Saturday, February 21, 2015

Inquiry about Inquiry

  As a member of "Research Rats", we continue to delve into our inquiry into what needs to happen before, during, and after the Inquiry lessons.  One main thing we have agreed upon is...Although our units of inquiry will be totally unique to our classrooms, they will (and should) follow a "like" process.  In this I mean, certain common threads need to run through all of our classrooms to make all students successful.

 I used to think...Now I think: As I began this unit of "Non Fiction", I began the inquiry cycle by finding out what my students knew and did not know about non fiction.  (See my past post).  From there I began a "mini inquiry" study around the Underground Railroad that I have done for years to combine direct instruction and inquiry into a high interest unit.  As my group has agreed, front loading of  background information and vocabulary along with  immersion via a variety of media sources, and modeled examples of how to create a "researchable" inquiry question within parameters (rather than a free for all) are "must dos" in order for students to clearly understand what is expected of them.  This has worked well for me.  I was able to give up control of my students learning and put it on them without compromising my expectations.

   After some background information and vocabulary were introduced via mentor texts,  students took notes on new background information they were learning.  From there, we made anchor charts that identified their new knowledge, and turned that new learning into questions they had...This proved to be magical as students' questions sparked more and more questions.  As you can see, questions were anywhere from surface level to higher level "researchable" questions.  (I will insert a picture on Monday...unless we have a snow day!  :o)  ).

    From here students were immersed in a variety of media to create more background knowledge and generate more questions in partner groups. (Another picture will be inserted here)

   Where we are now and next steps:   As students created questions, our next step is to determine what a "researchable question" looks like.  It certainly cannot be a "yes or no" question, although this may be a start as the yes no answer can lead to deeper level questions.  This is where we are headed.  Can't wait to see where it goes...


  1. Val...after reading your post, what stood out most to me were 2 points. First...the importance of front-loading and developing background knowledge while immersing in a topic. Second, the idea that with inquiry...good questioning leads to more questioning. This is something that is becoming more comfortable for me. In the past, even with my little guys, I have focused on supporting them to develop questions with the goal of then finding answers. What I am finding though is...finding answers is not necessarily the key. Rather the most important "skill" I can support is asking questions. Thanks for your insightful post.

  2. Val, you made this process seem so simple and natural. Pick agree completely that we need to build background before asking students to create questions and dive even deeper into their studies. With that being said, I forget this step often. I just get so excited and want my students to explore the content. I need to keep your voice of reason in mind and remember it's a crucial step in helping them understand the content they're investigating. Thanks for sharing your thinking.