Student-Centered Inquiry Based Learning

Since I was having a hard time finding ways for K-2 students to use technology other than playing games that helped them learn specific content such as how to read and how to spell I decided to find a simulation that could stimulate interest in learning.  This unit would be on making a butterfly garden at their home.  To do this I would divide the class into groups making sure the K’s were teamed with a 1st and/or 2nd graders.

First we would learn about the lifecycle of butterflies.  To introduce this we would watch time-lapses of butterflies from egg to adult.  There are two good videos on youtube.  One is about a Monarch Butterfly at and another one shows a Painted Lady Butterfly  These would be used to introduce the unit.  These videos would be shown on my smartboard.  Each is approximately 5 minutes long.  The videos would be followed with questions such as the following:  What are butterflies?  What are butterfly “babies?”  How do they form?  How many stages do they go through to become an adult butterfly?  Where do they go through these stages?  What can keep them from growing up? What can help them grow up?  Depending on the answers to the questions follow-up work in the form of worksheets can be assigned.  When students understand the concept they can go to where they can put the lifecycle in the proper order to finish the activity.  I would have this bookmarked on their computers and show them how to find it on the smartboard. This would be a formative, online assessment.  If they get it wrong the program does not allow them to finish until they pick the proper one.  There is no way for the teacher to know how long it took them to finish correctly unless they watch each student.

Groups will search out answers for the questions not answered in the videos like what can help butterflies grow and what can keep them from growing up.  These answers in the form of pictures or text would be put into a word document.

Groups would search for plants where butterflies lay their eggs.  They would answer these questions.  Would these plants grow in Colorado?  Where can I buy seeds or are these plants available in a nursery? How do I care for these plants?  They would add these answers to their document.

We would then plant seeds in our schoolroom for students to take home after the seeds sprout to add to a garden at home or their windowsill.

A rubric for their word document would be as follows:

Find one picture of a butterfly plant if only K’s and 1st graders are in your group and two butterfly plants with a picture of each if 2nd graders are in your group.

Answer one of the following questions for 1st graders in your group and two of the questions if  2nd graders are in your group:

What can keep baby butterflies (caterpillars) from becoming butterflies?

What can help caterpillars grow up to be butterflies?

What kind of butterfly plants grow in Colorado?

What kinds of butterflies are native to Colorado?

Both 1st and 2nd grade groups would answer this question:

What kind of butterfly plant did you choose and how do you take care of it?

This would be the summative assessment of the project.

I chose an inquiry -based activity because students in the K-2 classroom are learning the basics, the foundation for all learning to come.  They need lots of structure and guidance in their learning at this point.  In this lesson plan the teacher asks the questions to stimulate the student’s thinking processes. The simulations on youtube showed the students what happens as a butterfly goes through its lifecycle without having to wait weeks to see it happen.  This focuses kids on the “how” it happens instead of “when” it will happen.  That way we can move on to the plants we need and the planting growing process.  Otherwise, there would be a lot of waiting involved.  This way, it is just waiting for the seed to sprout.

The formative assessment was chosen to help the students cement the lifecycle in their mind without any pressure of a grade attached. It was in a game like format with some animation to make it fun for the students.  The negative to that is that I don’t have immediate feedback as I would in a live student-response activity or written word.  In this case I believe I can tell from the answers to the questions and the looks on their faces if they are understanding.  I have a small classroom.

The rubric was chosen to be appropriate for the age of each group.  Since we don’t have a handheld device for each child and their reading is limited I did not choose to use a Quiz, live student-response activity, form, survey, or interactive assessment.  I can read through the rubric with them and remind them easily how many pictures they need and the question to be answered.

Dirkson, D.J. (2011, July). Hitting the Reset Button. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(7), 26-31. EBSCO Host.


Graphic’s or Visual Organizers

The purpose of graphics or visual organizers are multiple.  They can really help visual learners understand the content of certain concepts better especially more complicated concepts.  It helps show the relationships between different parts of a concept.  For instance teaching about quadralaterals and moving down to kites and trapezoids and on down tell you get to a square makes it easier to understand.  It is like a picture being worth a thousand words.  A tree organizer can easily illustrate the three branches of government or a venn diagram shows what is the same and what is different about two similar items such as meat pizza versus vegetarian pizza.   Concepts are organized into small snippets of information in a type of flow chart to show what is related and what is not related.  This helps organize the information in the students mind and helps cement the knowledge in the brain similar to a pneumatic device.

