This year I have been able to utilize mini-inquiries in our math workshop. It has allowed me to find the balance between skill building and discovery. My most successful lessons are when we work on a question of the day that can have more than one answer or a topic that they have yet had direct instruction on. Students have time to talk at the carpet and give each other ideas. They then return to their seats, work independently for a few minutes then return to the carpet to share with a different partner what ideas they worked on and where they are in solving the problem or how many ideas they have come up with. The students then talk as a class and sometimes we have an anchor text that we read together and question as we go. I have found that the level of questioning in my class is beyond where I expected. When we were doing our measurement unit, one of my students asked the questions “Is there measurement in space?”. At first I really, really wanted to just say ‘Of course!’ but instead I opened it up to the class and the discussion that ensued was amazing. We had an amazingly authentic debate that was respectful and insightful. They had me thinking about all sorts of things…When are specific measurements important? When are estimates better? On this specific day we had so many questions coming up that I decided we should do an exit ticket with one question they still had or something new they learned. Their questions were so outstanding that I decided to use a few of them for our question of the day-and they LOVED seeing their own questions being used that they started asking more and giving them to me on post-it notes ‘in case I needed more ideas’!! Here are a few examples of their questions:
I’m still unsure how to utilize inquiry on a larger scale. Although we are using it most days, as I said earlier we are doing the mini-inquiries and they only take 1-2 days. We have done them each week and I think the level of understanding in our units is far more than what I have seen in previous years. Students are able to provide feedback to each other, and it’s not just ‘You did great’, it really is useful. They give each other ideas and aren’t afraid to try things that they are unsure about. It has been amazing to see the classroom transform!