Thursday, April 16, 2015

Colorado Regions "mini" Inquiry

In March my kids set out on what was supposed to be a "mini" (meaning I thought it would take two weeks tops) inquiry into the three main geographical regions of Colorado- the plains, the mountains and the plateaus. After a bit of informal pre-assessing, I knew they were going to need a lot in the immersion stage. So, We immersed ourselves in textbooks, websites, maps, and videos. Using a modified version of the Think, Explore, Puzzle thinking routine they determined importance as they recorded noticing, thoughts and wonders in their journals.

It was about this time that Michelle added to my schema for literature circles. I'd never really thought about using them outside of the literacy department, but I figured I could try it. Once the kids chose the region they were most interested in, the got in groups of three and read an article pertaining to their region. They already had been reading in lit. circles most of the year with Gretchen, so it was a very smooth connection to what it might look like in my room. 
Using their literature circle conversations as a starting point, each region group had to tackle our guiding inquiry question- How might the physical and man-made features of a region provide challenges and opportunities in that region?

So two weeks into our "mini" inquiry we were finally ready to do some research. This immersion stage was SO important that is took some time to get through. I practiced letting go of a specific timeline, and met them where they were. Their research revolved around determining which features were going to be important to that region, and then inferring challenges and opportunities using what they had learned about the regions so far.

The going public stage was by far the most entertaining part of this inquiry.  With only two days before spring break to put their learnings together in a presentation of sorts I was worried it would be total chaos.  Which it was. But when given the pressure of time, they stepped up.  Quality didn't go down either.  They were so into their learning that they even did work at home and brought it in to continue working on (without me even giving the option!).

So where am I in my own inquiry of how to fit standards into the inquiry process? Well, I struggled with guided their thinking as much as I did with the guiding question, and I'm not sure I would do it the same if I had it to do over. I still ponder how much of the inquiry process needs to be their own curiosities and how much I need to guide them so they are somewhat learned in the ballpark of what the standards are asking for. I know that the standards do have a place in inquiry, but I'm not actually sure that I have figured out how to weave them in yet!

1 comment:

  1. Caitlin, You amaze me! You are so good at guiding your kiddos. I always forget, that when their feet are to the fire they always step up and the results are usually fantastic. I, too, struggle with how much choice to give them. I have tried limiting choices, free for all, and guiding. I think it totally depends on the student. I like to think that during the immersion stage, I guide them enough that they make good choices...but is this fair? I will keep testing the waters and let you know what I figure out...albeit it may take years and change along the way o)