Friday, January 30, 2015

Mini (or not so mini) Inquiry

I'm proud to be a member of 'The Weavers'. We're trying to weave our standards, inquiry, thinking strategies, and routines together to provide opportunities for our students succeed. Our beautiful questions that we're pondering is, "How do we integrate the standards into inquiry?" All of us feel like we've attempted, or at least dabbled in inquiry, but we struggle knowing that we are meeting all of our standards and curriculum mandates. I've felt like there is so much to teach within a inquiry study. There is the process of inquiry (how we answer questions, reliable sources, synthesizing information) as well as the content.

Last Friday, I had a lot of thinking to share, although I didn't actually bring any of the artifacts. A little over three weeks ago, I launched into what I thought was a mini inquiry study around nonfiction. I've been very unsure of how an inquiry study looks in literacy around the genres. In the past, I've always approached units through an inquiry lens by immersing ourselves in our genre and noticing characteristics, but I've only continued through the inquiry lens a couple of times.

So, after looking at nonfiction texts for two days for 'threads that weave through nonfiction', I asked  students what they're wondering. I expected to hear crickets, but boy, was I wrong! The students came up with amazing questions. Some questions shocked me, and some of them were very similar to where I wanted us to go in order to address our standards. (Immerse)

As much as I wanted to go back to how I'd envisioned this unit unfolding, these questions were too good to leave unanswered. So, into inquiry we went. Students chose a question they were passionate about, attempted to find answers via Google, interviewing 'experts', and finding examples to support their thinking. (Investigate)

After way longer than I had intended to spend on researching, some students felt super successful in answering their questions, and some are still grappling with some ideas. Regardless, of where they were with their thinking we used Connect, Extend, Challenge to help us synthesize our learning. (Coalesce). 

We're now in the process of writing our findings on our blog in order to share our learning and add to our schema by reading others' posts. . 4th Grade Thinkers Blog (Going Public)

Think, Puzzle, Explore
After going through this process again and having the opportunity to converse with my group, I think that I am integrating the standards more than I feel like I do. Eventhough I felt like I focused mainly on the process and not the content, I was teaching standards. I also need to keep my mind open in terms of reading, writing, small group instruction. I'm doing all of that within our inquiry studies, just for a different purpose at different times (writing to learn vs. writing to share, conferring vs. guided reading, etc.)

One thing I'm still wondering about is what the most effective way to teach kids how to find information on the internet. If that is my mini-lesson, how can I make sure I'm successful? Over the next couple of weeks I plan on taking time to reflect on what standards I addressed during our inquiry study. My hunch is I'm addressing many standards informally, so how can I explicitly teach the skills? I need to know what I'm doing and not doing in order to begin bettering my inquiry instruction.


  1. The questions your students had were great. I can see why you felt like you needed had to let go of your picture and go with theirs. Luckily I get to see the comprehension of one of your students inquiry project. Usually it is like pulling teeth to talk about school but whenever there is an inquiry project with his own question he is pondering he is always so immersed. He loves to talk about it and research it. He came home and told me all about his questions and everything he had learned so far about his question. I struggle with my vision compared to my students actual learning/product all the time. But when I see them doing research with their parents at home and applying their learning to their free choices during free time.......I realize my vision was not as important as their learning and application into their lives.

  2. Thanks Jackie for letting me see this study from another side! They were really tough questions, and I couldn't be happier that Ben cared enough to grapple with it. He's truly living a 'curious life', as we've been discussing. Yeah!!