Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Year of Inquiry, thus far...

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. After recently feeling the roller coaster ride of inquiry, I’m hoping this work will streamline the process for my novice yet eager researchers.

Last Friday I brought a video that one of my groups made for our first round of inquiry.  I was so pleased with ALL of my students' inquiry projects and looked forward to the second round, thinking that I would have the same results.  Not quite...I thought that they did such a wonderful job that I would just let them fly on their own with little guidance.  WRONG!!!  The key is "Guided Inquiry."  I needed a therapy session with Michelle and she helped immensely.  Her AhHa question was, "what did you do differently?"  I came up with a list of things.  I started my third round on Monday and already the scaffolding that I did has made a HUGE difference.  I'm having them make a KWL chart.  Of course, what they know about their question and what they want to know, which are all the questions that they have that will drive their inquiry.  The scaffolding, which gives way to some structure, is wonderful.  I look forward to their projects, with much more guidance.

 Lynn Knowles and I are working on this third round together.  She is teaching the Middle Ages with the 7th grade and the Civil War with the 8th.  Their inquiry will be on their topic they are studying.  At first we thought we'd give them all the same question, "Who has the power, and why?"  The majority of them just weren't grooving on that question.  So I told them that they could come up with their own, that pertains to their history topic, with Lynn and my approval.  They have come up with GREAT questions and are working in earnest, of course with guidance.   

I have really come a long way this year with having the students in rows last year and the majority of the work was done alone to having the desks in groups and inquiry is the driving force.  I feel very comfortable with allowing the students to become responsible and take ownership for their learning 
 within the inquiry groups.  

I am still trying to figure out this blog thing, so when I become more comfortable with it, I will upload pictures and even projects that the students have done.  Stay tuned...


  1. Dana, it sounds like you've done so much work this year around inquiry. A couple of things really struck me as I read your post. To begin with, the word choice popped out at me with flashing lights around it. Over the last couple years I've learned that I have to give choice, but now I'm struggling with how do we ensure we meet all of our standards when we provide choice. Would you say students have been given guided choice, or is it wide open?

    I also really related to the need for scaffolding. Now I'm grappling with how much and what kind of scaffolding do kids need. From being in both Jeff and Carla's internal labs this week, I realized that graphic organizers are one scaffold I can do to provide a place to hold their thinking. I also feel comfortable with lessons about giving each other feedback, etc. I need to think more about what scaffolds I can put in place in terms of accessing the content.

    I'm eager to hear how this unit wraps up! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dana, You and I have discussed this balance before. How much direct instruction and scaffolding do kids need before we set them loose? I grapple with this daily...Do I just let go and see where it takes us or slow down and be very deliberate in what I am modeling and expect kiddos to do. I think it is a balance. Can't wait to see where this takes you. Keep me posted

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  4. Dana, It sounds like like you have come a long way. I'm really impressed by everything you shared. I would think that the amount of guidance necessary really depends on the topic and the background knowledge of the students. I guess that is why there is the need to be really thoughtful and flexible around a topic. I love how you gave the students choice allowing them to research their own questions. What a great way to promote engagement and interest. I also know from experience that am so much more thoughtful in my planning when I am collaborating and sharing with my colleagues. It just allows for so much more perspective. Finally I agree on the importance of modeling and guiding the inquiry. I too have found that with guidance and facilitation, my little guys are so much more successful but also go so much deeper than if I just let them go. Thanks for reminding me that providing those steps is imperative no matter the age or content.