Curious Classroom Book Study: Capture and Honor Kids' Questions

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Chapter 3

In This Chapter

While the first two chapters of The Curious Classroom encourage us to create a classroom culture of inquiry, through Demonstrating Our Own Curiosity and Investigating Ourselves and Our Classmates, chapter 3 explores frameworks for working with children's questions.  Author Harvey Daniels says, "If we are going to build our instruction out of kids' questions - whether these arise from a required curriculum or emerge from children's free-range curiosity - we need a system."  

The author goes on to define what it means to honor children's questions: 
  • actively and regularly solicit kids' wonders
  • allow ourselves to be interrupted
  • are open to being amazed
  • create a keeping place for kids' questions, return to it often, and keep it fresh
  • make time for children to pursue their questions
  • model how we find answers ourselves 
  • create sharing opportunities within and beyond the class

The rest of the chapter offers practical ideas on what Daniels considers to be a "little harder task," which is providing opportunities for children to work on their own questions. Ideas include setting up and maintaining a wonder wall or window, using idea notebooks, and creating a family wonder wall for back-to-school night. 

What I've Tried

When I first began to work with inquiry, I leaned in slowly by creating a curricular structure around the concept of change that allowed for children's questions.  Each season, the children chose a new research group (plants, animals, weather, and people) and posed one question for their group to explore.  Groups worked together to answer the questions and then shared what they learned with the rest of the class.  You can read more about these fall and winter inquiries from previous posts.

By the spring of that year, I had become very tuned in to children's questions and interests, but found I did not have the freedom to pursue these due to the structure I had created and felt committed to.  So the following year,  I remained open to what might present itself, and the problem soon became, not one of finding questions, but of choosing which questions to explore.  I found the answer in looking at my standards and deciding which inquiries would best help us meet our curricular goals. 

What I'd Like to Try

While I'm familiar and intrigued with the idea of a Wonder Wall, I've been hesitant to try this, for fear that I wouldn't be able to keep up with all the questions the children might post.  Also, I've learned that questions develop naturally across the day, so I wasn't sure I had a need for this.  But then I began to think about how the Wonder Wall isn't just about finding questions (this is the easy part!), it's about capturing and documenting them and this made me give it a second look.

Here are some thoughts that came to mind:
  • Grouping similar questions together was a great strategy the book offered and would not only make it more manageable for me, but would be a great real-life skill for the children to be involved with.
  • Not all questions have to be explored as a whole group, children can research the answers to their own questions during choice time and then share their findings with the class. 
  • Not all questions have to be answered right away. Some questions might be saved and coordinated with upcoming studies. 
  • Not all questions have to be answered! While the book didn't actually say this, it did invite us to jot down our own questions and it didn't take long for me to realize that I have more questions than I will ever get to in this lifetime!  
While the Wonder Wall doesn't need to be fancy (post-its on the back of a file cabinet will do fine), there are a lot of creative ideas on Pinterest that might inspire you!  I created a Wonder Wall board that you can check out for ideas:

Have you tried working from children's questions? If so, what worked well?  If not, what would you like to try?

Thanks for stopping by!

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