Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Minds...Cyber PD...Part two

As I read through chapters 4-6, I found myself rereading two specific thoughts.  The two thoughts that I kept going back to did not contain information that was unknown to me, but "eloquently-put" known information that challenged myself to think deeply about past thoughts and develop them into new territories.  (This week's host is Jill at My Primary Passion.)

"Uncertainty is the foundation of inquiry and research." (page 59)

One of my strongest beliefs is that my students are in a classroom that not only appreciates wonder, but that the students in my classroom are surrounded by language and structures that nudge them to act on their wonder in the form of curiosity through conversations, questions, and facts.  Peter Johnston emphasizes the point that it is this uncertainty that promotes dialogue among the students and creates a structure that is an avenue to learning and inspiring new questions.  As I begin to create my "skeleton" of a schedule for the upcoming year, it reminds me how important an inquiry workshop can be to support dialogue, wonder, informational text, vocabulary, and purposes for learning in the classroom.

My vision for my inquiry workshop this fall still takes place in a consecutive three-day format.  (With this being said, this is not the only opportunity that the students have for the inquiry process or dialogue from uncertainty.)  The inquiry workshop format I use is to ensure that I have a structure in place that is predictable for the students and fosters each student's curiosity within our curriculum and our world.  Here is the structure I am envisioning for our inquiry workshop during the first quarter of the school year.  The structure of the workshop changes as we go through the year, but starts off predictable and guided.  On Day One...I use as a mentor text for modeling strategies and concepts that involve informational text. The Wonder of the Week that I pick integrates back to the curriculum that we are studying in any content area.  This is when we "quick write" about the wonder to build writing stamina and appreciate known knowledge, watch a less than five minute clip to stimulate background knowledge or wonder beyond the known information, annotate on the text, and formulate new wonderings through dialogue to celebrate the information called "I did not know that YET, but now I know so what am I thinking NEXT?"  On Day Two...I provide a variety of picture books or informational text on the topics that were developed through their new wonderings/conversations on Day One.  Students use the text to have dialogue about what was uncertain and share the new information they have found.  Mini-lessons include how to use text features to find a topic in an informational text, how to draw conclusions from text features, how to draw conclusions if your answer was not found explicitly, etc...  During first quarter, I gather the books for the students so we can focus on text patience (they are use to finding the answer right away with the Internet), manipulating an informational text for a specific purpose, sharing new information, and steering away from formal research. We then add additional wonders based on Day Two's "known" information.  On Day Three, we use the laptops to inspire dialogue and media reading.  Same process as Day Two but with a technology focus.  Many times our research goes back to

Here is an example of what occurred last year for one student:
Day One: I modeled a strategy with  Wonder 236 How Long is the Longest Bridge?
Day Two: The student researched the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Day Three:  The same student used Wonder 329 to answer their questions about fog.
See the connection?  Bridge...Golden Gate/San Francisco...Fog

My second thought...Last week I mentioned that I thought "next" should be added to the list of single words that change everything.  Here are some quotes I read this week that build upon that thought...

"Adding "Could you think of other ways that would also work?" is even better because it invites children to imagine alternative strategies..." (page 40)

"This has two advantages.  First, it takes what the child has already done and turns it into a successful agentive experience.  Second, rather than starting from scratch, it starts instruction with something the child already knows." (page 47)

"After responding to a piece of writing, showing that you are taking the writing and the writer seriously, you might offer a potential causal process." (page 46)


  1. I LOVE your post for so many reasons. The idea of inquiry workshop is perfect and how you organize it to build students learning and make all the connections is amazing. I appreciate your quote " rather starting from scratch, it starts instruction with something the child already knows." I missed that and will be adding it to my notes.

  2. Tracy,

    I am fascinated by your idea of an inquiry workshop. It really follows the adage that we make time for what we value. It is obvious that you value inquiry and what it can do for your students. You have definitely given me something to think about.

    1. I am glad that my passion for inquiry comes through over the Internet :) There is a resource that I often reread many times that explains and demonstrates four types of inquiry: mini-inquiries, curricular inquiries, literature inquiries, and open inquiries. The resource is called...Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels. I started with focusing on one type of inquiry and it snowballed into my inquiry workshop. Great read for k-12!

  3. I LOVE this, Tracy! I hope you don't mind if I borrow and tweak for my classroom next year. Thank you so much for sharing! I also love your use of "next" and how fantastic that you found quotes to affirm your thinking!

    1. Please borrow, tweak, implement, adjust and report back! Would love to hear how things go! Remember the framework I shared is how I roll out an inquiry changes as soon as the students are ready for more ownership....wonderopolis typically starts to go away from day one and is replaced by other resources that contain quality informational text, but it always stays in day three :)

      Don't forget to share what you experience or share thoughts that you come up with on developing this workshop for you!

