If you are getting started with inquiry, you may wonder where to start and how to prepare for something that is student-led. Although using an inquiry approach removes you, the teacher, from the absolute power position; you still have plenty to do to prepare yourself to get ready for inquiry. I wanted to share a few of the steps that I take to plan my inquiry units.
Planning for inquiry is different. There is more to do ahead of time. You have to be purposeful and knowledgable. However, once this is planned the day to day planning is so much less as you work with students day to day to direct the learning together.
Here are a few of my steps for planning inquiry.
Look at Your Standards / Curriculum
Pull it apart
Put it in order
Find common ground
If you are like me you might be teaching a combined class. At the very least you will have students in your classroom that require accommodations and modifications beyond the grade level you have been assigned. So this is where you need to find common ground and activities where there is common ground.
Sometimes the content is so different that you can’t and you need to look for similar tasks with different subjects like experiments or research opportunities to align together so that the instructions are the same but the learning is different.
To differentiate the learning for different abilities you need to plan some tasks that have multiple entry points so that the output of students can be adjusted to meet individualized learning needs.
Begin to Research
I cannot stress this enough, if the teacher doesn’t understand the content then the students
won’t either. If you are planning for inquiry directed learning to happen, you need to know your stuff. You can’t always rely on textbooks.
Hop on google, ask your own questions, and know the content. I often have to do this when creating my units. Learning the content at a more in-depth level than your students is important.
Do you understand how a catalyst is used to speed up the polymerization process to make plastic? This was one of the many topics I explored when creating my unit on matter.
Planting the Evidence
Starting your learning off with a provocation and beginning to build your WonderWall is an important step to begin your inquiry. This is where your selection of materials will help you to set the stage for your inquiry and to help you to guide the students to focus on the questions that relate to what they MUST learn. If you put at word card with the word Sublimation then usually at least one student will ask the question “What is sublimation?” By setting up your WonderWall discussion with activities and questions such as
- Look at the artifacts and cards, one at a time share what you notice about something you see
- How could you sort these artifacts
- What questions do you have or what do you wonder about what you see?
You Don’t Need All of the Answers
However, you can guide and lead the student there in authentic ways.