I returned from my maternity leave last January right in the middle of a pedagogy change. We were learning how to teach using an inquiry approach instead of a teacher directed approach. To be honest this was not completely new to me previous school I had been teaching in had adopted this early so I was familiar with the concepts but the words being used to describe different tasks were different.
Sometimes it felt like the people around me were talking in a different language. I thought seriously about creating a teaching lingo of the past with teaching lingo of the present comparative dictionary to help me understand what people were saying.
The most ridiculous thing I heard (or so I thought at the time) was the term provocation board which as shown to me involved a table with random artifacts and the facilitators asking us to pretend that we are students and "wonder" about the objects on the table. (ps...I hate when you ask me to pretend I am a student...) I was so annoyed at this activity as I left being so confused and really I couldn't see how this activity accomplished anything about inquiry.
Ok so as time passed I asked a lot of questions about this concept of a provocation board. When talking to my principal one day he helped me to frame it so that I understood the reasoning behind it. Or perhaps I was just ready to hear it. "It was about sparking interest, curiosity, and giving them a jumping off point so that they were in control of their own learning, but (and this is the big ah ha moment) it didn't matter how you did this"
Finally I understood, I could use what worked for me and my teaching style to inspire enthusiasm, creativity, and interest in what we were doing. So my next unit I tried what worked for me and out came my Wonder Wall.
This is an example of the board that I use for my wonder wall. It is a trifold board. One side is for my fourth graders and the other side for my fifth graders. Sometimes I use these trifold boards and other times I just use my bulletin boards but this is great if you are lacking wall space and it also works to move around the classroom for students to use when you are working with them.
Instead of artifacts most of the time I use pictures that I print out in colour. If I have easily accessible artifacts like my rock collection or some small appliances from home I might use those as well.
Another thing I learned while implementing my wonder wall is that when students ask questions I really really want to answer them. I want to share my knowledge and have them soak it all in and teach them something. I am a teacher!! this is what I do!! I know stuff and teach about it!! STOP STOP STOP. I had to get myself to stop! This was not what inquiry was about. Sure, I am a teacher, but I am not as powerful or as knowledgable as Google. I mentally needed to stop myself and concentrate on not answering their questions but to ask them to add their questions to the Wonder Wall and allow them to figure out the answers for themselves. I knew that I was going to lead them through my lessons to these answers but I needed to stop just giving them the information. They would now have to start working for this information because I was not going to give them an easy way out. Sure later on in the unit we would have discussion on certain topics and I would explain different concepts to them. BUT we did this together. I was not teaching them I was facilitating them. Giving them the tools to let them find the answers to their questions on their own.
And you know what...a funny thing happened. They started learning faster than I had expected. They took those questions home and found out the answers to them. They would read books during independent time and find the answers to our questions. They were discussing these things with their parents at home. It was amazing to see how excited they were about learning these concepts which in turn also allowed our discussion at school to become more vibrant and engaging.
Sure there were times when a teacher directed lesson was necessary especially in the technical aspects of the units. But overall it was great to see them apply their learning in new and interesting ways. So lesson learned, perhaps I am a convert and the "ridiculous" idea wasn't so ridiculous. I learned that opening up my mind, listening and applying what I was hearing to my own style was probably the best course of action. Lesson learned :)
If you would like to see how I made my Wonder Wall for these units check out my Video below
If you would like to get started on using Wonder Walls and Inquiry in your classroom check out my units that have all that you will need to start and make your own Wonder Wall and Inquiry Science Unit check out my two new Science Units below.
Learn more about inquiry. Next up in my inquiry series