Inquiries in the classroom are absolutely fascinating from the teacher perspective. While inquiries engage students in learning, inquiries also engage the educators in focusing on their individual learners. I learn so much about my student by watching them engage in inquiry tasks. I quickly figure out what they don’t know, what they already know and of course what they skills they need to move forward. But I also feel it goes deeper than that. I feel I get a true opportunity to see my students persevere, problem solve and demonstrate their level of critical thinking. I am not hung up on the final results of an inquiry. I am enthralled with the process and where an inquiry will lead or fade out. I never fully know what will happen throughout an inquiry and that sometimes scares me but it also keeps me engaged and excited about the next pathways.
If you have read my previous posts you know that I provided some provocations for a shoe inquiry for some of my learners. We read and watched Pete the Cat loves White Shoes. The students absolutely loved the videos and songs and still ask every day for some “Pete the Cat”. The challenge provided was authentic. Can we make shoes for our dolls in the house center? The students struggled and made many attempts at shoes. Flip flops were the shoes of choice due to the ease of putting on and off the doll. I was able to observe who gave up quickly and who persevered. I reflected on the reasons they were or weren’t successful. I have thought long and hard about what to do to fill their gaps and help them through the process. Do I care if we have shoes for our dolls? Not really. That wasn’t really the purpose. The purpose was to find a task that would engage a group of students who I felt were ‘stuck’ at the art center. They were not engaging in problem solving tasks and continuously were created 2D art work over and over. I wanted to extend their learning and increase their ‘tool kit’ with more experiences in 3D creations and problem solving.
A few things happened that surprised me. One of my ‘focus’ students initially was excited and started on the journey of shoe making. She had a few failures and then I introduced sewing techniques. I’m not a strong sewer. My husband (@Bharrisonp) actually does the button mending in our house. I sew ballet shoes twice a year and that’s only when I can’t get the shoes to my friend Karen Dance (@CBCListener) to do it due to time restraints. I introduced sewing and realized the students didn’t have the lacing or weaving concept yet. I then spoke to one of my colleagues, Mrs. Greenham who comes in during my preps. We discussed ways to demonstrate weaving and sewing. I hole punched some foam bears tied on a piece of ribbon and put out cotton balls. Students learned the lacing technique and created some 3D bears. Mrs. Greenham showed the students some purses her young daughters created and discussed the lacing/sewing involved. Students were provided with hold punches and wool and invited to create whatever they wished.
On our walk to the pond we saw many bird nests and the students investigated nests and the weaving involved. Some students created mini nests using the weaving technique taught by Mrs. Greenham. (@GreenhamJenn) We will continue to provide opportunities for our learners to engage in weaving and sewing and then present another challenge and see if the children can incorporate their new skills into the challenge.
I believe the inquiry is not about the end product or solely about the culmination of knowledge. I believe the inquiry is a way for teachers to discover, reveal and extend student learning. The inquiry is a process and teachers need to view it as such and take the time to observe, assess, reflect and extend. It was never about the shoe, it was about perseverance, uncovering skills that are missing, scaffolding learning and extending opportunities for new learning. We might try shoe design again or we might try a different challenge that incorporates their new abilities. The inquiry process is such a wonderful vehicle for teacher learning.