Sunday, November 1, 2015

Inquiry in the Primary Grades, Part 3

Ok, if you have been following this series, you can probably tell, I am nothing, if not thorough. We are already at post # 3, and I've barely even touched on our main subject for inquiry...Bats!  Oh, well! The foundation has been laid, and it will serve my students and me well over the next few weeks.  Let's get started by looking at the first two stages of an inquiry cycle... Immersion and Investigation! (Stephanie Harvey and Harvey "Smokey" Daniels)

During the Immersion phase you will...

1) Plan with your Essential Question and topic in mind: If you remember from Part 1, I worked with the kids on constructing our Essential Question: How Do Bats Survive in their Habitats?  From there, I planned what skills and strategies I wanted my students to practice. For example: researching, non-fiction text features, main idea & detail etc... (all of these fitting nicely, into my district's current unit of study, for 2nd grade)

2) Gather materials and resources: Ok, this was interesting. This year,  I could not find one resource on bats, even in our largest public library. (It probably did not help that it was a few weeks before Halloween.) At first, I will admit, I started to panic a little. I mean the kids were all set to study bats. We had all these questions. I was worried that maybe we would have to scrap it, and start brainstorming a new inquiry topic. Thankfully, I kept my head, and realized that many of my students already had experience from first grade, using books to do research. I felt like the "teaching gods" were telling me that this was my opportunity to expose them to research in a different way. But, what?....Digital! Oila! There it was. One area I knew my students were weak in, was using digital resources.  So, I decided that those lessons would have to be incorporated into our inquiry unit.

Don't get me wrong. We are still are using books, too.  I had a few of my own, plus some Time For Kids and Reading A-Z books, that I had already printed out. One of our first grade teachers even game me an awesome non-fiction, Bat reader's theatre! But, online resources have definitely been, and will be, the heart of our learning.

(This is where I became really happy because I had found that awesome webmix from Matt Sutton on Symbaloo, and it is all about bats. You can find it in Part 1 of this blog series.  I, of course, previewed all of the resources ahead of time, so that I was familiar with their content, and what learning opportunities they could offer my students.

3) Immerse the students in the topic of inquiry:   In this stage, you are trying to build excitement, and curiosity about your topic. Before we dove into the fascinating world of bats, I had my students write down some things they already thought they knew about bats.  They wrote them on a post-it, and I added them to our bat chart.

We also did some shared reading, and kept track of our questions! We began using the language of learning and inquiry, to talk about our thoughts with our partners. "I learned..., I wonder..., I noticed..." What I love about inquiry, is that students really begin to realize that learning is a never-ending cycle. Each day that we learned something new about bats, we also had new questions! We posted our questions on our bat chart, too.

During this time, I also started to model how to take notes, and keep my learning organized.  I introduced bullets and codes like "L" for "new learning", and "Q"  for question. In addition,  I modeled how to "read" a photograph and diagram, and use labels and captions.

They even practiced reading and writing their own.

The immersion phase sets the students up for success in the next phase...Investigation!

During the Investigation phase you will...

1) Model for students "how to read with a question in mind": I pulled a pink post-it off of the bat chart. These are student questions. It seemed random to my students. But, I had already previewed their questions earlier, and had found the perfect question to begin our investigation. "Where do bats live?"  I gave credit to the student who had written the question. They love that!

Next, we made a T-chart for our topic. Notice that I wrote, "What We Think We Know About Bats." This is important, because we want students to be flexible enough to be able to change their thinking, when they are presented with new information.

I then modeled how to use a table of contents to find the section of the book that would answer the question. The students caught right away that they don't have to read non-fiction from beginning to end. We added that to our Fiction/Non-Fiction board from Part 2.  Yes! I love these kids!

Before I began reading,  I stressed that, as researchers, we have a responsibility to ensure that we share information that is correct. I gave them their purpose: 1) to listen for new information about where bats live, and 2) to verify, or discount, our original beliefs about bat habitats.  Then, I read aloud from the page about bat habitats, modeling my thinking and learning, while the students jotted their own thoughts, onto their whiteboards. Afterwards, we added the new information onto our chart, and placed checks next to the ideas that were confirmed by the text.

Then, after a quick review of our "collaborative rules," students practiced this in small groups, with additional bat books. They also used online resources during our computer lab time!

Woohoo! Look at those bullets! We are getting there!

At the end of the day, we came back together to discuss our findings. Some ideas were still unconfirmed, others were verified. We required others to confirm our new learning, and to cite their sources. Students agreed, and disagreed, with one another. We practiced our discussion etiquette, and students used sentence stems that I had provided for them.  In the end, we added quite a bit of new learning to our T-chart. (Don't forget to discuss the process as well, and add to your "Collaboration Rules" if necessary.)

We then repeated this whole process, the next day, with other questions from the bat chart. I chose questions from the chart about diet, adaptations, and the life cycle. The students went off to investigate their question with great enthusiasm! I walked around and conferred with groups and individuals, and took notes about accomplishments, challenges, and next steps.

At the end of the week, we had researched all of the questions most closely related to our Essential Question.  They were also given time to research their individual questions.  

It was a very busy week! But, also a week of tremendous learning and growth! I hope you are starting to see how you can make inquiry work for you and your students.

Check back next week for Part 4, on stage 3 in our inquiry cycle...Coalescing!



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