Since September, I’ve made a real shift in my practice, as I’ve embraced inquiry in so many parts of our classroom. A couple of months into school and numerous blog posts later, here’s what I’ve noticed so far (for me and for the students):
- I spend much less time teaching full class lessons and much more time working in small groups. Even with eight years teaching Kindergarten, I’ve never spent as much time sitting and working with small groups of students. I’m constantly conferencing with students, listening to their ideas, giving them feedback, and meeting with them again. I know my students better now than I ever have before, and I love it!
- Time is precious, and I never seem to have enough of it! 🙂 I’ve blogged about this topic already, but it’s still one that I’m reflecting on now. As students read, think, and ask more questions, I struggle with getting everything done according to my long-range plan timelines. I continue to make changes to our program based on this problem. I really find myself having students explore more of the Science and Social Studies inquiry topics during AWARD (Applied Writing and Reading Daily) Time, shared reading time, and shared and independent writing time. The overlap with language is amazing, and I think that integration is key when it comes to inquiry success!
- Students are starting to naturally inquire more. Every Friday, we spend some time talking about books and articles that students read for homework on Thursday night. Today, I listened in to a group the discussed a rat article. Students got so interested in rats, that they even began reading and researching more about them. It’s great to so many students — even some reluctant readers and writers — getting excited about learning more because of inquiry.
- Students are problem solving more on their own. In the past, no matter what grade I taught, I constantly had students coming to me with problems: from an inability to find a pencil to an uncertainty about how to answer a question. Inquiry is helping to change this! Students are beginning to realize that I don’t know everything (and trust me, I don’t! :)), and that they can learn a lot of information on their own. Here’s a great example: not that long ago, a student came to tell me that the theme of her blog changed and she couldn’t seem to change it back. She asked me if I knew what to do, and I explained that I didn’t. I figured that she’d just leave her blog the new way that it was or ask me to find out more, but she didn’t. Instead, she took a photograph of the new paisley background that she wanted and figured out how to upload the photograph on her own. Now her blog background fits her blog name, and all of the problem solving was done on her own!
- Students are reflecting on their learning more. I’ve always believed at the importance of self-reflection, but I’ve struggled with how to do it best. As part of the inquiry process, I have the students reflecting very regularly on their work. Since they’re so invested in the teaching and learning process, I also find them so much more aware of their strengths and needs. Looking at the next steps for writing that students made today (totally on their own and perfectly aligned with our new co-created Success Criteria) made me realize just how influential inquiry has been for these students.
So while I constantly reflect and tweak the inquiry process, I’ve seen such success, and am thrilled to continue to focus on this area! Never have I had so much fun in the classroom (learning so many new things every day from my students) and never have they learned and thought so much!
What are your thoughts on using inquiry in the classroom? How do you make this approach work best for your students? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Aviva, i want to say welcome to the dark side (lol). When i first started teaching my principle challenged me to teach only through problem solving. It has been one the best journeys. As you said the kids are independant, patient problem solvers, and excited to learn. In fact many of my students come back and tell me that they wish they were back in my class. When i asked why they said they had fun and that they have to work now. When i say we did work they say we know but it never felt like work. Inquiry is so much fun and it has so much possibilities. Keep posting what you are doing!
Thanks for your comment, Jonathan, and all of your support throughout this process! I just love learning from you through Twitter and through this blog. You inspire me! Just like you, I’m thrilled that I took the leap, and I’m fortunate to have two amazing administrators (Paul and Kristi) that are supporting me throughout this journey.
Cheers from the Dark Side! 🙂
Aviva, your blog post made me smile. You’re expressing exactly what we are experiencing in our inquiry-based classroom. One of the most powerful results of this approach to teaching is the chance to work with students in small groups or one on one. I think you might enjoy reading the following blog post. Check it out http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/the-power-of-one-on-one-conversations-about-learning/
Looking forward to hearing more about journey! Keep on blogging!
Thank you so much for the comment, Louise, and the link to the blog post! I love this blog, so I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the post too! I’m going to read it now.
I think that you’re right about one of the biggest benefits of this switch in practice! I definitely enjoy more small group and 1:1 time!