You had 11 and Abel
12.] I only need two more.                                             had 11. Eleven plus eleven equals twenty-two. [Abel knocks them
Ms. R: If Abel gives one to Juan, how many do you have? [He            down, and they start over.]
counts 11.] What happens if you put both together?
Abel: It will fall.

           Graphing Names

                                                               number of letters. Emilia writes her name on a strip
                                                               (empty squares are snipped away).

                                                                  Ms. R: Whose is longer? [They count out 8 and 6
                                                                  letters.) Is 8 more than 6? How many more? [She
                                                                  matches up the rows.]
                                                                  Juan: Emilia needs 2 more.
                                                                  Jose writes his name.
                                                                  Ms. R: How many letters? Is it shorter or longer
                                                                  than the others?
                                                                  Marisol writes her name.
                                                                  Abel: Marisol’s bigger than Jose’s.
                                                                  Ms. R: Longer.
                                                                  Juan: There’s a match! Corinne and Marisol!
                                                                  Ms. R: They have the same length. Length
                                                                  is how long something is

                                                               She leads them to a chart in the hall that has col-
                                                               umns for names of 4 to 9 letters where each of the
                                                               children will paste their names in the appropriate
                                                               column. Those who haven’t yet written their name on
After the good morning activities and songs, the class         a grid will work on that while the others choose part-
splints into two groups. Ms. R’s group sits on the floor       ners to practice measuring something in the room
near the dry erase easel.                                      with math toys.

   Ms. R: This morning we’re going to learn about a
   cool new center and a new game called “Count on
   Me.” What are some of the things that you can
   count on you?
   Angellica: Eyes.
   Juan: Fingers.
   Corinne: Toes.
   Jose: Nose. Nostrils.
   Ms. R: You all have something that’s not the
   same. Some have shorter. Some have more or less.
   We’ve been talking and learning about them.
   Angellica: Letters in our name!

Ms. R says that they will all graph their names today
and asks if the children see any other graphs in the
room. Jose identifies the weather and temperature
graphs…the class already measures sunny and
cloudy days and graphs them each month. She has
strips of paper containing a single row of squares. She
writes ‘Ms. Rommel’ on a strip and all of the children
count the

Nathaniel: [Spells out his name.] My name’s like            Ms. R: How many letters?
Stephanie’s.                                                Nathaniel: [Nathaniel counts] Nine.
Ms. R: It’s the same length?                                Ms. R: Is that long or short?
Nathaniel: Yes.                                             Nathaniel: Long.

Ms. R: Whose name is longer?                               In the hallway, Nathaniel recounts the letters in
Nathaniel: Nathaniel.                                      his name and pastes it into the “9 letters” column.
Ms. R: How many more letters in Nathaniel?
Nathaniel and Maria count the uncovered squares.

By the time Jennipher also pastes her name into that column, she and Ms. T count five names with 9 letters.
Once each child had completed the name graph, Ms. R asks her group to recall what they measured with
math toys today. The journal entry for today becomes: We measured things in math, and before the children
enter the sentence in personal journals and illustrate, Ms. R asks “How many words is that?”

                     Venn Diagram

     Later that afternoon during whole group, the
     teachers introduced a Venn diagram to students.
     They had read the story Chrysanthemum to the class
     the day before, so they reviewed the story and
     displayed live delphinium and chrysanthemum
     flowers on which to base observations for the
     diagram. One circle represented chrysanthemum, the
     other delphinium, and their intersection represented
     what they had in common. Pictures show that
     children made their observations about one or both
     flowers and selected the appropriate area on the
     diagram for the information. At one point, the
     teachers measured the height of each flower and
     asked not only how tall they were but also which was
     taller/shorter, and this information was added to the
     chart. The chart and flowers (long since dried) are
     displayed in the hallway outside of the classroom
     along with the children’s paintings of the flowers and
     photos of this activity.

Hallway Documentation: The children’s Venn Diagram is framed by the chrysanthemum and delphinium flow-
ers used in the story and measurement, a panel (bottom) depicting how the children made the diagram, and draw-
ings of the flowers.

                Math Journals

Each child writes a journal entry and illustration
every day at school. In September the process
involves the group selecting a sentence that describes
an activity that day at school, determining the
number of words in the sentence, sounding out and
spelling the words which the teacher writes on a
chart, and copying the sentence into individual
journals. Typical entries around this time included:
‘Jesus measured with the dominoes’ and ‘We can
measure animals.’

