Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Post: Literature Circles

With the first big round of the testing season wrapped-up and spring break upon us, I am looking forward to a new unit that will take us through the end of the school year. It also means the return of literature circles. During the last two units, we have tackled whole class novels while diving into our independent choice books, but I miss the excitement of small groups of students getting lost in a good discussion about books. I am rethinking though the structure of literature circles this unit. There has always been a piece of me that feels that I need to help guide discussions for students to help them get to meat of their novels, and I still feel the need to give them support but maybe with less pre and post “work” attached to book club meetings. In previous units, students used an agenda to guide their discussions. This included sharing their summaries, vocab. words, visualization, and questions before ending the discussion with a written response to one question that came up for them. Their response needed direct text evidence to support their thinking. The students have always looked forward to the book club discussion, but it’s been missing the authentic factor.

When I think about grown-up book clubs, there’s always a little food and gossip, chatter about the gripping scenes or character and plenty of wine to go around. No written summaries or text evidence based responses needed. I’m afraid the latter will eventually crush their love for reading, and the love of reading is whole point! So, now I’m thinking that it’s time to mix it up.

In our next round of book clubs, I will encourage students to be on the lookout for questions or topics that would be interesting to talk about with a small-group. They can mark up the text with sticky notes or journal their discoveries. Then on the day of book club discussions, they can star on discussion point that is most compelling for them. Students will likely need a little support or modeling with slowing down the process of each person’s discussion point to see how deep they can take a topic and  going back into the story before moving on to a new discussion topic. Ultimately, I think the change will make a difference for their engagement and enjoyment of reading. We can dive into more skill-based work and writing when we practice shorter texts throughout the unit.

Refining with inquiry in mind, I also need to remember that there are naturally more questions than answers as students read and finish a book. This was the highlight of our book clubs early on this year when I catch a group of students in the hallways with their phones sharing photos and information they found the night before. At first I was ready to pounce on the no cell-phone rule, until I realized that they were sharing photos of what medi-talkers looked like and information on cerebral palsy. This was the same group of students reading Out of Mind in book club. It was one of those great teacher moments when I realized they were hooked and I loved it! If their inspired to research their curiosities outside of class, why not let that be part of the discussion time? Encouraging this type of questioning and inquiry is important during the reading process. Giving students time to research their wonderings and share their findings will definitely be a second layer of our book club meetings this go-around. The more natural and real I can make it, the better. Now the big question is…which books are going to spark the most interest and wonder? I’m always open to suggestions!

Friday, March 27, 2015

My thinking in March...

     After attempting to plan for after spring break for quite a while my head is still spinning. After meeting with Jeff, we know what are kids need to know, but we're still brainstorming different ways our students might get there and what it will look and sound like. 

     We're in the midst of our Colorado History unit. Within Colorado, we need to cover geography, government, economics, and history. All areas are covered, and now we're ready to dive into the history of Colorado.  So, our reading and writing is going to support the students' learning of Colorado's past. I know the standards we have to cover, and it can be done in a variety of ways. 

   So, how that's going to look exactly...I'm not sure. One thing I do know for sure, is that I'm ready to jump in and try out literature circle inquiries. We have always done literature circles, and I'm excited about taking them to a deeper level, while supporting the authenticity of living a curious life. I like how our text stated, "Instead, we ask (when a student finishes a book), "Has this book changed you in some way? Where does this book take you next? What do you want to find out or do as a result of having read this? Do you have any lingering questions?" (pg. 203) These are questions I want to constantly ask young readers. 

Below are some of my ideas as of today.

-read biographies about influential people in Colorado that would then lead to further questions about Colorado and it's past (this seems awfully big and broad)

-read historical fiction novels about Colorado which would lead to questions...(this seems awfully big and broad as well) 

-read shorter texts (nonfiction articles, myths, biographies) about each time period that we're studying...which would lead us into the inquiry process (this seems more logical, but not as exciting...) 

Any other great ideas? 

Like I said before, my head is spinning. One advantage to the last idea is that my teaching would really coincide with the learning happening when Jeff is with our students. It is also a way we could ensure we truly have covered all of the content. I'm also trying to figure out where our writing ties in. Of course, they're constantly writing to learn, but I need them to write a nonfiction piece as well...

