Sunday, 16 August 2015

Planning (for Inquiry)

     As I began to explore inquiry-based learning, I found myself wondering about planning.  On one hand, planning, as a natural outgrowth of my observations and reflections, felt very freeing to me.  I loved the idea of being a responsive teacher and letting go of my unrealistic goal of having everything mapped out before the new school year began. 
     On the other hand, the idea of "no map" was scary because I found comfort in having the year neatly planned and laid out before me. I also knew that the school year can get pretty hectic and my “summer brain” did a better job than my “school year, on-the-fly brain” when it came to planning lessons.  So I found myself struggling with what seemed to be somewhat of an oxymoron, “planning for inquiry.”

     Two things were helpful to me in coming to grips with this. First, to remember that when it comes to inquiry-based learning, I am somewhat of a beginner and that what might be best for me right now is to lean into this slowly. Second, an article I read entitled, Levels of Inquiry-Based Learning written by Banchi and Bell (Science and Children, 2008). The authors write, “Elementary students cannot be expected to immediately be able to design and carry out their own investigations. In fact, most students, regardless of age, need extensive practice to develop their inquiry abilities and understandings to a point where they can conduct their own investigation from start to finish.”  They go on to describe four levels of inquiry and maintain that many levels can be used within a single unit. These levels make up a continuum and include: confirmation inquiry, structured inquiry, guided inquiry, and open inquiry.  The levels vary in the amount of information given to students in the form of question, procedure, and solution.  At the lowest level, confirmation, students are given all three, while at the highest level, open inquiry, students are given no information. 
     This article made me realize that I could create a unit for my students that included different levels of inquiry.  It gave me permission to do some preplanning (yippee!), while building in room for the children’s questions and areas of interest.  It led me to design a year-long unit built around the concept of change.  In this unit, we would examine how plants, animals, weather, and people change across the seasons.  The children would work in research groups to explore each area in relationship to the current season. The investigations that I would plan for these research groups would be based on the children’s questions and interests.  In addition, I chose several core experiences for the whole class, such as nature walks, that would be repeated within each season.

     Creating this unit was very satisfying to me.  I knew I needed some sort of framework to organize the muddle of new learning that was circling around in my head.  It was different than theme units I’d planned in past years as I was careful to leave much of it open-ended. I chose a broad umbrella topic that I felt was relevant to my students’ immediate world and stage of development, yet left much room for choice and interests.
    While my ideas about planning (as well as the other layers of inquiry - time, space, materials, listening & documenting) may change as I grow and learn alongside the children, I am grateful for the time I have had this summer to read, reflect, and write about my current foothold in an ever-evolving kindergarten journey.  What are your plans looking like for next year?

Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment :

  1. Hi Jackie! Love the blog so far. Congrats! I wonder how I will accomplish this as well. Di you create those templates?