Within a few weeks, children can create their own
sentences for journal entries. Teachers accept ‘I
like…’ sentences for a while, but soon challenge their
students to be more thoughtful about their entries.

              Family Portraits

Each child made a family portrait as a follow-up to
the paper tape measuring project (see next). Before
anyone picked up a marker, Ms. T drew her own
family portrait, making sure that all members were
standing on the floor and “not floating in the air.” She
explained who each person was, ordered them by
height, and colored them in. Teachers drew a
horizontal line toward the bottom of the page, saying
“this is the floor” and told the children to draw each
member of the family, starting with the tallest down
to the smallest in the family and make them standing
on this floor. The teachers observed and documented
what children had to say about their pictures and
their families. Later, these portraits were attached to
each child’s family height graph in the hallways.

                                                                JesusR matches Jonathan’s skin color.

                         Measuring the Family with Paper Tape

Teachers read Measuring Penny to the class and gave            graphs:
a homework assignment to measure the people in                   We saw how big the things were. Marisol
their families using the roles of paper tape (about 3”           The bed was bigger. Marisol
wide). They had only eight roles of tape to give out at          We put them in order from biggest to smallest.
a time. By the end of the week, every student had not            Juan
only measured their family members, but also pets,               The TV was shorter than everything. Angellica
furniture, and important toys.                                   Her dad was taller than her mom. Abel
                                                                 There is a pattern. They are little, medium, and
The class split into two groups. Ms. R asks Maria to             big. Abel
show the group what she measured at home. Maria                  Jose is taller than the TV. Marisol
has paper strips measuring her mother, father, bed,              Jose is shorter than the drawers.
dresser, and TV. Maria and Ms. R unroll the papers               I took eleven steps to the end of the drawers. Jose
side by side, and Ms. R tells her to put them in order           The TV is small. Fabiola
of tallest to shortest. Which is taller – your bed or            Her dad is taller than her grandma. Jose
your mom? I wonder if your dad is taller than your               Angellica’s grandma is taller than her sister. Juan
bed. They find that the bed is longest, then the                 Her sister is shorter than her mom. Fabiola
dresser, Maria’s dad, her mom, and then the TV.                  Her daddy is the tallest. (Alberto)
Maria tapes down the ends, and Ms. R tells her group             Her sister is shorter than her whole family.
that they have just made a graph. They also have                 Marisol
time to complete family graphs for Jose and Angel-
lica.                                                          The activity takes too long for all of the group to
                                                               watch each child sort his/her family measurements.
Ms. R asks them how they just did measurement.                 Therefore, over the next few days, the other children
What is shorter than her dad? What is tallest? She             work individually with a teacher to construct a graph.
records some of the children’s observations, and then          Pictures on the following page show how Juan
Jose and Angellica display their paper tapes. The              constructed his graph from the thirteen pieces of
makes the following observations about the three               tape!

        What We Know About

Teachers show the whole group some pictures of the
garden that the class planted and maintained last
year in PreK as examples of measurement. They
show pictures of the stringed grid (Angellica: “So that
the plants wouldn’t smash into each other.”), pouring
seeds into Juan’s hand (“We each got 4 seeds to
plant.”), growing plants (“they got taller and bigger”),
the radish tally chart (Jose: “To measure how many

The pictures have given the children a new
understanding of their gardening experiences, and
the pictures also facilitate the discussion of
measurement because the children have a shared
understanding of not only the garden but their recent
measurement activities in Math Centers and else-

The children adored the gardening project last year
and many want to continue talking about it. Ms. R
asks if they would like to have these pictures in the
measuring center. When the children shout Yes!, she
says that they can talk more about the pictures and
the garden there.

The class proceeds to suggest three pages of sen-
tences that tell what they know about measurement.
The teachers write every sentence on the chart, and
all three pages are displayed (and remain for the
year) on the wall near the writing center.

The class divides in half for a few minutes. Ms. T
asks her group what they drew in their measuring
pictures (Time 1 Drawing) since this group worked
with Ms. R. Various children describe their pictures.

She tells them that they will have a height chart in
the class to measure children’s height at the begin-
ning, middle, and end of the year, and that they will
see it on Monday when they come to school.