This blog post is just a small preview of how I think. (Scary, I know!) But, I'm excited about using literature inquiry circles to reinforce the learning happening in Social Studies and literacy. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Literature circle

I have not implemented this strategy yet, but I thought of an instance where I can use it.  After students have taken the 8th grade science CMAS test, we can unwind a little and take some time using more inquiry learning.  Students will be investigating the physics behind water bottle rockets, designing, then building their rockets.

I am planning on giving students various sources to investigate elements of good rocket design.  I will let them discuss the text in their table groups. Perhaps this will lead to additional questions that they may have.  Each student will synthesize information to build knowledge and plan their designs in their lab notebooks.

Afer rockets are launched, they will observe various rockets performance and make adjustments to make a second rockets in an attempt to increase the rocket's distance.

After the investigation, students will create poster board and present their findings at the engineering fair.  We'll see how it goes.


It is hard to believe it is the end of March already!!!  Where has the time gone.......hoping I have enough time in the year for the students to get everything accomplished!!!  Our class is wrapping up a mini-inquiry study in writing.  We did this inquiry whole group with individual outcomes.  (I also did this inquiry knowing what the kids were already wondering about and capitalizing on it).  The students had been talking a lot about writing stories and showing lots of interest in this during independent choice time.  About a month ago Carla and I started writing off with the question, "What questions do you still have about writing?" The students had a graphic organizer to feel out with their wonderings.  We then shared them whole group.  As a group we heard the same question over and over again which was, "How do I write a book?"  So we started an inquiry project on writing a story.  We researched our favorite stories.  I did a lot of modeling.  I also read this GREAT book called "Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble" which walks readers through how a Bad Kitty story is written.  When I read this aloud the students made lots of connections to their writing.  They were also able to determine what was important from the book and transfer it to their writing.  And, of course, this story was adding to their schema!

 We went through the whole writing process, which was the first time these students have done this in my class.............and I am assuming in their lives!!  We brainstormed, planned using graphic organizers, wrote the beginning, middle, end, proof-read and published.  They did a terrific job.  Today we celebrated by inviting our parents in for a publishing party.

I am not sure my thinking fits into used to think/now think but I have been struggling with inquiry and can it be whole group or should it only be individual/small group.  Last year I did some inquiry whole group and decided that it shouldn't be that way because it wasn't hitting everyone's interest.  Then I went to small group inquiry but me still dictating the topics.  At the start of this year I did individual questions which was wonderful but TONS of HARD work.............but after this writing "inquiry" which I still use in quotation marks because not sure it is true inquiry.........the student were really engaged.  It was a whole group question and whole group learning but student then had to transfer the knowledge and work on their individual story.   After spring break Carla and I will be diving into architecture.  We will be doing a huge inquiry project revolving around this topic.  We hope to spend about 2 weeks adding to schema.  Then students will begin to answer questions they have on architecture.  We don't have a solid plan yet because we have learned over time that planning for inquiry is REALLY hard because when we do these in depth projects we go where the kids take us and planning can't happen until we start learning with the students.  On the front end we will decide what we need to teach them to build their schema.  We are hoping to create a padlet to help the students be able to access the information easier since all the students are not able to fluently read.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

February Post

Recently in 8th grade science, I used the See, Think, Wonder lesson which lends itself to a nice inquiry lesson. I use this lesson as a launch to better understand the Law of Conservation of Matter. Students are given steel wool, a beaker, vinegar, a balloon, and a triple-beam, balance. Steel wool is soaked in vinegar to remove to varnish layer exposing the iron to allow it to rust. They put a balloon on the beaker to make it a closed system and find the mass. As the balloon begins to rust, they notice that the balloon gets sucked into the beaker as the oxygen in the air gets converted to iron oxide. All the while, the mass of the system does not change. Students are asked to discuss and write their observations and what they think is happening. Often with a little guidance, by showing them the chemcal equation, 4 Fe + 3 O2 --> 2Fe2O3, students begin to realize that the atoms are "just changing dance partners" in htis chemical reaction. The same amount of atoms that go into the reaction, come out of the reaction, thus the total mass stays the same.

I find that guided inquiry works well keeping with a pacing guide and the myriad of mandated testing. I save full inquiry for the end of the yearwhere students can take their time and make decisions what they want to research. Seventh graders will do thier science fair and 8th graders will build water bottle rockets.

