Today my school had its Spring Share. Every student from the little toddlers to the big 3rd graders presented what we have been working on in music. It was very relaxed ~ I started teaching at this school in January and we were out a lot due to snow (in GA, crazy, right?); but the kids did a great job!! …and the parents loved it! First graders performed my “Where the Wild Things Are” rumpus composition lesson and the second graders performed my “Little Pig, Little Pig” composition lesson. They were both a big hit! (Always nice to have lessons in your back pocket for when you need one that can transform into a performance!!)

After the morning program, I still had a few classes I needed to teach. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew this was the perfect opportunity to do some exploration. It was last minute, because to be quite frank, I hadn’t really planned for the day, as my mind was wrapped up in the day’s concert. I remembered the spontaneous exploration activity I did with the 3-year olds the week before and thought it would be perfect for the Kindergarteners now.

Spontaneous Exploration ~ to decide in the moment that this is the perfect time for children to investigate, tinker with, study and analyze a concept that they are inquiring about.

Last week I had the threes and they were asking questions about the xylophones and metallophones. They noticed that some of the instruments had metal keys while others had wooden keys. I took a few of the keys off the different sizes of both the xylophones and the metallophones and we compared them. Do they sound differently? Are they at all the same? What shape are these keys? Why is there an arch in the middle? Etc.… I asked all kinds of questions and let them observe and/ or hear the answers. We ran out of time, so I was unable to give them a chance to play the instruments themselves, but I look forward to seeing what they will do during the next class!

Then suddenly, I got all excited because I remembered that we had been listening to some of the pieces in the Carnival of The Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns and alas there is THE perfect piece that highlights the xylophone: Fossiles (Fossils). We listened to it and spoke a bit about what we were hearing. Class was over, but I was so excited that we were able to take some time to do this spontaneous exploration with such little effort. We were even able to discuss sound waves…a bit, as they are still young!!

As we have spoken about getting as much in a class as possible in less time, this occurrence reminded me that we are still teaching living thinking beings with their own questions and their own ideas about the world they encounter. It is important to follow where the kids take us, from time to time! It not only is key to them understanding various concepts that they will need to know, but, more importantly, it helps build the relationship between you and ALL of your students ~ especially those who can be a challenge.

Back to Kindergarten. Here’s the formula for when you want to either “plan” a spontaneous exploration, as I did, or if one just happens to arise on its own!

QUESTION: What was your favorite part of the concert today? (I knew someone would mention the xylophones, so I could easily use it as a segue to where I wanted to take them!!) I pulled out the xylophones, as we didn’t use metallophones today.

INQUIRY: What do you notice about these instruments? Do they all look the same? Do you suppose the largest one will sound differently then the smallest one? Let’s see! I then pulled off the keys and we discussed them. Why do you think they have this arch? Let’s compare the arch of the largest key to the smallest one (I pulled out the smallest key of the smallest glock I had to show them just how small an arch can get!) …. And so on.

Hands-On Time: Each child had a turn playing the instrument they wanted. Next class I will put them out for kids to play and explore without me, but with some sort of provocation…..stay tuned!

I hope this inspires you to have a spontaneous exploration in your classroom! It is a lot of fun and you get a little insight as to what goes through your students’ minds!!!

Please let us know how you create exploration in your classroom in the comments below!!