Inquiry Based Learning Step by Step #4


This post is #4 in a series.  CLICK HERE to go to post #1

Welcome back to my blog series about Inquiry Based Learning.  Last week I wrote about doing research with Primary students.

This week we’re going to focus on producing a final project.  Inquiry based learning usually ends up with the children producing something to showcase what they have learned.  I decided to simplify the project as it is the last month of the school year.  I provided a mini booklet for the kids to complete which could showcase their learning. 

First the children needed to write up a draft.  I provided them with a template which allowed them to write down the parts of a paragraph with 3 facts.  Once the children completed their draft outline, I went through them with each child.  We did this one-on-one to make sure that their draft was aligned to their inquiry question and that it made sense.  I corrected their grammar and spelling and offered suggestions which would make more sense.  Even after all the work we have done on this process, some children simply did not understand what they were supposed to do.  There were children who just copied down complex sentences from their internet notes.  Of course, this is not what I was looking for. 

With those 2 or 3 students who could not grasp this process, I asked them questions and together we wrote down their ideas in sentences which made sense and were not copied down from the internet.  Because this was the first time we tried this process, I understood that some kids just didn’t “get it”.  I believe that some children will need to go through this process many times and it could take a few years until they can complete an inquiry project by themselves.  So, at this point in the process, I just wanted to make sure that they could showcase what they already knew and not get caught up in the process if they didn’t understand.

Next the children completed their good copy or final project.  Each child wrote down their inquiry question.  Then they copied the sentences from their paper pictured above.  I then went through and corrected any more errors, and once their paragraph was done, they drew a picture on the final page that was related to their writing and wrote a caption (this is a picture of...).

And there you go.  The final projects were put out for the other children to read.  They loved looking at each other's work and reading the paragraphs.

I completely enjoyed this process.  This was only the second time I had tried an inquiry based approach to learning and I took away several points.

1 -  The kids were highly motivated.
2 - The kids made a lot of connections between what the curriculum said I HAD to teach and what they were INTERESTED in.   In my opinion this makes for a deeper understanding of the curriculum.
3 - The kids enjoyed this learning process - behavior issues were minimal.
4 - The kids took ownership of their learning.  They chose the questions to answer.
5 - The kids were really interested in reading each other's projects which helped them learn even more about the topic.
6 - When I did direct teaching (like on the water cycle, or reading books with them from EPIC) they were still highly motivated.  

This was a lot of fun.  I am so proud of the products the children made.  The parents were really impressed as well.  I can't wait to share more about this with you in the future.


Inquiry Based Learning Step by Step #3


This post is #3 in a series.  CLICK HERE to go to post #1

Welcome back to my blog series about Inquiry Based Learning.  Last week I wrote about our activities which helped the kids to come up with an inquiry question.

This week we’re going to focus on research.  Now as there were many different inquiry questions in the class, I wanted to give each child the chance to do their own research.  I started out with a few group lessons of reading a few books online with the class using the projector and the app EPIC.  It’s a great app, if you don’t already have it.  The books on it are great and it’s free.

Then we took a few periods to let the kids do their own individual research.  We used iPads and the website which is a kids version of google.  The students wrote down some notes.  After a week, I realized that kids were not actually taking very good notes.  They were copying down a lot of words from websites, but they didn’t understand what they meant, or even if it was related to their inquiry question.  So I realized I needed another strategy. 

I decided to ask the parents to help.  Now I work in a community where many parents work at 2 jobs or more.  They are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to spend with their kids.  Most of the parents are also immigrants and don’t always understand the school’s expectations.  So I knew that only a few kids might get this done with their parents, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised.  I send the letter above home on a Friday.  2/3 of my class returned the notes the next Monday.  And by Wednesday all the kids had returned some sort of research.  I could tell which kids had continued to just write down words from the internet and which kids had actually had help from their parents, but at least they all returned another page of notes and most of them had facts related to their inquiry question. 

Thanks for stopping by again today!

Inquiry Based Learning Step by Step #2

This post is #2 in a series. CLICK HERE to go to post #1.
Welcome to my blog series about Inquiry Based Learning.  Last week I wrote about stimulating interest in a topic.  We spent some time going over artifacts to stimulate their ideas and interest.  Once we finished looking through the artifacts, the kids came up with a list of questions, which I also posted last week. 

This week I am sharing with you how we came up with our Questions of Inquiry, or Essential Questions.  This took a lot of work.  My hope is that as the kids become more familiar with this type of lesson that they will also build their skills and become able to come up with their own questions without teacher intervention.  But for now, I took the lead and tried to guide them towards some questions which will make their research more focused, and easier to complete.