To help my K2 students with the habitats assignment I decided to use an online graphic organizer called a Popplet.  There are other online organizers such as Glogster EDU which is done in a poster format bringing in pictures or videos from all over the web to illustrate a particular subject.  Or you can use a Piktochart for more complicated subjects.  But, since this is a fairly simple subject I felt the Popplet format would work well.  I will use this after the students have found the information on Brainpop, Jr.  Using my smartboard I will project the Popplet onto the screen and fill it in using the information the students collected.  To see this Popplet go to: and look for the popplet titled ecosystems.


Pang, Y. (2013). Graphic organizers and other visual strategies to improve young ELLs’ reading comprehension. New England Reading Association Journal, 48(2), 52-58,88. Retrieved from

Multimedia Tool

To increase student centered learning and help the K2 classroom learn how to use technology I have installed the Brainpop, Jr. app on the Kindles in my classroom.  During Science class where we are talking about different Biomes/ecosystems the students will be instructed to watch videos about 3 different habitats and list one animal from each habitat and two defining characteristics of that habitat.  This is found at It is student centered because they are the ones searching for the information and compiling it instead of the teacher giving it to them.

Two Citations

Martin, L. M. (2003, May). Web reading: Linking text and technology. The Reading Teacher, 56(8), 735-737. Pro Quest

Pereira, Vera W. (2015, June). Teaching reading with virtual technology in education context.c. Linha D’Agua, 28(1), 109-123. doi:  10.11606/issn.2236-4242.v28i1p109-123

Reflections on Starting a Blog

So, when I was ready to start my blog I made sure my 16 year old son was nearby so I could ask him any questions I needed answered during the process. I thought I was doing fine until I tried to put a different picture in for the title page. I am still not completely literate on moving images, so my son walked me through that process again. Then I naively thought the rest should be easy. After all I knew how to use Microsoft Word and this should be just like typing there, right? Not too far into my first post I thought I better save this and lo and behold there was no little disc up in the left hand corner to click on to save my post. So, I had to google that. Google took me to a tutorial page published in perishable press. Well, WordPress has changed since they made those tutorials and the pages they were showing me did not look like my page at all. I finished the post without losing it and went ahead and hit publish.
But when I came back to post a second time there was no “start your first post” to click on and I wasn’t sure how to get started. Again, the tutorial page wasn’t too helpful so I just kept trying different things till I was able to start typing again.

By now I am in another state from my son and am on my own trying to figure this thing out. It isn’t as easy as it first looked and I haven’t even tried to post a picture or do any other fancy thing.  I definitely was fooled about it being easy from here on out.  I think I may learn by doing since the tutorials aren’t helping much. 😉

Darla Humphries

First, I’d like to introduce myself.  I received my B.S. in Elementary Education over 30 years ago and did not teach in a regular classroom until the 2016-2017 school year.  As all first years are I had some rough spots and am hoping that next year goes better.  One thing I am going to do different is use Excel for my grades.  Last year I did them the old fashioned way with pen and calculator.  The positive of the old way was that I knew when a student was missing an assignment,   The new way will have the additional positive of letting me know what the student’s current grade standing in that class is since Excel keeps adding the assignments up as I put them in the spread sheet.  I think this will help me communicate better with both students and parents about their progress and current status.

As you can see I am not quite up to snuff on technology yet.  So, another thing I want to try next year is to use technology to help my emergent readers.  Especially those that come  from non-English speaking homes or my ELL’s that are learning to not only speak English, but read in English.  I found out last year that these students are already behind in their reading skills because of their background and lack of vocabulary, speech, and experiences that many English speaking students have.

I would like to use the website to help these learners learn their sounds in Kindergarten.  They will need to choose their grade level which, in this case, will be K and then click on the letters option.  They will find a variety of games they can play in that category.  One of the games which is the ABC Magnet Game shows all the letters of the alphabet and each letter says its name when you click on it.  They may drag a letter to the refrigerator and “put it on the refrigerator” in an attempt to spell words.  This should help them learn the alphabet and some of the sounds.