                    What We Want to Know About Measurement

Ms. T rereads the list of sentences that the children          ...
knew about measurement to the whole group. When                Ms. T: You’re right, but we already know that,
finished, Ms. R asks the class about the garden                don’t we? We want to ask questions about what
pictures that they looked at. Ms. T asks, “Who in the          we don’t know. Do we know everything about
class suggested sentences about the garden?” Several           measurement? (No) What are some things that
children revisit gardening, planting, and pulling              you think about? What do you want to find out?
weeds. Teachers allow their lively discussions to              …
continue for about five minutes, and finally say to the        Ms. R: I have a question. Why do we measure?
kids that this is a lot that you know about                    Maybe you guys can help answer it.
measurement.                                                   JesusR: To see how tall people are. [This is
    Ms. T: Today we’re going to make another                   followed by a lot of discussion about measuring
   list….about things that you’d like to know about            each other the day before.]
   measurement.                                                Ms. R: Raise your hand if you measured how tall
   Ms. R: You already know so much. We can tell                you are on the wall. Do you think that you’ll stay
   that you’re already good investigators…that you             that height all year long? Or will you grow?
   already know so many good experiments... that               Children: Grow!
   we’ll probably be able to learn a lot more. Who             Ms. R: Do you know how tall you will be at the
   can think of a good question about measurement?             end of Kindergarten?
   What do you want to know about measurement?                 Children: Yes!
Several children make statements about things that             Ms. R: Do you? You will be 6 years old then.
they already know. ‘We can measure our names… our              You’re always growing. At the end of
heads… how tall we are…’ Once they understand                  Kindergarten when you’ve learned so much about
that they need to ask questions, they get stuck asking         reading and writing, you’ll have grown so much,
‘Can we measure carrots,,, tomatoes… watermelons’ -            but do you know how tall you’ll be?
again, things they already know. Each time, the                Abel:       Really tall!
teachers ask, “Do we already know that?” The group             Ms. R: But we don’t know how tall, so we can put
very briefly discusses the answer, and they try again.         that into a question. I’m starting the question
Here are some of the prompts that teachers used to             with “How” and I want someone to finish it.
develop questions from students’ suggestions.                  Lauren: How tall will we be?
    Ms. R: We measured our names by counting the               ...
   letters. I wonder if there’s another way to meas-           Ms. T: Jose, you had a good question when you
   ure our names. Let’s list that as Question #1.              asked “How can we measure…” We know some of
   ...                                                         the ways to measure, but do we know all of the
   JesusR: Can you measure your house or toys?                 ways to measure? (No) So let’s write Jose’s
   Ms. R: Good question! Let’s ask that. That would            question.
   be a good project to work on at home with your               Ms. R: Great question. I’ll bet there are lots of
   moms and dads.                                              ways to measure.
   ...                                                          ...
   Ms. R: What do we use to see how heavy some-                 Ms. R: I just thought of a question word. I’m
   thing is? What could we use?                                going to start a question… WHO can finish my
   ...                                                         question?
   Ms. T: Do you remember in PreK when you                      Ms. T: There’s another question word…WHEN.
   asked questions about your garden…about what                How can I finish it? When…do we measure?
   you wanted to know? (Yes) How did some of your               Children: All the time!
   questions start out? They started maybe with the             ...
   words ‘how’ or ‘why.’ What are some question                 Ms. T: Do you think we use measurement to cook
   words? Do you know?                                         things? Maybe we could ask… How do we use
                                                               measurement when we cook things?
Ms. R: These are such good questions. Do you think we have enough? Let’s read them again and
you be thinking about how we might investigate for the answers.

                                                                all of the doors the same height? How far is it from
                                                                my door to my mom’s bedroom door? [She had to
     Elaborated Question Webs                                   reach for this from Juan’s comments about his

                                                              They generate a whole page of questions, but the
Can We Measure Our Brothers and Sisters?                      children remain disinterested. Next question.

