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!


  1. Val! I LOVE your resources! The Fake Book is so fantastic! GREAT way for students to coalesce and share learning publicly in a "non-traditional," third person voice. It takes a deep understanding of a person/place/ time in history to be able to do that well for an audience.

    I also love the Rubric! I think your questions surrounding measuring student performance against the standards are really valid. I am always amazed at how many standards can be touched upon through one inquiry study- it is actually astounding to see them all listed out! Being a lover of data and assessment (heehee!) I wonder if we could find some generalized rubrics online that would be a jumping off point for creating our own? I will have to start looking!

    LOVE IT!

  2. Thanks for sharing the facilitator rubric! What an amazing tool! I too, have a lot of room to grow, but I can't help but think I need to be looking and thinking about this at the beginning of the year when we're backwards planning our time together. Having a solid question or theme that guides our learning sounds awesome. If we could tie everything we learn back to one idea, it'd be really powerful. Val, you're so good at looking at big picture, I need to do this with you!