3 Quick Ways to Build Inquiry into Practice

  • Elementary
  • High School
  • Middle School
Mary Moser

Lights are off save a unicorn nightlight cycling through a rainbow of colors.  Two pouches have been consumed.  I’ve patted my three year old's back for 3 minutes then 2 minutes and now 5 minutes.  Yet, her eyes are open, staring up me, ready to ask me another question.  Her latest favorite:  “Why are you my mommy?”

Call it a delay tactic to bedtime if you want.  But, I find it super hard to not answer with a genuine, thoughtful response to her questions because she’s showing creativity and curiosity.  I’m worried that one day, she’ll lose those traits.

My hope, though, is that the teachers that my daughter encounters will read the standards with an eye for how to infuse inquiry into their practice.  And, she will be encouraged to keep asking “why” and then be given the reins to direct her learning to new understanding.

Two Minutes of Inquiry

One of the things that has emerged across the variety of professional development that I’ve encountered is the 10:2 Rule.  This idea that students, well and adults, can only handle so much new information before they need to be given time to process.  After 10 minutes of reading, instruction, lecture, you need to stop and allow students 2 minutes of time for them.  This could look like:  turn to an elbow partner and summarize one major thing that you just heard, review your notes and circle the key words, predict what the character will do next.

Absolutely, provide time for summary, clarification, verbal practice.  But, I want to work towards thinking about how those two minutes could be spent focused on inquiry for the students.  Adding “what if”, “how”, “what do you want to know more” type of questions.

Question Formulation Technique (QFT)

I presented on Growth Mindset and Inquiry recently to staff and noticed that the QFT was new to a lot of people in the room.  We talked about it a few years back on this blog and believe it bears repeating.  The QFT method  put out by The Right Question Institute has lots of free resources online, as well as a book, to help you get started.

The premise is that you have students look at a topic/theme/painting/text and in groups ask as many questions as possible within a time frame without their self-editor having a voice.  From this list, you can do work to help students learn about open ended versus closed questions, when those types would be appropriate, and how to change questions.  Finally, you can decide what happens next.  Better yet, the students can direct the work.  Take a question and decide that you are all going to do research to find the answers.  Take a set of questions and examine the novel you are reading or time period around those themes so you can have a discussion.

Try it at meeting, in your next PLC, at your dinner table, to see how bouncing ideas without judgement or answers spurs your thinking in new directions.  Might I suggest Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” or Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.

Types of Questions

Before I worked with AVID, I introduced my students to levels of questions using Bloom’s Taxonomy.  AVID uses Costa’s Level of Thinking.  Of course, we also have Depth of Knowledge with our Smarter Balance work.  The important thing isn’t which version of levels of questions.  What is important is that you help students recognize the different types of questions that are available to ask.  Why one would ask the different types at different times.  How to craft good questions.  This will not only help them become better at inquiry, but they’ll be better able to hold discussions without teacher help and they’ll be able to become independent researchers. All of which make them better capable to grown in their ELA standards as speakers, listeners, readers, writers and researchers.

If you haven’t asked them to think about their questions, try it next time you write a quiz or have a discussion.

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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Mary Moser Board

Library Media Specialist at Clover Park School District

I work as a high school Library Media Specialist in the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, Washington. This is my fifth year as a LMS, and my tenth year as a teacher.Before switching to the library, I taught 9th grade Humanities, which is the area that I certified in National Boards in 2013.

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