Ms. R asks the whole class if they’ve had fun
measuring things in the room. They all have enjoyed           Who Measures Animals?
measuring – especially measuring themselves – and
the children mention a few ways that they have                Ana’s original question interests the children, but the
measured themselves.                                          teachers must keep prompting the children in order
                                                              to generate questions. They developed the following
 Ms. R: That reminds me of the questions you asked            web:
 before. Can we measure our brothers and our
 sisters? [She creates a web with this question at the
 center, but there is no response] What are some
 other things we want to know about measuring our
 brothers and sisters?
 JesusR: We can measure them with blocks.
 Juan: Or chains.
 Ms. R: Good. Think about something you’d like to
 learn. Are there different things you can measure
 on your brothers or sisters? [No answer.] Well, we
 measure how tall they are. What else?
 Ms. T: If you use measuring tape to see how tall
 they are, how about if you want to know how heavy
 they are?
 Angellica: With scales.
 Ms. R: Remember the book we read about the king
 and queen’s feet? What would happen if we                    Ms. R closes this session by telling the class that they
 measured your family’s feet? Would it be fun to              might get to go to the zoo if they can think up some
 measure the size of your family’s feet?                      questions to investigate at the zoo. She tells them to
 Children: Ewwww. Gross.                                      think about what they can learn at the zoo for their
The teachers stop because the children aren’t getting         homework. Finally, they reread the last group of
this. Ms. R rereads what they wrote and moves on to           questions.
the next question.
                                                              Although both teachers look defeated after the initial
Can You Measure Your House?                                   missteps (calling the activity ‘dismal’), elaboration of
                                                              “Who Measures Animals” marks the beginning of
Ms. R puts Abel’s original question in the center of          their Animal Project. The children showed interest in
the web while Ms. T asks the children for other               animals and could generate a few researchable ques-
questions about measuring their houses.                       tions. The teachers will provide opportunities for
  Emilia: Can we measure our stairs?                          more questions after the children have read some
  Ms. R: Let’s ask: How long are my stairs. Emilia’s          books about animals.
 thinking of good questions.
 Angellica: How many stairs do I have?                        In the meantime, the teachers plan to visit the zoo to
 Abel: How big is my room?                                    set up a class trip that will include some special time
 Ana: How tall are the doors?                                 with zookeepers. They especially want the students to
 Ms. R: Let’s add other questions about the doors.            to observe the zookeepers feeding and weighing some
 What are different ways to measure the doors? Are            animals.

The Animal Measurement Project

               Animal Groups

Ms. R shows the class the Measuring Animals web,
and tells them that she and Ms. T investigated some
of these questions at the zoo over the weekend. She
talked briefly about elephants, giraffes, and snakes
that they saw at the zoo and also showed some
pictures that they took. The teachers also previewed
the children’s petting zoo and assure the children
that they, too, will get to go there and pet and feed
the goats. The children will see which animal eats the
most [referring to a web question], and Ms. R pro-
vides this hint: “A fat animal that likes mud.” They
will find out how much the animals eat, and the class
might get to see who feeds the animals. And finally,
Ms. R explains that the children will get to weigh a
rabbit and see a movie about weighing tigers.

The teachers select four animals for the children to
study, but allow the children to choose from the four.
The choices are: giraffes, cheetahs, elephants, and
snakes, and the groups naturally balance out. Each
animal group meets separately to look through books
and other materials about their animal.

The top photo shows the Giraffe Group reading books
and discussing giraffes. Pictures elicit specific ques-
tions, and the children develop more while Ms. R
captures them on a web. The obvious first question is:
How long is a giraffe’s neck? Other questions include:
 How heavy is a giraffe? How do they measure how
 heavy he is?
 How much do giraffes eat? What kinds of food do
 they eat?
 How much do they drink?
 How much do they sleep?
 How long are their legs?
 How fast do they run? How do they run?
 How long is the tail?
 How long is the tongue?
 How wide is his neck? Can zookeepers measure it?
 How strong is the giraffe’s neck?

Children benefited from engaging in pre-
investigations with their friends because all groups
easily developed specific questions. Pictures of their
animals helped clarify their curiosity and enhanced
their abilities to verbalize questions. (See the Snake
Group web at bottom right.)
           Field Trip to the Zoo

What to Expect.

First, Ms. T and Ms. R have visited the zoo and
arranged for zoo volunteers to answer some of the
children’s questions. Children have constructed
questions about their animals, and each child has
copied one of the questions onto an index card. The
child will be responsible for find out the answer to
that specific question at the zoo and recording the
answer. Each child has practiced the questions
several times with teachers. Each child will have a
clip board and paper on which to draw pictures of
their animal or other relevant things. Teachers have
reminded children to draw specific body parts, sizes
of cages, or habitat. Each group will have a
disposable camera for the children to photograph
their animal.

