Discovery bins, as their name suggests, encourage discovery, exploration, and investigation. They feature a variety of materials, and the teacher may include an example of how the materials might be used. Discovery bins can promote fine motor development, creative expression, and literacy/numeracy skills. The activities are open-ended, and there is no right or wrong way to interact with the materials. We spend the first 30 minutes (more or less, depending on student engagement) of the day exploring our discovery bins. It is such a pleasant way to start the day--the students are so eager to work with the materials that they rush to do their morning jobs and head straight for the tables!
Here are some of our discovery bins so far...
First day of pattern discovery bins included a variety of materials as well as examples of patterns. Later in the week, I provided strips of paper and students were encouraged to describe their patterns using letters, numbers, symbols, etc. The old keys I included were absolutely fascinating to the students. They loved examining them and had a lot of questions about where they came from. When I told them they were found in the drawer of a captain's desk from an old naval ship in Scotland, they were even more interested!
So what do I do while my students are engaged with discovery bins?
- I circulate around the room and observe.
- I ask questions to encourage students to investigate further, become more involved with the materials, and hopefully challenge them to take their learning to the next level.
- I make assessment notes in students' Evernote folders
- I take photographs of what students have created and post them to our classroom Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram
- I encourage students to use their iPads to photograph their work. We are just learning how to make photo collages on our iPads and use Instagram, so that is an exciting new way to share what we are doing with discovery bins.
A year later--read my student teacher's post on how discovery learning has evolved in our kindergarten program!