In my inquiry group's last discussion, we talked about next steps with blended learning. We will look at some different example of what blended learning can look like and what research supports the benefits of using blended learning.

March Post- Lynn Burnham

After a total flop with my first small group inquiry (around Vowel Teams) I was really left questioning whether or not I could even attempt an inquiry within my intervention groups.  That experience has left me with some really big questions that I hope I can find the answers to:
  • HOW does inquiry look in a small, guided intervention group? 
  • CAN it work in this setting?
  • WHAT is the impact of it working in this setting?
My biggest "a-ha's" so far have been:

Inquiry in small pull-out groups has to be different.  We are under different guidelines in terms of mandated service hours, focus of instruction, progress monitoring and assessment of skills growth. All of these tight parameters actually force my instruction to look different. However, if planned thoughtfully (with the focus still upon closing skill deficits and clearly articulating instructional outcomes) I do believe that inquiry can be a part of instructional intervention learning time.

Here are my newest thoughts:
  • Inquiry in this setting WILL look and sound different
  • The inquiry MUST be guided (this is simply a result of  mandated time, learning goals, etc.)
  • Teacher scaffolding is an ESSENTIAL instructional practice for struggling students, so there might be more teacher "help" than in a General Education classroom setting
  • The inquiry process might be condensed, depending upon outcome
After I pondered these questions and this "new" vision for a bit, my next hurdle was to come up with a guided inquiry that I could potentially use across grade levels, over time and that would have an impact upon these students for years to come.  My new venture (just started this week) is around Fiction and Non-Fiction Text Features: how they differ, what purpose do they serve, what does audience and purpose have to do with it all, and why should we care?

I'll keep you posted on this one...

February Post- Lynn Burnham

After struggling with a jumping off point, I finally took the leap and started a mini inquiry with one of my small groups of 2nd graders.  I felt a little hesitant based on time constraints, and topic, but felt that I had to just jump in.  The inquiry topic I chose is around vowel teams and how they impact our reading and writing.  Now, keep in mind, these are struggling readers and I have them for a very limited amount of time each day.

So... here is my reflection:

I used to think:

  • vowel teams might be interesting
  • vowel teams might be fun to immerse ourselves in
  • vowel teams have an affect upon many of our words in the English language, and make what should be a simple act of decoding a very complicated process
  • kids who struggle in reading by second grade are getting caught up in attempting to decode phonemes that are not decode-able
  • I have enough time to do an inquiry with my intervention groups
  • The kids will have fun
  • I will have fun
Now I think:
  • Vowel team SUCK and this is NOT the right topic to study through inquiry
  • The kids did not have fun beyond our first couple of days of "vowel team hunts" and our decisions around how to categorize different vowel teams
  • Kids who struggle in reading struggle for many different, complicated reasons.  Explicitly immersing kids into vowel teams does not always teach them how to become systematic, fluent cross-checkers of their own reading  
  • I do NOT have enough time to do a full inquiry in my intervention groups... It sacrifices too much time that I HAVE to commit to scaffolding instruction
  • Now I get how Val Beckler struggled with her word ending Inquiry... and I give her HUGE kudos for seeing it through!
  • Sometimes it is OK to abandon ship mid-stream! :)
Phew-  lots of learning here for me personally!  I guess I need to accept failure and move on!!  

My new questions are:
  • HOW does inquiry look in a small, guided intervention group? 
  • CAN it work in this setting?
  • WHAT is the impact of it working in this setting?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

January post (Sorry so late)

My inquiry group has no clever name, but we are learning about blended learning.  Blended learning is a mode of learning that incorporates a mixture of online learning with classic old school bricks and mortar learning.  Our group has various levels of experience with technology and incorporating it into our lessons.  We decided as a group to simplify our mission and propose our queston as "What is blended learning and how can we use it to help our students learn."

An artifact that I would have brought in is an example of what I call a webquest.  I give an assignment online that directs you to a website and a digital worksheet.  I rarely use technology for open inquiry as I prefer to direct students to certain websites that are reputable and align with middle school science standards.  I like to call this guided inquiry.  Students can form their own understandings at their own pace.  I have save a ton of trees this year, but having students turn in assignments online through google forms.  Here is a recent example of a webquest assigned for a 7th grade genetics unit.