The Investigation

Two teachers, two researchers, and several parents
and siblings accompany the entire class to the zoo.
The zoo director greets them and shows a brief
introductory movie about the zoo and animals. She
then refers to one of the questions that the children
had sent her – “How long are snakes?” and pulls out
a gigantic boa constrictor with the help of two parent
volunteers. Sally the Snake is twelve feet long. The
children asked these questions:

   Jennipher: How do we measure snakes?
   Director: Well… how did we measure her? A
   tape measure.
   Aldo: How heavy are snakes?
   Abel: How big are snake eggs?
   Director: They can be tiny like a worm or very
   long. It depends on the size of the snake. They
   are leathery – unlike bird eggs.
   Juan: Which is the longest snake?
   Director: The reticulated python.

The children are allowed to ‘two-finger touch’ the
snake near the tail.

Before weighing the snake, the
director asks for guesses as to the
weight. Angellica guesses eight and
Monica guesses twenty-eight. Aldo
reads the scale – 32 pounds – so
Monica guessed the closest. Hugo
wants to know how they weigh big
animals like a giraffe. The director
talks about weighing each of the
animals every week so that they will
not be afraid of weighing, and she
shows the children a movie about
weighing a tiger. She asks what
other kind of cat the children are
studying, and several shout

The children ask several questions
such as:
Eduardo: How much do cheetahs eat?
Director: Depends on the age and size of the cheetah
and how much exercise he gets.
Marisol: How fast do cheetahs run?
Director: I have a film on that, too! [They watch a
movie about cheetahs and find out that a cheetah can
run as fast as a car on a freeway…but only for about
20 seconds.

The Director then shows the children a 23 year-old
owl with a wingspan of four feet, even thought they
are not studying birds. The children ask several
questions about her size and what she eats. The
director tells the children about using research to find
out more about animals and how to take care of them.
The children and adults have a picnic lunch, and then
the group goes to the petting zoo. They weigh a
guinea pig and a bunny, and again, children ask
many questions about these animals (e.g., How long
are the bunny’s ears?)

The children split into their animal groups for the
final portion of this field trip. Each group goes to
observe and record what they can about their animal.
Each child has a clipboard on which they draw the
animal, paying careful attention to details that they
can later share with others. They draw the animals
habitat at the zoo, and some children, whose
questions were not addressed by the zoo director, look
for answers on panels near the animals. Each child
takes 2 pictures of the animal with a disposable
camera, and the teachers and researchers also take

  Reflections/What We Learned

Teachers have collected pictures taken by students
and adults at the zoo and displayed them for children
to examine in the writing center. The children are
encouraged to write about any pictures that they are
interested in, but teachers require more than “I like
cheetahs” for example. Heather and the teachers
want the children to elaborate on these texts and
pictures by making a group book as a culminating
project, but in order to finish, each group must take
stock of which questions were answered and which

Giraffes and Snakes

The teachers assembled everyone’s field notes,
drawings, the original question webs, and the entire
class in order to answer the questions. As a teacher
reads each question on the web, the child responsible
for that question looks over his or her notes for the
answer. While one teacher writes on the web, the
other shows the pictures and drawings to the whole
class. Interestingly, some of the answers sparked
more questions, and when they came up, the class
and teachers investigated immediately. For example,
Juan drew a snake that the zookeeper said was 36”
long. In order to answer Angellica’s question (Are
snakes as long as hair?), Ms. T measured Angellica’s
very long hair (21”), and the students had to
determine which was longer. Discussions about
snakes’ eggs led to snakes eating eggs, and Ms. R
demonstrated how that might look by pushing a
small stuffed animal into and through a sock.
                                                             Unanswered Questions
Elephants and Cheetahs
                                                             The children didn’t get to investigate some questions
The Cheetah and Elephant groups had their turns              at the zoo, and those groups will have to conduct
the following day. Using the same procedures,                further investigations before starting work on their
children answered their questions, and a teacher             books. When asked how they might learn more about
added the answers to the webs. Both teachers cued            their animals, children suggested reference books, the
students to share other interesting things that they         internet, and emailing the zookeepers or others
had learned, like how elephants keep bugs off their          experts. Jesus suggested going back to the zoo or
hides (roll in mud and let egrets ride on them!).            another zoo, which was a solution, but not possible for
                                                             the class.

