Inquiry: What Trajectory Are YOU On?

This week, I had the privilege to volunteer at my old school as one of the trainers for professional development day. I was asked to focus one of the workshops on inquiry planning and concept-based instruction in science and social studies. But the more I prepared, the more I realized that when it comes to inquiry, it’s not so much WHAT we do, as much as HOW we APPROACH.

So instead of spending our hour discussing science/social studies-specific ideas, we started off with a personal inquiry inventory, adapted from a couple posts by Kath Murdoch.

click for Kath’s post from which this inventory mainly originated

Next, participants used their inventory responses to determine which area of inquiry they wanted to investigate more.

As participants researched, they were also on the hunt for a sentence-phrase-word that helped them determine the difference between the same science/social studies activity used in a traditional teacher-driven classroom vs. an inquiry, concept-driven classroom.

I loved hearing the conversations, and engaging with participants as their research prompted new wonderings.

As everyone shared their Sentence-Phrase-Words, it led to more fabulous, thought-provoking discussions, such as…

  • …the fact that it’s a sacred trust to protect and cultivate the natural curiosity of our young charges — to not allow “the game of school” to drain that from them.
  • …the fact that everyone is on a different trajectory when it comes to adopting an inquiry approach — it’s not so much about how much of your day is dedicated to an inquiry-based instruction, but rather how consistently.

But by far my favorite part of our workshop was finishing up with “I used to think…Now I know…” sticky notes.

In case you can’t quite read them all in the above photo, I’ll list out the content here, too:

  • I used to think that students need to be taught. Now I know that they need to be guided.
  • I used to think the teacher had to give all the instruction using books, videos, etc. to teach about other cultures and countries. Now I know we can connect with other places in the world and talk with REAL people about their culture and country through technology.
  • I used to think that giving students agency can be scary. Now I know that with the right tools, it isn’t.
  • I used to think that joining curriculum and student-driven inquiry was too difficult to join in the classroom. Now I know it’s possible here as it is anywhere & not as hard as we convince ourselves.
  • I used to think that inquiry was complicated. Now I know we are making it complicated.
  • I used to think that questions were used solely at the beginning of a unit to drive the inquiry. Now I know questions can be a result of the inquiry and lead to more exploration.
  • I used to think inquiry was more work on the teacher. Now I know I need to lend it over to the kids — let them be kids.
  • I used to think that you had to fit everything in your lessons. Now I know that student driven lessons are more effective and fun.
  • I used to think that I always had to have an answer. Now I know that I don’t. Students can discover their answers through their own research.

I should add that thanks to the discussion during this workshop, as well as my continued online learning with teachers around the world, I need to add my own:

  • I used to think that to be an inquiry teacher, we must have students directing the learning 100% of the time. Now I know that it’s more about working toward creating a culture of ownership and curiosity, which can be present even during explicit teacher instruction.

Here are the links to all the research I shared with participants. Thank you so much to the many educators who so freely share their thinking and learning. I learn so much every day because of you! Kath Murdoch, Edna Sackson, Taryn BondClegg, Richard Wells, Sonya Terborg, Aviva Dunsinger, Sam Sherratt, and more.

Questioning:

Classroom culture:

Inquiry cycle for forward-moving planning:

Student-driven planning:

Hunter/Gathering for science/social studies:

Agency:

Focusing on CONCEPTS amid curriculum requirements:

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Inquiry into Numbers

An educator in my PLN, Matthew Oldridge, recently shared a fabulous perspective on mathematics:

“Kids should see mathematics as a thinking tool to use to engage with the world.”

I have long since been an advocate of helping students see the power and wonder of their words; I’m afraid I cannot say the same for numbers. So this week’s provocation centers on helping our students inquire and wonder into numbers.

Resource #1: A Brief History of Banned Numbers, by TED-Ed

Resource #2: 1+1=5: And Other Unlikely Additions, by David LaRochelle

Resource #3: Beauty in Numbers: Pi, by Rebecka Taule

Provocation Questions:

  • How do numbers work?
  • How do numbers allow us to interact with the world around us?
  • What if we did not have numbers?
  • How are words and numbers related?

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Inquiry Into How We Express Ourselves

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP. For more, click here

“How We Express Ourselves” was always a tricky PYP unit theme for me. I struggled finding ways to help our students weave it in a transdisciplinary manner, and it almost always just came back to the obvious art.

But similar to how my view of the PYP key concepts has broadened over time, so too is my view of this theme. I have come to better understand that expressing ourselves is a basic human need that is woven into all we do. I’ve also found that authentic self-expression, which engenders passion and joy, is more readily found when we embrace imperfection, cultivate a growth mindset, and are given opportunities to own our learning.

