|Photo Credit: Claudio Gennari ..."Cogli l'attimo ferma il tempo" via Compfight cc
Increased Opportunity for Inquiry, Wonder and Curiousity Learning
I love how excited children are when they make discoveries in their own environment. The excitement of looking at a colourful maple leaf that has fallen to the ground or the size of the puddle that miraculously formed in the playground. There is authentic learning happening all around us and I want to take better advantage of that as a way to promote/encourage/support life long learning.
Now I certainly wouldn't say that my classroom has been void of inquiry in the past. I've focused on getting outside more, providing my students with more choice and control over their learning, increasing meaningful opportunities for authentic connections, and integrating technology as a tool to help with thoughtful, meaningful ways of learning. Choice is huge in my classroom which allows my students to explore in ways that work best for them. We also wonder a lot, and do our best to follow through with those wonders. I loved watching our various Wonder Walls explode with curiosity questions last year and the things we did to find some answers to our wonders. But there is so much more I'd like to be doing with my students.
I'll be the first to admit that I struggle with this, which is why I've made it one of my goals this school year. I find I get bogged down in a timetable that seems to dictate where I need to be and what I need to be doing. It leaves me with small chunks of time to start some inquiry just to be rushed off to somewhere else. I also get bogged down in the fact that it is my responsibility to give my students the skills to read and write. The number one thing families want for their children in my class is that I teach them how to read and write. It's a high expectation but as a grade one teacher it is what I am required to do. I take it very seriously too.
I also know that inquiry is authentic learning and provides an incredible opportunity for authentic reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I don't need to be sold there. But I also know that my students need explicit lessons on how to read and write too. So what am I doing to get there?
First off I am doing my best to add and continue the "wonder" nature in my classroom. I am encouraging my students to ask and wonder about the world that we live in. In addition, I applied for tools of inquiry through the "My Classroom Needs" program and was successful with my application. Soon our classroom will be filled with early childhood magnifying glasses, bug boxes, ECE microscopes and so many other cool tools for inquiry.
My class and I are part of a year long inquiry called "Looking Closely" with other classes around North American (and the world?) . I have increased the number of nonfiction books in my classroom and we are slowly working through the Looking Closely series by Frank Serfini. Our discussions have been rich and it has motivated us to look more closely at the things around us.
I am also looking at revamping my timetable yet again. I am going to change the structure of my Wednesday completely. Yes the day will still begin with Physical Education, and end with time with our Grade 6/7 buddies but the time in between is going to change. Inquiry will be the focus of the rest of the day. If we start a project in the morning we will have the opportunity to continue it after recess, and again after lunch. The reading, writing, and math will be embedded into our learning, and not as a subject scheduled through out the day. I wish learning could be like that every day but I'm not ready to go there yet. We'll see though. I am very curious to see how this new Wednesday will work out.
To help me get started I've been reading a lot. Books that I've read or are reading include A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough and Passion-Driven Classroom: The Framework for Teaching and Learning by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvoid. I am in a professional book club with my school district where we are reading and discussing Comprehension and Collaboration - Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. I'm reading many blogs written by classroom teachers who are doing what I'd like to be doing in my classroom. One such teacher is Angie Harrison and I am constantly learning a ton from her classroom blog. I'm intrigued but what is happening in Reggio Inspired classrooms too.
I am also trying my best to get the families of my students involved as well. I have designed an "Expert Project" to help my students learn more about their passions. It's a home project, with no pressure at all, but it's designed to help foster a love for life long learning with my students. I'll write more about it as it develops but right now I'm excited to know that I have students working on their passions in their own homes, and getting ready to become experts for our class.
So this is a little bit about where I've started and where I hope to be heading. I'd love to hear how you're dealing with inquiry in your learning environment. Feel free to send any blog post links, book recommendations or "people I should follow". Or share your stories about how you're tackling the demands of a timetable with the desire to inquire more. I'm curious to learn how to do it all!