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.
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.