Every year, teachers have to write their Annual Learning Plan. I take this plan very seriously. For me, this is a great way to really focus my teaching and learning in an area that I think I need to improve on or that I want to learn more about. I then use my blog as a way to reflect on what I do related to this Annual Learning Plan and to set my own next steps. What a great way for me to model this reflection process for my students, and to show them that even as a teacher, I’m doing what I’m asking them to do in the classroom as well.
While I have lots of choice about my Annual Learning Plan, I always try to align it with our school focus and student areas of need. This year, our School Self-Assessment will focus on ideas related to student voice, student choice, and differentiated instruction. I’m already very passionate about this topic, and I try to think carefully about these three areas with everything that I do in the classroom.
Yesterday was our PA Day, and we spent lots of time looking at data. One piece of EQAO data that stuck out for me is that students tend to struggle more on “thinking” questions. As a teacher, this means that I need to spend more time getting them to think carefully and critically in all subject areas. How can I do this best and still align my personal goals with our school focus?
This is when I thought about inquiry. This year, I’ve been really trying to use inquiry in the classroom in all subject areas. I’m using what I learned from reading Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles In Action and Role Reversal to get students to develop their own inquiry questions, get immersed in the topic, revise their questions, continue their research, and share their learning in various ways that matter to them. This is a big change for me!
- I’ve been “teaching” a lot less to the full class.
- I’ve been working with small groups of students more, and conferencing with them more regularly.
- I’ve been answering fewer questions and getting students to look at ways to answer their own.
- I’ve been providing more choice of how students share their learning with me, and often, been very open-ended in the choices that I do provide.
- I’ve been regularly thinking about provocations, and how I can use them to generate inquiry in different subject areas. Also, what provocations can I use?
Everything that I’ve read and heard about inquiry says that this approach helps increase thinking skills, and often has students performing better on standardized tests. After reorganization, I no longer teach Grade 6 and no longer have my students writing EQAO, but what I do as a Grade 5 teacher can make an impact on next year’s Grade 6 students. I also teach Grade 3/4 Health and Media Literacy, and I use the inquiry model for both. Will a focus on inquiry help these Grade 3 students as they write EQAO this year? I really want to know.
So this year, for my Annual Learning Plan, I’m going to use inquiry in all subject areas to increase academic achievement and deepen understanding of content. The report card data from last year tells me how my students performed, so now I have a starting point for comparison. Not only can I use marks from rubrics as data, but I can also use our daily video reflections, audio recordings, and written reflections to show how student thinking and learning has changed throughout the year. Many of these recordings are shared on our Daily Shoot Blog, and I’m excited to look back and see the difference over time.
I’m also excited to connect with other educators both online and in-person to share inquiry experiences, modify ideas, and reflect on how things went. I look forward to continuing to add to the Look Closely Blog where teachers and students from around the world are sharing their inquiry projects with each other. Not only does this blog provide a great audience for our class inquiry work, but just the “look closely” idea has my students delving deeper into the topics that interest them.
This focus on inquiry is really forcing me to make changes to my teaching practices, and I think that’s a good thing. These changes also comes with many questions. How do you use inquiry in the classroom? What advice can you give me as I embark on this new learning journey? How do your students respond to using inquiry? How do you scaffold the learning for those students that might need more support? I look forward to hearing your ideas!