Since Jessica so eloquently expressed our beautiful question, I'll quote her here:
Our inquiry group is the Research Rats. We are focusing our work around the first two stages of inquiry: Immerse and Investigate. Our overarching question is, “What are the skills necessary for students to conduct successful research during inquiry?” To help us answer this question, we are going to familiarize ourselves with Symbaloo, a space for teachers and students to add relevant sources.
The artifact I shared last Friday was a student's slideshow from last year's Survivor! literacy unit. After conducting this inquiry project with last year's class, I knew I definitely wanted to make changes this year. First, where students worked with partners last year, I wanted students to be responsible for their own learning this year. Second, I knew I needed to provide more support, a working model, and a rubric for students to clarify expectations. Third, focused mini-lessons on research and online search techniques are warranted as students can get lost in the web.
The essential questions in the interdisciplinary Survivor! literacy unit are:
- Why is adaptation necessary for survival?
- How does adaptation occur?
Within the unit of study, background knowledge must be activated and schema built through direct instruction. These mini-lessons on content and scientific vocabulary are well-defined and appeal directly to fifth-graders. After all, who doesn't like to learn about the world we live in, habitats, and animals?
Having completed this inquiry unit last year, I learned a tremendous amount about what went well and what didn't. Students were motivated and engaged not only about the inquiry topic but about being able to choose a habitat and animal. Last year, time was short, and I didn't provide enough guidance on search criteria. I'll definitely provide more guidance this year. Personally, I have a strong grasp of determining the validity of information on a website and use URL extensions to sift through site choices. Students do not yet have the experience regardless of the fact that they are "digital natives."
My burning question is how much support do you give students. Clearly they need instruction in both content and research skills. As teachers we tend to have a hard time releasing control thereby allowing students to make mistakes. However, a level of guidance is necessary for success. Do I provide specific websites that I know are kid-friendly but provide useful information? Do I need to research first? To what extent do I create a model for them? What does the rubric look like? What does successful research look like?
My next step is to research high-quality websites along with what is the best combination of direct instruction, scaffolding, and modeling.