My apologies for loading three posts at once, I am travelling to NZ tomorrow for the IBBY Conference. (International Board of Books for Young People) so I need to finish my contribution to the blog.
Overall, Guided Inquiry provides a great framework for inquiry. In Australia we have recently overhauled many of our syllabus documents, particularly History, Geography and Science. Each of these syllabus documents now contains the language of inquiry. It has been a great step in the right direction.
Thanks for allowing me to share my journey.
In this Blog Post I thought I would share some problems and solutions that I have found – maybe it will be useful for others!
- Lack of time, always an issue, but I am convinced that any planning you can do beforehand will benefit you and your students, so that valuable time is not lost during lessons.
- Wide Range of reading abilities, I try and gather as many resources as I can including video clips and tool such as speech-to-text apps so that text is available to all reading levels.
- Challenging inquiry questions, I try to pass tricky questions on to ‘experts’ in the field and explain to students that there is not an easy answer to every question – a very valuable lesson.
- During the Share stage, it is wonderful to plan an authentic reasons for sharing – presenting to a real audience or solutions to a real problem is inspirational.
- Inquiry Circles, younger and more ‘egocentric’ students have difficulty with the sharing nature intended for Inquiry Circles. My experience is that students need training and direct instruction in how to participate in Inquiry Circles.
- Identifying meaningful Inquiry questions also needs direct instruction. We use the words like FAT and Skinny to try and build meaningful questions. If a question is ‘Googleable’ then it is probably not a suitable inquiry question. This also needs lots of practice and direct examples.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful.
A recent example of my Guided Inquiry work has been with a unit for Year 4 students on National Parks in Australia. This subject is close to my own heart as I am a bird watcher, bush walker and generally outdoors person. I have found that if you have a passion for an area of inquiry, then it helps to make it a great topic for Guided Inquiry!
We began our ‘Open’ session with photos of my trips and guessing what might be packed in my backpack. It included erecting my tent in the library space, which led to lots of excited discussion. During the ‘Immerse’ stage the classroom teacher and I had gathered a wide range of material including pamphlets, brochures, books and videos. We planned a round robin of immersion activities and began to find some interesting ideas that students wanted to investigate further. Co-incidentally Sydney was covered in a smoke haze from controlled burning in National Parks, so this made a great bonus for an inquiry. Our ‘Explore’ phase included a phone hook-up with a Park Ranger, which led to further questions and answers.
During the ‘Gather’ stage we used an Inquiry Log. I always find this stage the most challenging with each young students pursuing their own inquiry. Students were given a choice of ‘Create/Share’ activities, however most constructed models of imagined National Parks, incorporating much of the information they had gathered throughout the process. ‘Evaluate’ enabled students to self-evaluate the process as well as the classroom teacher and I to evaluate whether we had achieved our planned outcomes.