As I continue to explore the possibilities of inquiry in the classroom, I often feel as though my mistakes outnumber my successes. Please don’t get me wrong here: I really, really believe that we learn from these mistakes, but gosh are the successes nice as well. 🙂 So today, when I had a success, I wanted to celebrate!
Today was the start of our Social Studies Mega Murder Mystery. Aligning with overall expectation A2, this mystery forces students to partake in the inquiry process as they ask questions, draw conclusions, and create new learning. Being that it’s the last week before the Winter Break, some students have already left for vacation, and others are counting down the days, so I needed to work overtime to make this activity engaging and meaningful. Here’s today’s part of the activity in action:
I knew that this was a successful introduction when students actually groaned knowing that we had to tidy-up. Yippee!
When I was on prep today, I went to talk to our vice principal, Kristi Keery-Bishop, who came in to see part of the activity in action. While I learn lots from reflecting in writing (through Twitter and through this blog), I learn even more from speaking aloud, and I needed someone to listen to me as I worked my way through my thinking. A special “thank you” to Kristi for being this person. Talking to her today (and I really did all of the talking, so for that, I apologize), I realized that the students were very engrossed in the mystery part of this activity, and they were already making predictions about the possible “killer.” They needed proof though … and they really needed to formulate questions around the clues to do so. Time for some teaching.
After the break, before I gave the students a chance to work in their groups, we debriefed as a class. Students shared with me the clues that they found, and then they brainstormed some possible questions to ask. We looked at the questions that pertained to the mystery itself, and then we looked at how to use questions about the clues to help answer these mystery questions. After students shared some good clue questions, I had the groups meet up to develop their own questions. Yes! The plan was working. Groups were finalizing questions related to the clues.
So then the end of the day came, and I was just getting ready to head home. I happened to head into the office to get something from my mailbox, and I saw our principal, Paul Clemens. Paul asked me how the mystery went, and I excitedly told him about today’s successes. I mentioned that Kristi dropped by briefly this morning to see the students in action, and since Kristi was in her office, she joined us for our discussion. This is when she mentioned to me about an accountable talk strategy called, “Challenge.” I never used it before, so she told me about it. With this strategy, one student would share a theory, and another student would challenge him/her with a question. These “challenges” would help highlight problems with the theories and could be good before students share their theories on the air at our Talking Tuesdays Press Conference.
Doing some more thinking in the car on my drive home, I decided that I’m going to do a two-on-two challenge — an option that was discussed after some good questions raised by Paul. Students will then have somebody else from their group there to support them in answering the questions. They’ll also have a partner to help remember the questions asked and any areas of need that they can then discuss with their full group before the press conference. Hopefully students can strengthen their arguments based on the challenge questions. What do you think?
I share all of this because it was only a couple of weeks ago that I blogged about how walkthroughs terrify me, and yet, it was Kristi’s appearance today and our discussions afterwards that helped me “bump up” today’s activity. We all need those people to hear what we did, to celebrate successes with us, but to also to push us as we look for ways to improve. I’m thankful to have administrators (along with colleagues both at my school and online) that do this for me, and today reminded me of that. It’s not that we can’t celebrate the good things that happen. It’s just that there’s value to making the good, better!
Who are your “people to talk to?” How do they help you improve? I’d love to hear your stories!