I think students benefit from these assignments.  There are so many great interactive website that really help students understand content in an engaging way.

What puzzles me somewhat is I understand their has been some research done that indicates students possible commit their understandings when pencil meets paper rather than virtual writing.

I want to explore other ways to have students complete digital assignments, but at the same time use a little old school two-column notes and gage its effectiveness.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Inquiry into Denver History

Our current work
    So many questions! Right now I am thinking about the difference between traditional research and inquiry.  It seems that  student choice of the research topic and the collaborative process are the key differences.  In a collective effort with my teammate, Brenna, our student teacher, Tori, and Roberts librarian, Suzi, we created an inquiry unit into Denver History.
     It was interesting to team in so many ways.  As we processed our roles for the best conditions of student learning, it began to take shape in the following way: Brenna taught students the habits of mind of researchers and social scientists,  Tori and Brenna Immersed students into the building of background knowledge, Suzi and I taught research and note taking for Investigation, Tori and I created the essential question of , "How did the people, places and events of Denver's' past influence (or affect or contribute to) Denver today?", students chose their own area of interest to pursue, and then Suzi and I are helping students Coalesce and Go Public with a Making Thinking Visible Routine of Step-In through a site called "Fakebook". Here is an example:
     It is a fairly fluid process with the natural hiccups of inquiry itself.  The most difficult part is feeling that inquiry is successful when students need to return to teacher modeling/instruction for skills, or if we need to return to building background knowledge in the middle of the process.  
     My biggest Ah-Ha is the realization that the messy process of inquiry holds great power in developing student ownership and depth of understanding as students grapple with ideas in multiple ways.

My inquiry group
     The beautiful question of my inquiry group - The Weavers - is "How do we integrate the standards into inquiry?" We have had inspiring and collaborative discussions that continue to come back to our belief that the standards and underlying skills are the foundation of inquiry and are being taught authentically every day.  Though we believe this, we have still created the assignment to correlate the standards to our inquiry projects.  So, here are the standards that are being taught through our Denver History Inquiry project:

Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
5. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.10By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.
With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)
With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 3 here.)
With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Clearly, there are a plethora of Common Core State Standards being taught.  The piece I am missing is a direct assessment of each student's success with each standard.  Currently, I rely on my daily anecdotal notes and the final project for assessment.

Rubric from
     Another resource I recently found that is helping me to grow as a facilitator of powerful inquiry is the rubric at  I am sadly living in the Developing column, but I see ways to move to Emerging!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

February Post (ECE-3Rs)

As I've shared before, ECE is already using an inquiry based curriculum. However, now that we have one year of teaching it under our belts, our group focus is to consider how to make it more authentic for our students.

This month, we have explored and investigated garbage and recycling. We explored the trash we make at home, in our school, and in our community. We then considered all the ways we can reduce, reuse and recycle. Now we are getting to the meat of the unit and beginning to synthesize how we can have an impact.

Since this is the 2nd time we have taught this study, I am more comfortable with it and as a result, I feel the children are making some larger connections. The children are enthusiastic about the topic, are reusing items in different ways, and are talking about recycling at home. Given my group's focus, I really wanted to venture deeper into our own investigations around the topic so so I invited some experts in to help.

First I invited a parent volunteer to come in and help us explore our own question What is composting? Using real items, she showed us all of the different stages of the process. She had done this with us last year, but it was limited to her showing the children the various stages of composting and then we as a class gathered items for composting in the classroom to add to the school-wide bins. The only issue was children never actually witnessed the composting process as it occurred. So this year, I decided to put the process into action in the classroom. To do this, the same parent volunteer shared the various stages of composting. Only this time I had prepared a 10 gallon glass tank divided into 2 using a plastic piece. The parent layered each side of the tank with dirt and organic material. Only on one side of the tank, she added worms. My hope was obviously for the children to actually see how "natures recyclers" go to work. After 2 weeks, the children can see how one side is molding and decomposing while the other side is sort of disappearing into the dirt. Perhaps this simple tweak and visual will help reinforce the idea of how easy it is to reduce the amount of trash we put out for the garbage man. Already as you can see in the photo, children are adding organic material leftover from their lunch. It seems to be working.

