I have used Investigations in my early years classrooms for many years. Basically an Investigation is a research project on a topic of their choosing. Students may choose to work independently or with others. I first learned about this format of non-fiction writing from a Tony Stead workshop that I attended many years ago. Since then I have purchased several of Tony's books, including Reality Checks, Is That a Fact? and Good Choice. Is That a Fact? is the text that includes the most information related to Investigations. I recommend reading all of his books though! They are an easy read, and so valuable for early years.
To begin an Investigation, students choose a topic that is important to them (say, dogs). Then, they create an essential question related to the topic (say, What are some ways that dogs communicate?). This is the step that many of my students have trouble with, and require a great deal of support.
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Students then work on their research. They may have a book that has spurred this question, or they may do research on the internet, or through interviewing an expert. In a 21st Century classroom, the internet plays a huge role in research. I encourage my students to evaluate the sources of information they are using. Is that a good website? Why? Maybe we should Skype or tweet a question to an author, scientist, or veterinarian? How else can we learn about your topic?
When the students have collected their information, the next step is to share it with others. In the past, my students did this by making a poster, which they presented orally to the classmates. These were then displayed in the classroom and students had a certain criteria (created collaboratively) to follow. Now students have so many more opportunities to share their learning. Here are some ideas:
In my classroom, I have always taught through themes, and I follow the Reggio Emilia approach to early years education, which advocates for students learning about what interests them. To make time for Investigations, I do not timetable Science, Social Studies or Art. Rather, I timetable 40-60 minutes per day of Exploration time. This is where I offer provocations for learning on topics related to these subjects. Another approach that is popular in today's 21st Century classrooms is Genius Hour or Passion Time. Paul Solarz, an educator I've connected with through Twitter, has an excellent blog on this topic. I recommend exploring it!
Travelling Curriculum Support Teacher