Wednesday, 27 March 2013

This Is What I Am Thinking About Today

I often have trouble beginning my posts so I asked my brilliant writer friend(@gallit_z) for some advice. In her usual fabulous manner she said, "Try starting with; Today I am thinking about......." so here goes:

     Today(any many other days actually) I am thinking about how I can make Inquiry work in my classroom. I have been using Inquiry in Science this year and while it seems to be going okay, I want it to be better.

      My students did their first project on the effects of weather on living organisms(I created an essential question(s) based on combining the gr. 3 and gr. 4 science PLO's) Most of the students chose topics such as How do plants grow and survive in the Arctic?, How does a cactus survive in the desert?, What is a hurricane(tornado) and how does it effect humans and plants?, What is rain?, or Where does water come from? I initially met with the students in their groups to discuss note taking, recording sources, using time wisely, copyright, and self-reflection. Most groups worked diligently to gather evidence and gain knowledge about their topic. They were definitely motivated, invested and diligent in their pursuit of the answers to their questions.

     Students also had to present their findings using any tool that worked for them. The two tools that were chosen were either Book Creator or Popplet. This was about the third presentation that my students had done this year so it was amazing to see some of them hone their skills by engaging the audience with humour, expression, video, and drama! Of course some were more engaging than others but all of the students were respectful and kind in their praise and suggestions. I think the most important question that my students ask each other is "if you did this again, what would you do the same?differently?" I am also blown away by the strength of character they demonstrate when receiving suggestions from their peers! They are gracious and most of the time they are in total agreement with the suggestion. I am proud of each and everyone of them for trusting each other and themselves.

   So the next time we do a science inquiry project what would I do the same?

    - I would create essential questions that attempt to combine the PLO's in both grades.

     -I would let the students pick their partners.

     -I would meet with the groups at the beginning of the inquiry to discover their wonderings.

     -I will  trust them.

     -I will guide them and push their thinking.

    -I will honour their best efforts.

   -I will continue to learn from them.
    -I will remember that they are full of curiosity and wonder and may go places I hadn't dreamed of!

What would I change next time?

     -I would develop specific criteria/check points for the journey.

     -I would try to use backward design more effectively.

     -I would allow more time for self-reflection along the way.
     -I would meet more regularly with each group.

     -I will encourage students do use experiments as a means of gaining information.

     I was wondering if you use inquiry? What have you discovered about teaching and learning with inquiry? I would love to share and learn with you!


  1. Robyn, it is so exciting to see all the "trouble" you're getting into these days with your learning and your students learning. I love this "trouble". This post is quite helpful for me as I'm looking at attempting Challenged Based learning with my young learners in term 3. I do agree that setting criteria, and meeting regularly is really important. Self and peer assessment is key too. Thanks for giving me more to think about. It's an exciting time to be a teacher.

  2. Thanks so much Karen. You will really enjoy using the Inquiry/Challenge based model, seeing your students totally engaged in their learning is very rewarding!It's great to have so many supportive edufriends and fellow troublemakers to share our journeys with!


  3. Hi Robyn!
    This is a fantastic post for teachers who want to give inquiry based learning a try! I love that you write about the process, not just the end product. (The products are great too, though!) The way you reflected and asked the "do the same/do differently" questions is fantastic and I hope to incorporate more reflections like that in my planning. As always, you are modelling what you teach :)

    "I will honor their best efforts" is so powerful. It speaks to how well you understand that learning is a process and students develop at different rates and that is OK. I just love that phrase!

    I have a thought-what if, after scaffolding the basic content with your students up front, you had the students develop their own essential questions? It would be a challenge, to be sure-but I wonder what the students would come up with now that they have done one project as well as the Genius Hour inquiry format. What if they developed their own rubric/criteria? It could be very powerful personalized learning.

    Thanks again for such a great post. You really do have a gift for writing. I enjoy reading your blog so much!
    Your partner in crime,

  4. Fabulous blog, Robyn!

    I love how you share, "I think the most important question that my students ask each other is 'if you did this again, what would you do the same?differently?'" And then you answer those questions yourself about the whole process!
    Great reflection! I think you must be the *brilliant* one!

    I love learning with you and I am so happy you blogged about this!