 My next visitor was an artist who is reusin plastic for an art piece/exhibit to demonstrate the impact of plastic on our oceans. Before she arrived, children brainstormed questions for her. While some of the questions were surface ones, most were impressive from 4 year olds. Only when she arrived and the questions posed to her, the children were not really interested in what she had to say. They did however want to touch all the materials she brought and later engaged in making their own plastic art sea creatures to contribute to her piece.

At first, I was somewhat disappointed with their lack of engagement, but then it dawned on me that inquiry and questioning in ECE is just messy.  It would seem that inquiry would be easy in ECE given a 4 year olds naturally curious mind, but it's not. There is just no way that all children are interested in the same thing at the same time. So while I used to think I should share the prescribed curriculum questions then do activities with everyone during the course of the week to help "answer" the questions, I've realized this is not authentic inquiry for my students. Sometimes just developing our own questions and knowing one strategy to find answers like asking an expert is a big learning step for a 4 year old. Or even letting small groups explore their own questions that interest them is more authentic. This small group exploration is something I'd like to try and then have the groups share something they have learned. Perhaps then some or most kids would at least begin to make connections between what they did and what a peer did.

Exploring is rigor and inquiry in ECE. My focus should be on developing background knowledge and offering a safe and nurturing environment in which children can explore their questions. I can guide them to places or people to find answers, but it is the process that is most important. I am now comfortable enough to veer off on my own course of inquiry within the curriculum and do the things I think will engage my students and support them in making connections.

Now that I've reached this stage, my next goal is to find more effective means to support my students in posing their own questions and following through with those investigations (whole or small group). Not only do I want to work more with small group investigations, I also want to work on modeling in order to guide the flow of a study so connections from one essential question to another are more fluid...hopefully allowing children to develop deeper understandings. To do this, I'm going to be more diligent, intentional and consistent with my shared writing experiences, thinking strategies and daily reflection time to make our last 2 studies of the year more cohesive.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Weather Systmes Inquiry Projects

As February came to an end, so did my first attempt at student learning through inquiry.  As a class, we spent 6 weeks learning about various weather topics through student inquiry.  The students had to present their learnings to the class.  Students presented their projects on google slide shows, poster boards, imovies, lego movies, and even a diorama.

I was very pleased with the information the students collected.  I was also amazed at the learning!  I feel like they had such a great understanding of their inquiry topics and they presented the learning in such a way that the students learned from each other!
I am very excited to continue the inquiry process in science.  I am still a little hesitant to do math in this way.  However, after really thinking about how I learn new things, I realized that I am constantly googling and searching for answers. This weekend, my son and I needed to install more memory on his xbox.  I purchased the device on line and of course there were no directions included.  We decided to look on youtube and of course we found several videos on how to install the memory!  It is incredible to me that with the help of the internet we can research anything and everything!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

February- Investigated

This month our group read Chapter 4- Inquiry Exemplars: How does a Lesson Look and Feel?  We all picked one lesson that was close to our grade and content level and discussed what we noticed in the lessons.  I had a lot more questions this time then were answered.  First off, is inquiry really just posing a challenging question?  Many of the math lessons just posed difficult questions and allowed students time to discuss and think about them.   Perhaps I am already doing inquiry without realizing it??  We always have a question of the day, sometimes it takes us a few days to explore and talk about.  We write, discuss, explore and question around these questions and maybe that is inquiry. 

I used to think that moving towards inquiry was going to be very difficult and time consuming.  Now I am thinking that I only need to change a few things and that we were already on the path towards inquiry-I just didn’t realize it.  I still have many questions and need to continue working through some ideas and I think that the mini-inquiry approach in math is where I will be starting.  One of the places I’m really feeling that I can work with to have more of an inquiry approach is our question of the day.  We have been reviewing the thinking strategies much more explicitly as I want them to start connecting with the ones they are using.  For our questions of the day they can solve them however they would like, my only requirement is that when we have finished we take a few minutes to reflect on our work through writing and I want them to start including the thinking strategies in this writing.  

Another random thought/connection…This year I am working on an action research project focused around student discourse.  I found a very section in the book we are reading called “Discourse (How are the environment and interactions structured?)”.  It helps you take note of the questions that you and the students are asking and the interactions taking place in the classroom.  I think that the questioning taking place in our classroom is around the proficient inquiry (level 3) and my goal is to move us towards the exemplary (level 4) type of questions.  (pg. 100).  I am excited to see connections that I can use in other areas this year and hope to continue finding more similarities.