After Lesson #1, I left the chart paper with their list of questions out.  We referred to it over the next few days, and whenever a new question popped up, we wrote it on the list.

Lesson #2 has several components to it, which I will be going over below.

First I started by brainstorming what the kids already knew about water.  We did it together on the SMART board and then the kids chose 6 ideas to write down on their own worksheet.  See the photo below.  I told the kids that they either had to write out a sentence, or draw a picture and write a caption in each bubble of the worksheet.

The next day we read through our list of questions and added several more to the chart paper.  Then the kids copied down 5 questions that they were interested in.  If they had a question that was not on the chart paper, they were welcome to write it down too.

The final day of this lesson involved coming up with their own question of inquiry.   First, I cut up the chart paper.  Each question was on its own strip.

Then I gave each child a strip with a question on it.  We sat in a circle on the carpet and tried to organize the questions together into groups that made sense.  I intervened a bit and made suggestions.  For example, when the question was about dolphins and living in water, I said, “Is there a group that has animals and water?” and the kids would put the question there.  After that I would just say “hmmm, animals and water…Do we have a group with that?”  So I guided the groupings.  Again, if the kids had more experience with this, I would leave them alone to make their own groupings. 

Once all the questions were grouped together, we tried to group together any “stray” questions who were all alone.  Some questions still didn’t fit with another group, but some did.

Finally, I sent them back with chart paper and a group of questions to glue on the chart paper.  Then we got together as a class and gave a label to each group.  

After that we worked together on the Smart board to come up with a list of questions for Inquiry.  It was difficult for the kids and I had to help a lot.  We came up with 6 different questions.  Then the kids chose one question and wrote it down on the worksheet below.  I felt I needed to help them find a question that was not too specific, but also not too broad for a quick research project.

Thanks for stopping by and checking this out today.  Next week we will begin the research part of Inquiry Based Learning.

SCIENCE WRITE - I'm so excited about this STEAM idea!

STEAM.  A fantastic bulletin board idea.  A detailed life science lesson that integrates ELA, Science and Art and looks great.  The parents will think you are a fantastic teacher.

This time of year, it's always perfect to start teaching about the life cycle of plants.
This year I have been really focusing on non-fiction reading and writing with my class and I wanted to come up with a cute way to display their learning to their parents.  This is when I came up with SCIENCE WRITE.  Stay tuned, as I have tons of ideas for future topics.

Here's an example of what the final product will look like on a bulletin board.

This is a piecemeal photo which I cobbled together on my phone so I apologize for the poor quality.   My goal with this idea was to have a great bulletin board to showcase the kids learning.  It not only looks cute, but it makes the teacher look great too!  This year I decided to use fabric flowers in the garden as I have a whole bag of artificial flowers that I bought from Michael's many years ago.  This was a great project to use some of them up.

This year I have been working with reading passages for non-fiction reading.  So in this pack I added 3 levels of difficulty in the reading passages.  But I also wanted to differentiate for different levels of learning.  So there's a little book with real photographs and a PowerPoint too.  You could use these lessons with Kindergarten students up to 3rd Grade.

to get your own copy


Inquiry Based Learning Step by Step #1

Inquiry Based Learning.  Here is a free step by step guide to teaching with inquiry.

I have been doing Inquiry Based Learning lessons in my classroom for a little while now.  In my district the curriculum changed this year and the focus is now on student-led learning.   Inquiry lessons fit into this style very well.   I have been teaching for 25 years, and I thought that changing up the way I teach was going to be very difficult, but it has been pleasant and easier than expected.  And the kids are very engaged.  It’s so cool to watch them interact and learn.  Nobody tunes out or looks bored.  I am LOVING THIS!

I’m going to share with you, over a series of blog posts, how I would teach a unit of inquiry.  It’s a multi lesson process, and every inquiry unit will head in a different direction each time you teach it.  But it’s so interesting to see where the kids go with their learning.

Today I’m writing about stimulating interest and coming up with a question for inquiry.   All inquiry units have questions that need to be answered.  These are the Essential Questions.  Because I teach younger students in Second Grade, and because I am accountable to the curriculum that I need to teach, I feel that I need to make sure that the Essential Questions have some input from me.  Older students could come up with their questions by themselves, but younger children need more guidance in this.

Here is how I would teach this topic with Inquiry Based Learning on my blog.

I am currently starting a Science unit on Water.  The Science curriculum in my district has the following learning goals for Grade Two.
o   Students are expected to know the following:
§  Water sources including local watersheds
§  Water conservation
§  The water cycle
§  Local indigenous people’s knowledge of water

At first I printed out a series of photo cards from my unit on Water.  I am going to use these as my “artifacts” to stimulate interest in the topic.  We only have a black and white printer at work and when I do this lesson again, I will print out the cards at home on my colour printer. 

