Sunday, February 23, 2014

Following a "spark"...

The essence of inquiry...

"Inquiry...requires more than simply answering questions or getting a right answer. It espouses investigation, exploration, search, quest, research, pursuit, and study. It is enhanced by involvement with a community of learners, each learning from the other in social interaction." (Kuklthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT & London: Libraries Unlimited.

The following quote sheds light on the importance for us as educators to make the process and understanding of our students' learning transparent and in doing so, honour their interests, their thinking and their wonderings in a way that builds conversation and celebrates new learning together. 

Our Wonder Wall that showcases students' thinking.
Over the past month, our Identity and Map Inquiry has been put on "pause," as one student has ignited interest and wonderings around sharks and oceans. What stemmed from a simple conversation between this SK student (E.S.) and 8 of his peers around what they know about sharks, has now led to a whole class inquiry with multiple entry points! 
M.D. uses a non-fiction book to record what he knows
about sharks and how they travel in small groups.
M.D. shares his thinking using sticky notes and recorded
transcriptions of his wonderings. 

As a teaching team, we embraced this interest and created learning opportunities that helped our students dig deeper into the learning, pose questions and answer wonderments. Together, we purposefully planned investigations that would push students’ thinking and never wasted any time celebrating their findings in small groups and with the class. 

Inquiry in our classroom allows for every student to bring ideas to the table. Inquiry has given us the opportunity as educators to utilize student motivation as a catalyst for learning and in doing so, have seen firsthand the power of being a facilitator in the learning and witnessing our student construct their own knowledge with our support. 

Inquiry is not posing the question, “What do you want to learn today?” but rather “what tools do you think we will need to learn about...”. Inquiry puts us educators in the position of facilitators and students in the position of active investigators. Inquiry does not mean we stop “direct instruction,” but it does mean that that instruction itself becomes more meaningful to students interests and yet still targets areas of need. 

This post will showcase some of our captured photographs and videos thus far to show how, as a teaching team, we have taken this student interest and facilitated learning opportunities to extend and support their thinking in a variety of ways. Similarly, we have honoured where students' interests are underneath the umbrella topic of "Oceans" and purposefully planned provocations and hands-on experiences within our classroom that allow for every student to feel like an active investigator in this exciting inquiry!


Moreover, Heidi and I have been cognizant about separating this learning as an "inquiry" and not a "thematic" exploration. In doing so, we have had the privilege of working collaboratively with our Learning@School colleagues (Angie Harrison, Carmela Sita, Heather Jelley...to name a few) to dig deeper into how this can be achieved and in doing so, have co-created a "BIG IDEA" that stems from the Full Day Kindergarten curriculum for this inquiry. Throughout our Ocean Inquiry, children are active investigators that can communicate their results and findings from individual and group investigations in diverse ways.  

With this lens in mind, Heidi and I have worked hard thus far to ensure that we dig deeper with our students to develop an understanding of this Big Idea and as a result, we continue to embrace this student-led inquiry and celebrate their learning in new ways! All in all, inquiry has allowed us in our classroom to truly reach all of our learners and through differentiation, we have been able to create a community of learners whereby motivation and determination are at the forefront of our program and planning!

Stay tuned to find out how our visit to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada gives us a new lens to dig deeper in our learning and inquiry around oceans and ocean life! 
Post coming soon!


For educators: The following Capacity Building Series article entitled, "Inquiry-Based Learning" is a great resource that helps unpack this exciting and engaging way of teaching and learning!