Tuesday, March 3, 2015

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.


  1. Colleen,

    I know one thing that really pushed my fourth graders is having a really solid model that I presented to them. I have skipped this many times and I now know that they really get a better picture of what is expected when they see how detailed I get in my presentation. That said, I am similarly disappointed with some of the projects my students created for their Solar System projects. I am wondering if there is a way to have students do a draft first so that I can, or peers, can give feedback before they do a final. I know that, if I had more time (which I do not!) I would hand many of the projects back and ask students to really push their thinking.

  2. Colleen,

    I think anytime we establish clear expectations for our students and provide them a rubric that clearly outlines these expectations, work quality is improved and established. Hopefully this transfers to them internally so they will do their best work always, regardless if a rubric is given or not.