Today we read the Ice Bear (In the Steps of the Polar Bear) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Gary Blythe. Our goal: to move away from quick questions and begin asking more deep thinking questions.
Polar Bar, Nanuk, is perfectly suited to the Arctic climate and landscape. For many generations, the Inuit people have learned how to live and survive in the Arctic habitat by watching the great Ice Bear. Nicola Davies tells us how polar bears survive in the Northern landscape weaving facts on each page into the beautiful story she tells in such lovely poetic text.
As I read this story aloud, we stopped on each page to share our questions and Ms. Hibbert recorded them. Our curiousity filled three pages of chart paper!
We then looked at all of our questions and coded them. FO: Found Out (we discovered the answer in the story as we read on) R: Research (to find the answer, we will have to do some research) I: Infer (we need to infer to figure out the answer – using our background knowledge and our reasoning)
As we looked at the three charts, we noticed that we had very few questions coded FO (Found Out). This is exciting as it means we are asking fewer quick questions and more complex or deep thinking questions. Using Adrienne Gear‘s Non-Fiction Reading Power we have been learning to distinguish between quick and deep thinking questions. For our purposes here – quick questions are questions that we find the answer to (often down the page or a page or two later), where there is only one answer and where once we know the answer, our thinking stops. Deep thinking questions, on the other hand, inspire more questions, often have more than one answer or require us to do research, more thinking and/or talking to come to an answer at all.
Ms. Hibbert and I were also excited to see students asking multipart questions i.e. Do babies have fur? If not, how do they keep warm? or How often does a polar bear eat and does this affect how much it eats at a time? It was also fantastic to see questions inspire other questions between the students. At one point, Shae-Lynn was sitting right beside my chair with her hand up waiting to share her question and listening to others. “Oh!” she suddenly exclaimed, “Now I have three questions!”
Students then went back to their tables to write and draw about their learning and to share what they were still wondering.
Some students began reading the books they were looking at for ideas on how to draw a polar bear and talked with each other about what they noticed.
All of a sudden, the research began happening as students realized that they were finding the answers to the unanswered questions we had included on our charts.
“Hey Ms. Gelson look what Carmen and I discovered!” Catriona summoned me over. She went on to show me the section in the book they had found that talked about polar bear fur in the water. They discovered that the guard hairs are oily and waterproof and hollow. This answered our question about how polar bears can be such good swimmers and whether or not they had fur that wouldn’t get too wet and heavy.
Some learning shared in student writing:
* Male polar bears weigh more than females. I wonder if they eat more than females as well.
* I think the baby polar bears are more white than the Moms and really cute.
* I know that polar bears are as fast as a snowmobile. Bears eat seals. They use their sharp claws and kill the seals quickly.
* A female polar bear can have 1 to 3 baby cubs at a time
*I found out that when there is zero seals, polar bears will eat grass, dead birds and fish.