To start off building inquiry into my social studies class, I decided to approach it as a skill based 'workshop' once a week where we just mingle, ask big questions, and maybe try and tie it into our materials. Ultimately, I just want my students to be comfortable with BIG questions, so that when we start out first inquiry project in a month or so, they aren't blindsided by the magnitude of the question I propose to them.
Today, we used a set of 3 inquiry questions.
1) Should teens rebel?
2) Is conflict necessary for change?
3) Is freedom ever free?
The first two that we approached, I let students chat with a group they were comfortable with for approximately 5 minutes. I also inserted myself into certain student groups to get a bit of the conversation fired up or if it was going well I just listened to the conversation. Then we did a 5 minute group chat about the question as a class where I asked more questions or probed for deeper meaning (this was me modelling that next level of inquiry for them). This was the FIRST WEEK I have known my students (I just returned from maternity leave) and the first time I have ever asked them to try inquiry questions with me. The students were focused, interested and liked the openness of the questions. There were engaged and eager to get into the nitty gritty subject matter. I felt this exercise was even more successful that I thought it would be the first time around. For the third question asked to the students, I had students do a free-write (writing as much as they could possible get down in 5 minutes --- they could also mind map, type, record or draw) for their response in silence, and then we did the 5 minute group exercise. When they were writing, it was completely silent. Every. Single. Student. was writing furiously or typing or drawing. Completely engaged. The responses were, for the most part, meaningful and in depth. I also let students know ahead of time that this was a formative exercise, and I would be giving them feedback on their writing for next week. Here are a few excerpts from the student exercise:
"Freedom is a double sided coin. If someone tells me I am free, is the very act of them telling me a restriction on my true freedom?"
"Freedom has to be limited. Limits create boundaries that keep us safe. Is there were no boundaries wouldn't we all just live in chaos?"
"Freedom is always at a price. Wars were fought so freedoms could remain. Freedom is a not in and of itself free, but always comes with loss of something like human life."
"Freedom is something I decide I have."
Pretty cool hey? I thought so too and this is only week 1! My favourite part about the responses is that the students started asking MORE questions. They nailed it. So grateful to my students for their trust in me to guide them on this inquiry journey and honesty of their responses. Way to go! Here we come week 2.
Mrs. Katherine (Kate) Weber