Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"It came from outer space!" or Developing questions with Grade 4

I feel a little like the child who cried, "The emperor has no clothes!"  Really, there isn't too much to this whole inquiry thing.  I know I'm oversimplifying, but it seems to me that time and time again, all I need to do is listen to students, take them seriously, ask them questions to help them further develop their own interests, and off they go!

I don't mean to say that it's easy, it just isn't so highly specialized that we can't all be doing it with our students.  Their brains are teaming with questions.  Some are relevant to what we are currently studying and some aren't.  I'm sure many more than we think are relevant, but our "old" brains can't see the relevance.  That may not be worked out until long after we are gone. Just try not to cut off their interests; maybe just gently redirect them.

After we discussed and moved on from their curiosity about aliens (questions like "How many people have seen aliens?" just weren't getting us anywhere), the students in the Grade 4 class I worked with today had some really interesting things to think about.  One group of girls realized that what they really wondered about wasn't if aliens live on Neptune, but could human beings live on Neptune.

Also, we did get side-tracked by a group of boys obsessed with "Planet X", but when I took the time to sit with them to talk about their interest it turned out what they really wondered about was the impact of solar flares on Earth.  Don't ask how we moved from Planet X to solar flares, but it all happened through taking the time to listen to them and take their interests seriously.

Taking this time to develop questions with this class has allowed us to guide questions towards the Trans-disciplinary theme of Where We are in Place & Time and the concept of Connection.

I've been invited back by their homeroom teacher to continue to develop their questions tomorrow.  I'm really looking forward to helping them through this stage and on to the next: research.

They need space (and time) to study Space!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! So many teachers don't realise the value of listening to their students, not just their questions, but their conversation too. Knowing how to tease out the questions they haven't actually verbalised is a talent!Once we get that, as you say, inquiry is not that complicated!
    Will be sharing this with colleagues.