Curious Classroom Book Study: Address Curricular Units with Mini-Inquiries

Friday, 4 August 2017

Chapter 8

Inside This Chapter

Given the curricular demands in today's education, most of us are not in a position to completely work from children's questions.  As nice as that might sound, we have standards we are required to meet.  

This chapter addresses ways we might do this while still using inquiry methods.  One suggestion is to  use a "hooking device" to get children interested in a unit of study by finding the "one most fascinating, weird, disgusting, bizarre, puzzling, amazing, funky thing."     Included is a kindergarten example of how one teacher incorporated children's questions into a required unit on weather.  Another, described a gym teacher's challenge to integrate writing with physical education.

What I've Tried

One method I've used that has worked well to pique student's interest is the mystery box, bag, or object.  This can be done by first finding an object that relates to a unit you are beginning, or even in the middle of, and encourage children to inquire about it.  You can hide something in the box or bag and give children clues or invite them to ask questions to discover the contents.  See how I used this technique to launch a required plant unit!

Alternatively, you can choose a less familiar mystery object, let children observe its properties and guess its name or even its purpose.

Find the Mystery Object recording sheet here!

What I'd Like to Try

I really enjoyed the "Scary Tornadoes" write-up on page 144, where a kindergarten teacher, Kari Ridolfi, shares how she got her five-year olds excited about weather.

She began with a personal story (great idea!) about a terrible storm that hooked the children and led to an interest in tornadoes and weather safety.  She then tells how she organized the children in research groups and describes the environment by stating, "The room was buzzing with excitement as students recorded their new learning, using combinations of pictures and words, on think sheets."  I appreciated her real life take on this process when she shared that "inquiry work with thirty-one kindergarteners (oh my!) is always joyfully messy."

The children's work was then made visible on a bulletin board (page 145) that tells the story of the inquiry. This photo inspires me to move away from cutsie displays toward a more authentic showcase of the children's ideas and thinking. I've made some attempts at this, but haven't yet fully embraced this type of documentation.

So how's it going for you? Is there curriculum you are required to teach?  How might you infuse inquiry into these units?

Thanks for stopping by!


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