Friday, January 30, 2015

Lynn Burnham- January Post

I was a late-comer to the Weavers, but am so excited to be exploring the beautiful question of "how do we integrate standards into the inquiry process?"  We all come from different grade levels, different content areas, and there are a few of us who aren't currently  in a classroom. It is fascinating to me that we call still come back to this central question:  If we teach through an inquiry-based approach, is it still possible to meet the standards to which we (as teachers) and our students (as test-takers) are being held accountable for?  So at this point in the inquiry process, I have lots of questions, so I apologize that this post is mainly stream of consciousness....

I believe teachers are superheros...And Super Human.  Unlike our fictional friends, we don't have the luxury of made-up problems, or beautiful, fairy tale endings. It is a struggle as a teacher to try and do everything, and to do it all WELL and with intention.  More than ever, (especially this year) our feet are being held to the fire.  We have been inundated  with new district initiatives.  We are supposed to be at the level of full implementation of Common Core.  New tests, delivered via a new platform, are knocking at our door.  We are being evaluated through a framework that is broad, and by peers who have little, if no, "schema" about us.  We struggle with the balance between providing differentiation yet making sure all kids are proficient on grade level skills.  And yet we have to still deliver all of this while keeping in the mind the DPS virtue of "FUN."! Hmmm... like I said,  SUPERHUMAN!  Despite the to-do list above, we are still diving in, feet first, to explore this idea of Inquiry! Maybe this is our path to fun?

The inquiry question my group has chosen to explore has created many new puzzles for me:

  • Can a truly inquiry-based classroom be standards driven?  This question has opened a can of worms for me
  • If we are planning an inquiry unit, do the standards go by the wayside while we allow students to let their own questioning take off ? Or are Standards always the foundation for the plan?
  • Do I always have to plan with the end in mind, or with a standard in mind?  Or is it OK to reflect upon the lesson in hindsight and figure out what standards may have been covered?  This seems to allow for more flexibility in terms of the kids driving the direction of the inquiry based upon their authentic questions.
  • If I plan around a standard, is this still allowing enough freedom for the inquiry process to drive itself?  OR does this lead to a "guided" inquiry?
  • And then, is it still inquiry if I guide a lesson or guide my learners in a particular direction?
  • Workshop and other instructional structures:  where does they fit in?  Can you blend inquiry into a workshop model?  can you still deliver differentiated instruction in the midst of Inquiry? What does this look like?
  • What does Inquiry look like in an intervention setting?


So I guess my next steps would be to immerse myself in my questions!

1)  I am fortunate that the first grade team has been open to sharing their planning and classrooms with me so that I can have a group of guinea pigs to work with!  This has been an incredibly fun, fun, fun time for me to connect back in to the classroom, and witness the incredible work our teachers are doing!

2) I am going to attempt to take a risk and try inquiry with an intervention group!  NOT AT ALL SURE what that will look like!

3) Attempt to answer my questions surrounding inquiry and standards!


  1. Lynn,

    I think you are brave and Superhuman to jump in and just try it with your intervention group. Scary stuff, but I also felt that this was the only way that I was going to learn, by making a bunch of mistakes along the way.

    However... the other thing that I am playing with is incorporating inquiry into my math workshop. So, I might not have 'true' inquiry, but I am thinking that a good way for me to get stared is to stick with my mini - lesson, but take more of an inquiry approach when it comes time for my kids to work independently. So, some kids may be exploring the meaning of numerators and denominators while others are measuring parts of their bodies and looking at ratios and fractional pieces (my hand is 1/7 of my height...) As with so many other things we do, there is a continuum and I am wondering if I am ready to go full on at this point, or if it is wiser for me to go in small pieces at a time as I am learning the process.

  2. Wow Lynn! Your post really hit home with me. I feel as if I am struggling with the same issues. It is hard to let go of the standards that the students need to learn and I feel that if it is true inquiry, the students should be able to pick the topic that interested them. But perhaps as it becomes more comfortable for us to let go, the students may naturally gravitate towards the needed topics and standards :)!