  4. I really like how you took Peter's words and applied them to your inquiry workshop. This is something I'd like to implement in my first grade classroom, so I really appreciated reading about your format. Wonder and inquiry certainly do go hand-in-hand! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I did an extension of our workshop second quarter with our first grade buddies...we called it...Inquiry Buddies! Here is a link to that post to explain how we adjusted some of the thinking for first graders...

    Also, Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister is a great book for talking about asking questions at a younger level.
    And...Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action is a great resource by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels for examining the four types of inquiry in a k-12 classroom.

    Thanks for stopping by and come back to share your thinking if you do implement it! :)

  6. Thanks so much for sharing Tracy! I love reading about your inquiry workshop. What a great way to incorporate wonder, curiosity, enthusiasm for nonfiction and great conversations. Your post has my wheels turning thinking about next year... I also like asking kids, "Can you think of other ways that would work?" I think this would be important language for a math workshop.

  7. Tracy,

    I'm currently reading/listening to Daniel Pink's book "Drive" right now, and he talked about an Australian company that instituted "FedEx" days. People were given 24 hours to work on any project they wanted, but had to deliver something at the end. Here is a brief summary

    Pink goes on to talk about how some of the better known innovations from Google have come from the same sort of task - "non-commissioned work" - the work that people choose to do because they enjoy it, like Fanfiction and Wikipedia.

    This sounds a lot like your Inquiry Days - that the students have ownership in not just what they study, but how.

    My school is moving from a very traditional history curriculum to a humanities based one, which means not only a shift in content, but shifting ways of teaching and what is valued as learning. I'm planning on constructing more days of student inquiry and discussion, and your outline is a wonderful place to start thinking about how to structure it with enough scaffolding in the beginning of the year so the students are successful and not confused (though "uncertain" would be good).


  8. I love the idea of Inquiry Buddies!!

    And I think, just as important as INQUIRY and CURIOSITY is CHOICE.

    1. Inquiry Buddies is not only fun, but such a purposeful and engaging time! The one thing I would change is to have the first graders share favorite informational topics first, have the fourth graders find a book on that topic, read a section of that book with their buddy, share new learning, then develop a wonder and see if more information can be found in that book. Jumping right to their random questions was definitely challenging but well worth the ride! :) We had everything from strawberries, how hair grows on your head, and lots of questions about animals!

    2. Loved reading how you use WONDEROPOLIS as beginning and ending, then bring in other texts to allow kids to explore multiple resources. And I love how you craft the inquiry over a period of several days. And I can't wait to try INQUIRY BUDDIES at my new K-8 school! Thanks for sharing all of these great ideas!

  9. Like MaryLee, I really like idea of inquiry buddies.wedid that last year within our own class onto pics of their choice and it was very powerful. Also like inquiry workshop - would love to see how that might tie in on a regular basis to our workshop routines. Thanks for pushing my thinking.

  10. Tracy,
    Do you have that Twitter account yet???

    Sorry I had to ask. I know we need your voice out there. You'd love all you would learn. That being said, I appreciated your conversation about wonder. Maria and many others have me thinking more about wonder, and it fits well with Johnston's conversation on uncertainty.

    You have me thinking about the word "next." The argument for embracing the word "yet" is a compelling one, but I know I will need to consider it with caution. For example, I've been saying I haven't cleaned my basement YET for well over two years. For years I've been saying I don't know how to do my taxes YET. In other words, YET without action or a plan really won't move us forward. It acknowledges where we are, what we know, and that we feel something can change, but it doesn't take us down the road. That's why I like your "NEXT." I don't know how to keep the bugs out of my garden YET, but I'm doing some research to see if I can find a natural way to deter them. That action step is important.

    Isn't this insanity fun? Thanks for sharing your thinking. Looking forward to seeing you on Twitter soon.

    1. Yes the insanity is fun :) I don't know if you realize it but this cyber PD that you have organized with the others is expanding beyond the blogging world. Sharing everyone's thinking with other teachers in my life has definitely confirmed that "enthusiasm is contagious"!!!! have made me realize that I have been using YET with my goal of getting on Twitter!!!!! I haven't gotten on twitter YET...time to take the leap and say...I am getting on Twitter NEXT :) Don't know why it makes me nervous, excited...hmmmm....

      Happy I am getting to know you through the virtual world!

  11. Dear Tracy,
    So much of your thinking struck me. First, I like your use of the word next. I agree with Cathy, though. It's easy for me to use that word to procrastinate. I love your inquiry workshop idea. I used Wonderopolis with my third graders last year and it spurred so much thinking in our classroom. I may have to borrow your idea to expand on what I'm already doing in my room. :)

  12. Thank you for sharing your plan of inquiry. I've been reading more and more about Wonderopolis and have been struggling in my head how it may look in the classroom. I also agree with that word NEXT - a plan of moving learning forward.

    Enjoyed your thoughts! Thank you!