Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mini-Shakespeare Inquiry

We know what we are, but know not what we may be. - William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Mini-Inquiry

The Shakespeare Festival snuck up on me this year.  I knew it was coming, that my students were auditioning and running around in fantastic costumes, but somehow I thought I had more time!  Nevertheless, Monday came, the Festival was on Friday, and I wanted to teach my third graders as much as I could about Shakespeare in four days.  Was there no time for inquiry?

My inclination, my go-to, was to teach my heart out with books, skits, videos, and passion in my voice.  But this year, with our study into inquiry, although I did provide background knowledge for two days, on the third and fourth days I opened the study up to inquiry.  My personal question was, "Would inquiry provide the understanding and hunger for knowledge that a longer unit was capable of providing?"  I was wonderfully surprised!  Although my students questions were basic, "Who is Shakespeare?  Why is he important? When was he alive?  Why do we still learn about him?" and a few a little deeper, "How is Shakespeare still influencing us today?" they couldn't get enough.  Three online resources and a stack of books turned into, "Can we study him more?  Is our unit over?" and continued pursuit of Shakespeare knowledge even today!

Students coalesced their learnings into an essay persuading me to take them to the Shakespeare Festival.  It was a blast!

1. What are the ways that inquiry has had a positive impact on your teaching and / or student learning?

This mini-Shakespeare Inquiry is a great example of my personal shifts around instruction, especially when I feel crunched for time.  Last year, my inquiry projects looked a lot like research projects that took six weeks to culminate.  Now, I use inquiry as a teaching tool instead of a unit.  I am sure that this impacts student learning because of the way my students OWN their learning.  They love the questions.  They love the collaboration.  They all follow their own interests and bring it to the whole class to share as experts.  How did I ever teach a different way?

Shakespeare's quote sums up open inquiry for me..."We know what we are, but not what we MAY be."  The end game of inquiry is unknown, yet inquiry is an authentic and meaningful way to learn.  It allows students to discover their own interests and learning potential.

There is a quote from the book, Collaboration and Comprehension: Inquiry Circles in Action, “In the world of standards and benchmarks, it seems like teachers must always know what kids will know a the end of a lesson.  But consider this: do real researchers, investigators, and authors know exactly where they are going when they begin an inquiry?”– Daniels

2. What are the drawbacks? What are the ways that inquiry still feels uncomfortable? What are you still unsure about?

I am uncomfortable with the way explicit lessons on collaboration and process of inquiry take time away from content lessons, though I KNOW those skills are as important in life as knowledge.  

I continue to be unsure about weaving the standards into inquiry, so I need to:
  • create a routine for the  inquiry process that feels as comfortable as a readers workshop.  
  • trust inquiry to create the environment of lifelong learning that I believe in! 
  • learn when to pull students back to me for a critical lesson at the right moment.  
  • learn how to create more thoughtful scaffolds and differentiated lessons so that all learners have access to the information.
  • be clear on the true outcomes, skills and essential knowledge
Although, my "need to" list continues to grow, and may grow throughout my career,  Shakespeare helps me rest in the process...

"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow." - William Shakespeare

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