My class is divided into four table groups.  To start this unit, I cut up the cards and gave each table group 12 different cards (with photos of water).  I asked them to try to figure out what all the photos have in common.  It took them a few minutes, but eventually each group figured out that all the photos have water in them.

Then we regrouped on the carpet and I projected the PDF with the picture cards up on the screen.  This way they can see the photos in colour.  We quickly went through them together and I gave them a few vocabulary words like “condensation” and “evaporation”.

Then I sent them back to their tables.  I asked them to group the cards together into little groups.  I put down a piece of chart paper on each table and they worked on top of it.  As they started grouping the photos, I gave them a marker to write down their reasons why they had chosen these groups.   Finally I had them glue down their pictures.

I was surprised when some of them even started writing down random facts about water.

Then we gathered on the carpet again and each group came up to the front to share their work.  Some kids explained and some kids just read what they had written.  This sharing helped foster a close learning environment.  The kids felt proud of their work and enjoyed sharing it, and the other kids were highly interested in what their peers had to say.

After the sharing, we brainstormed together a list of questions about water.  I wrote them all down.  I believe that there are no wrong submissions when brainstorming.  Next I will take all the charts that we have made today and put them up on a bulletin board.  This is going to be my “Wonder Wall”.  We will be referring to it throughout the inquiry process and adding to it as we go along.

Thanks for stopping by again today.  I am really excited to share the rest of my journey through inquiry based learning with you.   If you are interested, CLICK HERE for a link to the science units in my store.

Easy and Stunning Mother's Day Card

Free Instructions - this card was so easy to make and it looked fabulous!

I made these very cute and very bright Mother's Day cards this week with my Grade 2's.  The most important part was that we used watercolor paper that I bought at an art store.  We used 2 kinds of paint.  Liquid watercolors, and real watercolors from a tube.  We also used a white crayon.


I drew on the whiteboard the picture below me of the circle with the word MOM inside.   I explained to the kids that they were going to do this with a white crayon and it would be hard to see.  Next we used liquid watercolors to paint the circle.  Then I let it dry overnight.


The next day we finished the flower.  I added the detail to the whiteboard image above.  I explained that we were adding petals, a stem and some leaves.  Then we used real watercolors.  I showed them how to use their brush to mix the colors with white or black and how to change their colors by washing their brush in the cup of water.  Then we let them dry overnight.

Then we went back to the liquid watercolors to add the background color.  I really feel that this makes the images pop.   I mounted them on some card stock to frame them.  Then we glued them onto paper to make a card.  Cute eh?

I love how the colors look when they all blend together.  

I you are interested in other Mother's Day ideas CLICK HERE.

Thanks for stopping by today!


My Favorite Spring Art Ideas for Kids


Some fantastic and interesting art ideas I've gathered from Pinterest

So I've been searching Pinterest for some amazing spring art ideas.  I hope you like these ideas.  I tried to find ones that were visually interesting and unique.  


How to Teach Non-Fiction Animal Research in Primary Classrooms

We just finished a life science unit about Salmon.  I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

Where I live, we have a program where we can hatch live Salmon eggs in the classroom, watch them grow into fingerlings, and then release them into a local stream to complete their lives.

I find that when you bring live animals into the classroom, it really sparks the kids interest in the topic.  We are still waiting for our little salmon to grow some more, but the kids enjoy checking out the tank every few days to see how big they are getting.

First we looked through some videos I found on YouTube about Salmon.  Then we colored the worksheet below on the Life Cycle of a Salmon.    You can grab your own copy of this worksheet here.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

Next we read through my little non-fiction reader, from my animal research pack.

to get your own copy.   It's only $2.99.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

Then, as you can see above, the kids filled in a few brainstorming frames about the facts they were learning about Salmon.  I like to let them choose their own facts first to spark their interest, but then I also like to give them the frame with the speech bubbles to help them focus on more of the pertinent facts.  Finally I had them write a rough draft and then a good copy which I put on the bulletin board with some salmon art. 

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

We also fleshed out their three facts into these little books on Facts about Salmon.  I really like making these little books and I put them in the reading corner so that the kids can read each other's books .  They really enjoy this.  Below you can see some of their final copies.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

And that's it!  The kids loved doing this unit.  Next I'm planning to do an animal inquiry unit, using these little packs - check back soon to see my post about that.  Below are some links to my bundles of animal research products.  Click on the pictures to go to my store.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.      I like to try to combine Language Arts with Science whenever I can.  That's why I came up with my Non-Fiction Animal research units for Primary classrooms.

Thanks for stopping by!