Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Thinking

     I came to a realization during my group's meeting, The All Inclusives. Our inquiry is around how to engage all types of learners. Our group is compiled mainly of first and second grade teachers with intervention teachers of various levels. We decided to break our topic into sub categories of learners and each take one to research; over confidence, perfectionists, low self esteem, struggling learners and learned helplessness to name a few. We each began sharing out a synopsis of what we had read and learned and how one related to another when having our students work an inquiry project. Many elements of this discussion came back to finding what interests each individual student. Well aha, that's just what we were doing. We picked a topic within our topic that ultimately interested or pertained to us and our teaching. While we are not doing the project alone, we are. We each have our own piece of the puzzle that suits us. We share out and learn from one another and will ultimately have a full picture assembled and an entire layout to refer to, but my piece may not directly fit into every one. 
     I chose the puzzle as a metaphor because a puzzle is everywhere before you finally get all the pieces in place. This fits our group and our additional discussion, because the inquiry process for little learners is so messy and everywhere. We are all struggling with how it will come together in our room. We see this wonderful images and videos of upper learners who can read and write and have social skills to work with one another. The littles are still living in a world that revolves around "me". We strive to build their social skills within a realm of learning. We decided that at 5, 6, 7 and 8 years old, inquiry is very messy because they are cutting out, coloring and trying all the pieces of the puzzle . . . and that's okay. 
     As a group we are at various stages of the inquiry process. I am currently trying it out. I began by trying a see, think, wonder for our weather unit. I learned a lot by starting here and could see, think and wonder about what my students are capable of. We developed questions and selected a few to pursue as a class. I allowed the kids to pursue further on their own. By doing both, I understand better where my class can go with inquiry next.  And so we completed our first 10 piece puzzle. I know now we can go bigger. 
     My next step lead us down one path with two pieces connecting to get us started. Our first piece is our new unit on Ants. I am excited to offer the kids whatever piece they are interested in. I am okay with everyone working with their own piece of the puzzle. They will be interested, it will apply to them and they will grow independently. I know now that they may pick up new pieces to connect to what they chose to start with. I know it will get messy and the pieces may be all over the room, but they will begin to connect. With the right scaffolds in place for each child, their own interest will lead them to learn something new . . . a lot. My next step is to let them be independent learners.
     The second piece is how it connects. Every child may have their own independent piece. I know now how the puzzle joins. Every piece is important as the puzzle is not complete until they all come together. I also understand that every piece is not directly connected and that too is okay. The picture still shares comment elements and no one piece is more important that the other. When the kids jump in to inquire about Ants, they will connect and make a big picture no matter what piece they carry in. I understand that the collaborate and go public piece can be at this age one in the same. The kids can collaborate to meet an end picture by each bringing a separate piece.
   I am super excited now to open the box and spread out the pieces (not the ants) so the kids can figure out how they go together. Messy pictures coming soon.


  1. Maggie,

    Great post! I am at the end of an inquiry unit on the solar system with my fourth graders. Last week, they were to read everyone else's work and view their 'text features' that everyone created to support their writing. I imposed this requirement on them because I felt that it was really important that they have a chance to step out of their narrow questions and expand their knowledge by reading others'. I am seeing just what you are hoping to see (or are already seeing,) they are really putting together great connections and seeing how their piece of the puzzle connects to everyone else's. It has been a powerful experience because they are the experts. I have been very impressed with how good they do at seeing the big picture beyond their individual puzzle piece.

  2. Maggie,

    I really appreciated your post as I am feeling much the same about inquiry. It's just really messy. For our youngest learners who are so curious, their learning feels disorganized for my linear and straightforward mind. You've inspired me however with your puzzle piece metaphor and I've been rethinking how inquiry works for ECE. While I have to facilitate and guide the inquiry so much for a 4 year old, perhaps I need to step back and remember that not all have to walk away carrying the same piece. And just maybe they will make connections but if anything just allowing a 4 year old to acquire their own background knowledge through inquiry may be the best support for future learning.