Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Reflection on an Inquiry Learning PD

At our staff meeting today we were lucky enough to have Jill Lunn guide us through some thinking about how we use the inquiry process in our school and classrooms. We began by brainstorming in groups what inquiry learning meant to us as teachers at Bailey Road School. My group as with most others discussed our own tailored approach 'TEACH' and our personal ideas about what we expected from using this approach. Although our group said that the inquiry journey was just as important as the end result, Jill pointed out that the end result was still very important, as it is a product the students produce that shows their learning journey.

Next we brainstormed the challenges that we felt we faced when teaching the inquiry process. My group came up with many ideas but the top priority ones were:
1. Questioning; students asking good open questions, relevant to the topic
2. Engagement; inspiring and motivating students
3. Providing appropriate age level resources
4. Students summarising and making the information their own

They best idea I got from this PD was at this point Jill ask if if was better to teach a child to question or to create or inspire their curiosity to ask the questions. Well no doubt for me is that I do want my students asking great questions, which means I need to develop the way I engage and inspire my students that awakens their curiosity to do so.

This is when Jill introduced the concept of 'Front Loading'. I love the image, just like my old washing machine, load it up! Front loading is about providing inspiration, vocabulary and engagement through a series of interesting activities that generate curiosity and questions from the students. A great one to start with is giving the kids each a number of sticky notes with topic related words on them and getting the kids to stick them in a pattern / grouping of their own devising, without telling them what the topic is, This is a great excerise to develop the topic vocabulary. This could be followed by WWWWH discussions. Having a large related picture covered in sticky notes slowly being reveled, creates lots of excitement and questions. Another activity in that lesson could be to give groups of students 'answers' and let them make up the questions, I really like that one! This could be followed by a game of Jeopardy and then drawing out questions that the children are now beginning to wonder about.

Overall an inspiring PD and has made me quite excited to start my next Inquiry Process with my class. Do you have an inquiry activities that you could share with me that work for you?
This slide show shows a range of thinking strategies we could be teaching and using.