The Gift Of Time

Tonight, I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine and a wonderful educator, Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper. This year, Jo-Ann and I are both committed to learning more about how to effectively use inquiry in the classroom, and it’s great that we can discuss our successes and our areas for improvement.

This evening, we were talking about the questions that our students are developing. They’re starting to ask richer questions, and now they’re looking at how to group their questions around big ideas and delve deeper into curriculum-connected issues that interest them. This takes time though. In the middle of our phone conversation tonight, I said, “My next blog post has to be about how to manage this time.” 🙂

You see, I don’t want to rush through the process. One thing that really stayed with me when I read, Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles In Action is that the authors recommended taking the time to have students develop their inquiry topic, do the research, refine their topic, research some more, refine again, and move towards an “action plan” — whatever that plan may be. This takes time, and the students need this time to really focus on their thinking, delve deeper into their topic, and truly make sense of the information.

So how do I give the students the time that they need? Here are my thoughts at this point:

  • Integrate Language and Science, Social Studies, and/or Health: the content areas where we are focusing on inquiry. Students are researching, reading, and writing constantly, so why not as part of the modelled, shared, and independent reading and writing that we do? Yes, I will still have my assigned Science, Social Studies, and Health periods each week, but we can inquire during Language as well.
  • Run Science and Social Studies simultaneously. I teach both Science and Social Studies, so this is definitely an option. At this point, according to my long range plans, I need to be moving onto Social Studies, but students are still working on their final inquiry projects in Science. Instead of delaying the start of Social Studies, I’m thinking of doing both. I’ll use our subject-specific periods each week for Science, and I’ll link Social Studies and Language: doing some content area reading and writing during my Language block.
  • Direct and/or guide the students more for our next Science or Social Studies unit to decrease the time involved. This is an option, but it’s not one that I like. I love that the students are uncovering more of the content on their own, and they’re really thinking about what they’re learning. They’re seeing the links between topics too, and this is so important. Last year’s EQAO results showed that our students need to improve in the area of “thinking,” and I think that this inquiry method is allowing them to do so. Even my supply teacher this afternoon commented on the independent thinking and problem-solving she saw in all of my students. How can I rush the inquiry process and still expect the students to think as much?

Beyond adding an extra hour or two to the school day :), what would you suggest? I’d love to hear options that have worked well for you!


6 thoughts on “The Gift Of Time

  1. Great ideas about how to make time for inquiry. 300 minutes can only stretch so far. Combining subjects, compacting information and letting go of some practices (that maybe have seen better days) are definitely the three strategies I would ask teachers to consider when looking for more time. (Extending the class day…not so much). One thing I do like about the new curriculae we are seeing emerging is also that it isn’t as much of a checklist of minute K&U info bits, but those more enduring skills related to inquiry. My guess is that teaching these enduring skills is going to be a difficult battle for the next little while as we all get used to it. But, because these skills are built upon each year, over time it should get more fluid and easier. In Ontario, these curricular changes are beginning with our youngest 3 and 4 year old learners and continue right through gr 12 and beyond. The gift of time requires our thought and attention now, but over time, we might actually gain time.

    • Thanks for chiming in here, Kristi! I really appreciate your insight on this topic. Your ideas about how to gain time are great ones, and you’re right: over time it probably will get easier. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that struggles with this, and I’m excited to try some new approaches as the year progresses. Combining subjects is definitely going to be my starting point. I did this a lot in primary, and if it worked well there, I can definitely see the benefit for older students as well.

      Thank you for always getting me thinking!

  2. Aviva, I would love to do this! If I were in a classroom, I think I would have to combine the curriculum areas. I think that’s the only way it would work. I’m reminded of the PBL that @HeidiSiwak did last year… Something like, “What do you want to learn?” What a fabulous idea! The students’ choice is the journey… You establish the destination through the Overall Expectations…Anyway, looking forward to following along!

    • Thanks Janet! I think that combining the expectations is the best option. Thanks for reminding me of what Heidi did last year too. I’m going to see if she blogged about it. This may give me some more ideas.


  3. Hi Aviva
    Truly making sense of learning and connecting it to one’s own life experiences and other things one has learned is a great way for meaningful learning, I would probably argue the only way. I don’t remember things I took in Gr 5, or even last year, except the things that I really connected with, or that we had a special activity on.
    It really is challenging to teach everything the curriculum expects and do it in a spirit of inquiry. Sometimes I think students would learn much better if they significantly slashed the curriculum. Too much makes learning rushed and hollow.
    I would take depth over breadth any day, but since you’re bound by the curriculum expectations, integration is a good idea.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Lucy! It’s interesting because I think that our new Social Studies Curriculum is going in the way of depth versus breadth. It’s looking less at “covering more expectations,” and more at truly developing thinking and learning. I hope that our other documents go in the same direction too.

    Thanks for weighing in on this!

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