Animal Groups’ Questions and Answers

        Results of the children’s investigations at the zoo.

                                Some of the children’s questions remain unanswered (as
                                shown on page 22). In order to complete their research, one
                                half of the kindergarten class goes to Art class everyday, leav-
Animal Groups Reflect...        ing the other half to work in a small group with each teacher.
                                Here we see how the Giraffe group sat with Ms. R and re-
                                viewed the photos that each child took at the zoo. She asks
                                each child to “tell us” about the picture, remind us about your
                                question and the answer, and what was the giraffe/zoo keeper
                                doing when you took this picture?

    …and Investigate Further

The Elephant, Cheetah, and Snake groups have
unanswered questions and must investigate further
before they can write sentences. They are reading
through books and examining pictures in search of
information about their animals. Corinne and Mi-
chelle sent an email to Ms. Rahberg, asking if she
knows of an expert about cheetahs’ whiskers. And
Ms. T helped Fabiola and Nathaniel log into the
internet to find out how much food an elephant eats
each day.

                         Marisol finds the answer to her cheetah question in a book and copies the sentence onto her paper.

                 Animal Books

With every question answered, first draft sentences
written, and pictures and data collected, each child
constructed a page for his/her animal book. Each
group created their books separately, and therefore,
the final products differed somewhat. But the process
was identical.

Ms. R models for the Giraffe group how to write a
book entry about the zoo (top right). ‘The zookeeper
answered our questions…’ She writes several
sentences, checking her facts with the children who
investigated those answers, and then illustrated the
text with a picture of the zookeeper, herself holding a
clipboard and wearing what she wore that day. She
finished the drawing by sketching in the giraffe’s cage
behind her and the food high up in the cage. She then
gives each child his/her drawings and photos from the
zoo and tells them to write what they learned at the
zoo on a new piece of paper. While Ms. R asks various
children what they will write, Monica figures out her
own sentence (at right) and draws lines on which the
words will sit. A giraffe weighs 3000 pounds. Their
next step will be to transfer the words to a large sheet
of paper (the final book page) attach additional
information and illustrations to the page. Below left,
Ms. T counts out the number of words in Jose’s sen-
tence, and he uses his rough draft to write his obser-
vation about elephants on the final copy.

Most children wrote their sentences and then
illustrated them with pictures of their animal.
Everyone pasted the photos they took onto the page,
and some groups cut out additional pictures from
magazines. Anabel painted this picture of a cheetah,
but it was too large for the book, so she attached a
digital picture of her painting to her book page. Each
child could decorate the page as he chose, but the
teachers would not accept work that wasn’t the
student’s best. As the children became more
engrossed in the activity, they included much more
text to their final pages

                                                                The Snake Group spontaneously made up a song and
                                                                gestures with which to end their presentation. (Sung
          The Final Performance                                 to the tune of Frere Jacques.)
                                                                       Snakes can crawl. Snakes can crawl.
                                                                       Snakes can bite. Snakes can bite.
The children have completed their investigations and                   Snakes can lay eggs. Snakes can lay eggs.
constructions, and the books are assembled. It is time                 Snakes are cool. Snakes are cool.
to practice for the group presentation to the whole                    Da da da da…… They’re cool!
class. Again, each group decides for themselves how             The Giraffe Group made a PowerPoint presentation
they wish to do that, and they practice holding the             with each child’s page as a slide. They take turns
book, reading the sentence, and passing it along to             reading their slides, and then the group leads the
the next child. Some of the children have difficulty            class in singing a song about going to the zoo. The
remembering some of the words they included on                  Elephant Group reads their pages to the class. The
their pages, so the teachers draw small hints beside            last page is a collage of pictures that were printed
those words as clues for the presenters. For example,           from the internet. The Cheetah Group has decorated
‘I took pictures.’ was accompanied by a small camera,           their pages most elaborately of all. Each page
and ‘I liked the baby giraffe.’ Had a smiley face beside        contains several pictures, drawings, and facts about
the sentence.                                                   cheetahs that they children learned.

                      Snakes                                                           Giraffes

                    Elephants                                                         Cheetahs


To top