Reggio-Inspired Kindergarten: Planning for Inquiry

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Summer learning included a week long stay in Ontario, Canada where I attended the Transform Ed Workshop Series, given by Joanne Babalis.  There she shared her experiences with a Reggio-Inspired Approach to learning and her Masters' research on the seven layers of Inquiry-Based learning. 

The seventh and final layer, and the focus of this post, is planning. Other blog posts discuss the other layers that include image of the childtimespacematerialslistening, and documenting

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" felt scary because I did find 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 mapping curriculum.

So I found myself struggling with what seemed to be somewhat of an oxymoron, “planning for inquiry.”

Finding Help

Two things were helpful in coming to grips with this.

First, to remember that when it comes to inquiry-based learning, I am somewhat of a newbie 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.

Kindergarten Research Groups

When I began to plan, I knew I needed some sort of framework to organize the muddle of new learning that was circling around in my head.

What evolved was 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. Each research group's investigations would be built around the children’s questions and interests. 

In addition, I chose several core experiences for the whole class, including shared texts, mural work, and Nature Walks,  that would be repeated with each season.

This was very different than the theme units I’d planned in the past. I chose a broad umbrella topic that I felt was relevant to my students’ immediate world and stage of development, but also met curriculum standards and left much room for choice and interests.  I was careful to leave much of it open-ended and to remain flexible in my thinking and planning.

Layers of Inquiry-Based Learning

This post brings me to the end of a series on the layers of inquiry-based learning.
I am grateful for the time I have had this summer to read, reflect, and write about what I have been learning.  Next, it's off to the classroom to apply what I have learned.

What have you learned this summer? What changes will you be making?

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?