Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Regions - Peeling the Fruit

Our regions unit has been challenging in getting kids to choose a good, researchable question.  Students either pick a very simple, thin question, or they pick one so complex that it can't possibly be answered.  I liked the new routine that we were introduced to, "Peeling the Fruit" as a way for students to have a visual to assess the appropriateness of their questions.  The outside (skin) of the circle was labeled, "What are we interested in?" The next layer, just under the skin, is labeled, "What questions do we have?"  The next layer is, "Making Connections: What connections can we make?"  The center is labeled, "What is at the core or center?"  Students took their initial and placed them on the poster.  We were able to look at it together and evaluate if questions were placed correctly on the poster and have a discussion about the similarities of those questions that were in the same part of the fruit.

This was a good routine for determining importance but also an exercise in synthesizing.  My issue with this unit in the past is that students in third and fourth have such a difficult time doing the research adequately.  I really think that the real issue is that they don't have the skills to ask the right question in the first place. Bill Roberts is a school that has inquiry -based learning as one of its core practices.   If I am going to help kids direct their own learning through inquiry based practices, then I need to do a better job of helping them to ask questions that interest them.  I think that the use of this routine brought up the right kinds of conversations that allowed us to come closer to ask those really good questions.


  1. This is an interesting thinking routine that I could see using in many ways. As you said, it really sparked conversation and forced kids to be metacognitive. Perhaps this is what you did, but I was picturing each student taking their initial thoughts through each of these phases to get to a 'thicker' more substantial question. For example, if I'm interested in mining I might wonder who was the first to find gold, where did they find the most gold, etc. The connections phase is a little ambiguous to me though. I could make personal connections to mining museums and towns I've been too, or I could make the connection that California-which is also part of the West also had mines. But then, when it boils down to it, I am really interested in how mining effected the population or progression of Colorado as a state. Is this similar to what you had the students doing? Very thought provoking, and I still wonder how we can scaffold students thinking to determine what really is the core or center. I can't wait to hear more about this routine. Thanks for sharing!

    1. This isn't what we did, only because of a lack of time (shocker!) But that is a great idea. I think next time we will also model some examples, like the one you gave. I think just working through this routine several times and ways, students could really get the hang of asking more appropriate questions.

  2. Jeff, I really like the idea behind this routine. I love that the students put so much thinking in to the fruit. Have you thought of ways to do this with math? I would love to figure out a great way to do it in math.