3 Important Questions On Classroom Inquiry

During last Thursday’s #GeniusHour Twitter chat, I learned how to handle three considerations on my journey to reintroduce inquiry learning into my elementary classroom.

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After a round of brief introductions, chat moderator for the night, @Gallit_z, offered the above questions for the group to discuss. During my initial attempt at introducing inquiry learning with my students last year, I was extremely vague on deadlines and due dates, and I believe this contributed to organizational challenges I experienced.  I was particularly interested in this question because my students didn’t get to present last year, and I wanted to get a sense of how this important part of the inquiry cycle would work in my setting.  Most of the educators who attended Thursday’s chat used some form of social media to allow their students to share their learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.  Social media networks allow students to engage in ‘visible thinking’ throughout their inquiry as oppose to just at the end of it.


There was a variety of different ways that educators used to share their student’s final work.  Two outstanding ideas both involved engaging with the community outside of school.  @pstolt1 hosts a BYOD (Bring Your Own Dinner Night) for parents and family members while @jcd118 presented student inquiry projects to the school board.  Inquiry learning should involve the active participation of the community, and I am excited to try and host a bring your dinner (BYOD) night to celebrate student achievement.

 

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Asking students to document their learning is an important part of the inquiry process.  It encourages accountability and is a valuable self-regulation skill.  Last year, I thought I had prepared my students well in this area, but they seemed to find it challenging when asked to explain what they had discovered during that week’s learning block.  I asked my learners to fill out this Google Doc at the end of each inquiry block.  Many of the educators in Thursday’s chat also used something similar to track their students’ learning.  The difference between those who were successful in student’s documenting their work, and those that were not, were educators who conferenced with their students on a regular basis.  Most of the educators in this chat housed their student tracking in one spot to make it easy to view and offer guidance.  I didn’t do this last time but will certainly incorporate it this time.  Trello, Padlet, and a range of Google tools are excellent resources to track whole-class learning.

 

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When I first introduced inquiry learning to my students, there was a rush of excitement from the class.  I heard expressions like, “Finally, I get to learn about something I like!” or “Cool, I’ve always wanted to learn about…!”  Naturally, when students were asked to narrow down their focus and document their learning some of their initial passion dissipated.  Knowing what to do if my students get into a rut with inquiry learning is of high value to the facilitator.  Once again, there was a variety of tips for maintaining learning momentum.  I appreciated @PlainfieldGH advice – “Modify your project to overcome.”  I think there is great value in teaching young children that their initial ideas may not come to fruition and that a redesign is a natural and important step in the process.  @HughTheTeacher shared a link to several motivational videos that I will no doubt need to explore at some point, while others participate in Motivational Mondays.  If the inquiry is to be successful for all students I’ve learned that it is important to accept that at the initial excitement about learning will fade, and it would be beneficial to be prepared for it.

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