Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I have Learned Through Mini Inquiries

Well....we have concluded two mini inquiries in writing around the topics of "Early Residents of Colorado" and "Trappers and Traders".  What have I learned?????   Resources, Resources, Resources,   Conferring, Conferring, Conferring and Modeling, Modeling, Modeling!!!!

These inquiry projects focused in on our Colorado History units.  I began by front loading enough information to "hook the kids" and provide them background knowledge to launch their "wonderings".  This front loading looked different with each unit.  With Early Residents we read three articles about Mesa Verde, the Anasazis, and the Utes.  Small groups read the articles and made posters highlighting what they had learned.  They presented these posters to the class, thus teaching (synthesizing) the class their learnings.  They then fielded questions.  From there, students were introduced to a Padlet created specifically around these three topics.  This took A LOT of time to compile as student readability was a huge factor for students to access the information.  Students were set loose to peruse the padlet and record their questions.  They wrote down questions which we then used to narrow down the focus of their inquiries.  I modeled how to research a question I had and how to go about it using provided resources.  As students worked I conferred along the way...Our end project was a piece of non fiction writing answering their question.

Our second inquiry was on Trappers and Traders.  This time, we jigsawed a piece about this period of time in our history.  The focus was to be able to identify the main idea of each section of the text and identify supporting details.  We then literally "jigsawed" the information together into a giant puzzle.  Then they were let loose on a new Padlet specifically built around Trappers and Traders.  The inquiry questions this time were deeper.  Student focus in writing was to identify main ideas and provide supporting details.  These questions and answers were recorded into a Monopoly like game board where students landed on "Main Ideas" and learned about a section of Colorado History as written by a classmate.  These ended up being pretty cool and students had a lot of buy in in the process.

The padlets have proven to be an invaluable resource.  Starting small and building up resources has worked really well rather than just setting the kids free.  Interestingly enough the kids that struggled the most were my GT learners who are used to being able to find an answer to their questions quickly.  This time, they had to sort through a lot of different information and needed to use their inferring skills to make meaning.

Not sure where we are headed with the next inquiry...but with testing next week, and Spring Break after that....I have plenty of time to figure it out.

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