inquiring minds

international teaching

The North American Barn Owl Part 2 – A Reflection

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The past two Thursdays I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and into a Kindergarten classroom for the first time.

I taught two mini-lessons on owls.  (See this post, for the full lesson idea.)

The lessons went well.  I was nervous teaching such a young age group, but it went better than I thought.

The fist day I read ‘The Barn Owls’ by Tony Johnston, and then asked students what they already knew about owls.

They knew so much already, and we were able to make a big list.  The kids commented on how much they already knew.

We then headed up to the grade 1 classroom where we  used their smart board to view Molly’s Box live.  We also watched some recorded videos of the box and a video of an owlet hatching on YouTube.

The Kindergarten students had great questions and were very engaged watching Molly and her babies ‘Live’ via ‘The Owl Box’ on UStream.

They did start to get a bit restless, (not surprising), but they were nonetheless engaged.

Surprisingly, the hardest thing to convey to the students was what it meant to watch something ‘Live’ as opposed to pre-recorded like the YouTube video.  It was also challenging to explain to the K1’s that Molly was in California, so it was only 11:30pm there, while here in Helsinki it was already mid-morning.

The following Thursday we headed straight up to the grade 1 classroom.  We looked at the list of what we already knew about owls and then made a new list of things we knew about Barn Owl’s digestive systems. (It was more just me telling them about the Barn Owl’s digestive system.)

Molly’s UStream channel was down so we watched some pre-recorded videos of Max (the oldest owlet) expelling pellets.

Since I wanted the kids to further understand the distance between Molly and them, I made a really simple google map to show the distance between San Marcos, California and Helsinki.  The Kindergartens found the map so interesting – it sparked more questions and discussion than the owl pellets.

(My idea to use a map came from Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ new book – Curriculum 21 – Essential Education for a Changing World.  She argues that maps should be used throughout the curriculum in order for students to be able to relate to geography in a meaningful way.  For more about this, check out the book, or Curriculum 21’s Ning, or this great post by Silvia Tolisano on her Langwitches Blog.)

We then headed back to the Kindergarten classroom to make our own edible owl pellets! (Scroll to the bottom of this entry for the recipe.)

These were a very messy highlight.  The kids loved making them, and loved tasting them even more. We added ‘rodent bones’ to the recipe, (mini marshmallows and small pieces of white chocolate.)  Delicious!

I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures of the K1’s but I revisited them when their teacher had them do a follow-up activity making owls from paper plates.

Paper plate owls - so much fun!


What went well:

  • Reading the picture book and asking students for prior knowledge
  • Watching Molly live and watching pre-recorded videos
  • Making edible owl pellets

What didn’t go well:

  • Questioning
  • ‘Lecturing’
  • Understanding

What I would do differently next time:

  • I would consult the classroom teacher about questioning – the K1 teacher was really helpful during my lesson, asking clarifying questions and prompting the students
  • I would have taken more of an inquiry approach, maybe try to get real owl pellets to look at and touch – I did not intend to ‘lecture’ Kindergarten kids, but that’s what happened because of lack of time and maybe my inexperience with this grade level
  • I would take more time to look at and discuss the map – I’m slowly realizing the importance of maps in lessons, regardless of subject or grade level
  • I would do a better job of checking for understanding – after making the edible owl pellets, most K1 students couldn’t express themselves when their classroom teacher asked them to recall one thing they learned

This was so much fun and I can’t wait to work with the Kindergarten teacher and students again.

Next: My first skyping with students.  Coming soon…


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