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Jazz, Will Rogers, and Saving the Earth – Elementary students Questions in GID

As you might imagine as we move down the spectrum of levels in this “vertical” look at inquiry questions will include more simplistic questions at the elementary level.

In today’s post we have a few student questions from Kelsey Barker from three of her GID units in her Elementary School from last year.

Kelsey is an active GIDer and has written for this blog multiple times. To read her other posts click here.

Photo credit https://www.emaze.com/@AFQCROTQ/THE-JAZZ-AGE

Photo credit https://www.emaze.com/@AFQCROTQ/THE-JAZZ-AGE

Last school year, Kelsey worked with the music teacher on a Guided Inquiry unit on music appreciation. In that unit, the fifth graders asked specific questions about the Jazz Age.

  • What was life like in the Jazz Age?
  • What was the impact of Ella Fitzgerald on Jazz music?

These questions are not the run of the mill fact based questions we typically require in research units for fifth graders. These are interesting questions! Teachers would usually have the content laid out and require that all students find out when the Jazz Age was? Where did the Jazz Age take place? and Who were the main people connected with this? These are not only easy to find the answers, (just Google it) but they are low level factual questions that require no critical thinking to answer. The right questions for inquiry, at any level, are the ones where students need to investigate multiple sources to address them. The questions above can be labeled as great student questions from an inquiry.

Photo Credit http://flyokc.com

Photo Credit http://flyokc.com

The Biography unit! Many states have in their standards a list of famous people that the students in third grade have to know. If they don’t have that list, then students typically have a biography unit at some point in upper elementary. That unit traditionally turns into that Bird Report that David Loertscher warned us about long ago, where teachers have students pick one person from a list and they get the required information about that person, date of birth, young life, challenges and successes and so forth.

In Norman, through working with many teams on how to make the traditional biography unit an interesting inquiry based unit, we have flipped that famous people unit on it’s head. Instead of a list we start with thinking about the concept of a legacy, or what makes people great or famous.  This becomes a natural way into reading many biographies. Through this GID unit students can learn about not one but maybe even more famous people in order to understand the concept of what makes people famous. One student’s real question from that work was:

  • Why is so much stuff in Oklahoma named after Will Rogers?

There you have it! The student actually asked the question that we want them to know! But this time, they have a real desire to find the answers to that question and their learning, as a result, will be much richer than if we had them pick from a list and find stock information about Will Rogers. Don’t you agree?

A small innovation to a traditional unit can make a BIG difference in how students respond and what they learn as a result.  That’s the power of GID.

Photo credit http://www.safetysign.com/products/p7440/recycle-symbol-sign

Photo credit http://www.safetysign.com/products/p7440/recycle-symbol-sign

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! What a great thing to teach our next generation!  Through a first grade unit on Recycling using Guided Inquiry Kelsey and her team’s students came up with their own questions like :

  • How does recycling help the earth?
  • Why do we recycle?
  • What happens when we don’t save water?

These are basic but real questions that the students had.  In the early years of using Guided Inquiry students learn that their questions matter and that they can actively find out the answers to their real questions through research. This forms the foundation on which learning how to learn through inquiry begins and develops over the years.

So ends my week of posts on student questioning!  Many of you will be starting school with students this week… to you, good luck and best wishes on a year full of student questioning and research to you all!

Leslie Maniotes

Author Guided Inquiry Series

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