With that in mind, here are a few resources that might help you invite your students into a How We Express Ourselves Inquiry. Don’t forget about the provocation questions at the end (and add a few of your own if you’re so inclined)!

Resource #1: Ballet Rotoscope by Masahiko Sato + EUPHRATES via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Callum Donovan Grujicich’s Sculptural Art by CBC Arts, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #3: Why Do I Study Physics? by Shixie

Resource #2: Lily Hevesh’s Dominoes by Telia Carrier, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #5: Picture Books, of course!

“The Big Orange Splot” by Daniel Pinkwater has been a lifetime favorite of mine. Read with your students about what happens when a bird drops a bucket of paint on Mr. Plumbean’s house that used to be just like every other house on his neat street.

I love the mysterious whimsy of Annabelle’s box of yarn that never runs out, and how she uses it to transforms her surroundings.

Provocation Questions:

  • What does it mean to express ourselves?
  • Why do we feel the need to express ourselves?
  • How is general expression different from self-expression?
  • How can one person’s self-expression help someone else see the world differently?
  • How does the way we choose to express ourselves impact our lives? How does it impact the lives of others around us?
  • What is the connection between self-expression and individuality?
  • What is the connection between self-expression and perspective?
  • What does the growth mindset have to do with self-expression?
  • How can self-expression sometimes be unexpected?
  • Why is perfectionism the enemy of self-expression?

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Inquiry into Friendship

Real learning — the kind that students carry with them and treasure in the longterm — is a vulnerable process. If we are to help our students get to a place where they are truly willing to put themselves out there, take risks, make mistakes, and try again, we need to take an active role in cultivating a classroom of trust.

It’s with that in mind that I share this week’s provocation on friendship.

Resource #1: Gymnastics student’s repeated efforts, via harleykyan

Resource #2: “Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton

Resource #3: The Wonderment online children’s platform

Meet Us In The Wonderment from The Wonderment on Vimeo.

Provocation Questions:

  • How are trust and the growth mindset connected?
  • How does friendship work?
  • Why does feeling a sense of belonging matter?
  • What is our responsibility to be a friend to others?
  • How has technology changed the way we can support each other?

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Inquiry into Making

One of my earliest and most vivid memories is of puttering around my preschool’s trays of outdoor loose parts. I can still smell the paste and egg cartons; I can feel the fistfuls of pebbles; I can recall the sense of pride at my creations. Making is something that resonates with me right down to my core, and I love that maker mindsets and makerspaces continue to gain traction in schools today.

If you’re looking for a good way to introduce your makerspace this year, why not begin with a provocation to get students wondering?

Resource #1: 10 Ways to Change a Lightbulb via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Primitive Technology: Sandals also via The Kid Should See This (and the guy’s channel)

And if your kids enjoy that one, be sure to introduce them to the Primitive Technology Youtube channel!

Resource #3: Picture Books!

SO many picture books inspire a maker-mindset, but a couple favorites include:

Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty,

The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires,

and “What Do You Do With An Idea?” by Kobi Yamada.

Provocation Questions:

  • Why do people make?
  • How does making influence communities, countries, the world?
  • How are making and creativity connected?
  • What responsibilities do we have when making?

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Provocation into Cities

With as much wonder as a new city provides, you can bet that an inquiry into the concept of cities would lead into a rich discussion about culture, change, growth, community, and more. Check out these resources for a broad concept-based provocation to stir up your students’ thinking!

Resource #1: MOVE by Rick Mereki

Resource #2: 

 

Resource #3: Eighty Years of New York, Then & Now via The Kid Should See This

Resource #4: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

via Amazon

While you’re at it, check out these other picture books, too:

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

& Home by Carson Ellis

Provocation Questions

  • How are cities organized?
  • How are cities different, even in the same country?
  • What are the points of view on living in a big city (compared to living in the country)?
  • Why are cities so busy?
  • How are cities changing in the 21st century?
  • What is our responsibility to take care of our cities?

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Inquiry Into Music

When zoomed in close to the content of our required curricula, an inquiry into music may seem like the least relevant provocation for the typical busy classroom (unless, of course, you’re doing a unit on music). But, as always when it comes to inquiry, when we zoom out and identify the broader, over-arching concepts of our units, we find common ground that will makes our that content more rich, relevant, and memorable.

Resource #1: Bicycle Bell Tree by Lullatone (via TheKidShouldSeeThis)

Resource #2: The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering (I fell completely in love with the illustrations representing the music made by that fiddle).

Resource #3: “Landfill Harmonic”

Resource #4: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle & Rafael Lopez

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Provocation Questions:

  • Why does music have the power to bring people together?
  • How are music and creativity connected?
  • How are music and innovation connected?
  • How has music changed over time?
  • How does music continue to change over time?
  • How does music impact you personally? How does music impact your family? How does music impact communities?

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