January- Immersed

I am in the inquiry group Math Mamas.  When we first started we realized that we are all really struggling with what inquiry is.  So our questions are:  What does inquiry look like in classrooms? and Why do inquiry?  We decided that we would like to have something to help guide our thinking and we agreed on reading parts of the book: Succeeding with Inquiry in Science and Math Classrooms. We started with the second chapter: Why Inquiry, and Why in Your Classroom? This chapter really seemed to fit with our first question and gave us a starting point for further discussions.  When our group first started, we came together as math teachers.  Now our thinking and discussions have moved more towards science and social studies as we want to feel comfortable in leading the inquiry process and for us it seems more accessible in those content areas.
I think that inquiry is learning through investigation.  I think of it a lot like the scientific method, which is probably why I find it easier to come up with ideas of teaching it in science vs. math.  I think it’s allowing students to struggle and explore, while challenging themselves to work through difficult things and learn. 
My biggest struggle is, how much freedom do I allow?  Sometimes I wonder if I’m letting them struggle too long.  Also, are there areas and skills where inquiry doesn’t fit?  If so, what are they?  When will I know areas to use inquiry and when there are other best practices that might fit better?
My next step is to finish reading the chapter for my group and then to browse the book to come up with suggestions for our next reading.  I also would like to try a mini-inquiry to see what happens so that I might better understand my struggles as an inquiry instructor!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cross-curricular inquiry

I had stated in my last Blog that Lynn and I are collaborating with this current inquiry.  The 7th grade's inquiry is on the Medieval times and the 8th is on the Civil War.  I think that I have allowed way too much time for this inquiry.  They are so over it.  I think because they would like to work on something else in literacy (not that this is all that we do).  ALSO, the previous inquiries, they needed to do their KWL notes and make a presentation, which they love.  This time, they had to do the KWL, research notes, AND, write a research paper.  You'd think that I had asked them to climb Mt. Everest.  I have figured out that inquiry can certainly be fun, yet there needs to be rigor.  I think that I was having so much fun with this new "thing" that I didn't work on the rigor.  Or, maybe the rigor is built in. 

So, here's my Big Blog you think the rigor is built in???

February Inquiry Thinking

Tracy and I decided to jump right in and give inquiry a try in Science since that seems to be the most natural fit.  As mentioned in the first post, our inquiry study in Science was around Weather Systems.

After the students create beautiful questions and wrote down what they were "wondering" about weather systems, I posed our essential question:  How has accurate weather predictions contributed to society's advancement?  As a class, we spent a lesson breaking down the language of this question, specifically discussing what the following words mean: accurate, contributed, society, and advancement.  I had students talk in small groups about what each of those words meant and then we came back together to chart/list some synonyms for those words in order to make the question more clear.  This question needed to be clearly understood by the students, because it was going to be the central point of our research.  Their final projects needed to be tied back to this question.

Using the Science Inquiry Science Inquiry Menu students then highlighted what topic they were going to research.  We also brainstormed some presentation examples along with those that were already listed.  Tracy and I also developed a final project rubric, so that students knew what the expectations of the project were, Inquiry Rubric . Students were given about three weeks to do their research.

What I used to think is that the final project rubric we had created was adequate and would push students to create a high caliber project.  What I know now is that the rubric needs to be "tweeked" in several areas in order to push the final projects to that higher level.  For example, I would set the expectation that their final project must include a video and perhaps an interview of an "expert" in the area. 

 I used to think that this guided differentiation inquiry project would allow students the freedom to become creative with their final projects, as well as push themselves to deeply explore an aspect of the weather that they would be committed to and highly motivated to explore.  What I know now or wonder about is:  Why did most students not push themselves?  Was it because of the rubric expectations?  Why were they not creative in their final projects?  Is it because they are unfamiliar with various technology based presentation formats?  I encouraged the students to explore different presentation formats.  Did they not explore options, because they are unaware of what the options are? Now I know that when I do this type of inquiry research again, I will incorporate mini-lessons around various options for final presentations instead of just having a google presentation, aka slide show.

Even though I continue to wonder and ponder how I would change the project, I still feel that it was very successful.