To Inquire (at their level)

Teaching and Learning at their level.

This has been a year of personal growth for 3 reasons. The district eliminated the entire department that supports educational use of technology in the district, I chose to teach a Grade 6 class based entirely on a series of Inquiry-Based Learning themes I created over the summer and finally that the class has many students with behaviour and self regulation challenges.

I have had to embrace failure and alter my expectations. It has been painful to have 100’s of learning tools and opportunities in my repertoire and students not being ready to learn the way I teach. Independent work, self-directed learning, and small group work has not been successful. Technology glitches have added another layer of complexity where I cannot focus on troubleshooting with a student and leave the class to self manage for more than 1 minute.

As challenging as it sounds, and the many failed attempts, we have continued learning though. FAILure is a First Attempt In Learning. As a result we have had many attempts and I have adapted my plans to provide much greater scaffolding of activities to manage the academic, behaviour, and Social/Emotional challenges.

As a class, we will be looking at the overarching question of “How would BC be different without Fraser River salmon” Each student will develop their own question and have genius time to explore their questions.

Developing their questions is very difficult. Instead of starting with a question like – “What are you curious about with salmon?” We need to work together through a worksheet exploring ideas, concepts, terminology about salmon. We need to look at questioning words and model statements of curiosity. Then we model and explore the language of curiosity as it applies to salmon. I have found going step-by-step through the worksheet as a class provides better understanding of what I am asking, more activating of their prior knowledge, and making connections to be able to wonder, or be curious.

After this I read Salmon Creek (by Annette Lebox and Karen Reczuch) aloud and we gleaned and defined the vocabulary, and connected ideas (Bears, estuary, rainfall etc). I then provided 10 minutes for students to visually ‘search’ Google with an idea based on vocabulary. With increased awareness and curiosity, they were able to create a KWL chart with at least 3 ideas in each.

A surprising discovery was that students were using image search to explore ideas and learn more. Once they found an image of interest, they followed the image to its site for more information.

Throughout the process I have been true to the idea of inquiry even though I have had to direct teach and lead to a much greater extent than I want to. Many students struggle with basic sentence composition so we have side-tracked to remediate that skill set.

I had hoped to fully integrate all of the subject areas into my Inquiry-based units. I have found that the diversity requires such as high level of differentiation to remediate weak or missing skills that integrated math is too much for the students (and for me to assess every student with the skill they are currently going to need, then provide remedial opportunities individually)

A core realization is that I am able to maintain the inquiry theme woven into the many scaffolded, structured, and teacher directed activities while they grow their literacy, numeracy, and independent learner skill sets.

I have accepted that I am not teaching the students I was expecting and that they can still learn the Big Ideas through inquiry. I think next year will be easier where I am not developing brand new Inquiry units and developing remediation for the breadth and extent of their diversity.

After the extensive work just to develop the questions, students will be printing and posting their questions on our board tomorrow.

I am looking forward to continuing this Inquiry.

Project Title – Where are the salmon?

Big Ideas
Salmon have been and still are critical to British Columbia

Essential Understandings
How would BC be different without salmon (focus on Fraser River)

Guiding Questions
What role does salmon have?
What has happened to salmon use / stocks?
How could we cope if all the Fraser River salmon died?

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