Saturday, 15 September 2012

Creating a Culture of Inquiry

I made a post-it question board for the
first day of school so that the kids could ask
questions anonymously.  This was my favourite.
When I explored inquiry learning last year, one of the big "Aha! Moments" that stands out to me is the concept of creating a "culture of inquiry." This is something we discussed a lot in the summer course I was enrolled in and is something I am trying to embed in my own classroom. Some of my colleagues last year modeled this well and made me realize that, while I was trying to embed inquiry, I didn't think about the fact that its success depends on having questions, deep thinking, and student-directed learning infused in daily activities.  Inquiry isn't a type of project; it is an approach and a tone which need to be set by the teacher early in the year.  This book contains a lot of great suggestions for inquiry-based activities at any grade level.

As I updated the class blog this morning, I realized that I automatically started by listing "activities" from the week. I went back to edit the entry and, below the activities, added a list of the big questions that we discussed this week:
  • What kind of classroom community do we want? How should we treat one another in class? What do we expect of one another? 
  • What makes a good writer? 
  • What can an artifact tell us about a person, place, or time period? 
  • What would future civilizations assume about us if they found an artifact from today? 
  • Where do we see math in the real world? 
  • What do humans need in order to survive? 
This week, I also introduced the guiding question that both grade 6/7 classes will be using for Social Studies, Language Arts, and across other areas: "What makes us who we are?"

I am trying to embed "big questions" into every subject area, lesson, and day in order to begin building a culture of curiosity, big ideas, and good questioning. At the same time, I hope to use these guiding questions to focus our discussions and learning. I would like to use the class blog to keep parents involved in our questions as I hope that conversations from class will carry on at home.

Already, my favourite questions to ask my students are:
  • Why are we learning / talking about / doing this? 
  • Why is this important? Is this important? 
  • How does this apply to life outside of school? Where will you use it? 
  • If something is only useful in school, should we be learning it? 
I feel like these questions are already setting the stage for the practical skills that inquiry learning supports.  As well, incorporating student choice into our introductory activities is setting the tone that I'm not there to be a dictator; I am in the class to support my students' learning.

I can't wait to continue learning with my awesome, little class!  What sorts of activities do you incorporate in order to build a culture of inquiry during the first week of classes?

1 comment:

  1. I really like your favorite questions. I think sometimes teachers shy away from asking things like "Is this important?" and "If something is useful only in school, should we be learning it". If the answers to these questions are no, where does that leave us? Do we say, "well the government tells me I have to teach this to you so we'll have to do it anyway"? Thanks for the inspiration Ms. Jakse!!