I have really been working hard on strategies to make my students’ inquiries visible, not only for my benefit but for theirs too. Over the last two weeks, my students have been conducting research as part of our unit of inquiry. The central idea is:
“People’s ideas and actions can cause a shift in thinking and change the course of history.”
I decided that I would base the whole unit on what the students already know, rather than try to fill their minds with information from videos and texts. I really wanted to take a wholly constructivist approach. To do this, I developed a number of resources and the kids used them in this order:
- The Prior Knowledge Tag
- The Construction of Knowledge & Understanding Tag
- The Research Skills Checklist
- The Knowledge After Research Tag
The students did not start any research until they had generated useful questions as a result of filling in the outer section of the “Construction of Knowledge & Understanding Tag”.
After completing each tag, the students pinned them up around the provocation question on the notice boards in our room. This makes their inquiries and their thought-processes visible.
It enables them to use each other’s thinking and it enables me to assess their thinking. It enables my colleagues, other students or visitors to get an immediate idea of what the students are thinking about and inquiring into right now. When our unit of inquiry reaches an end, the students will be able to pull down their tags and use them to reflect and to gather evidence of their thought processes and the paths of their learning.
Classroom displays are powerful when they are dynamic and truly represent the thinking that is going on at the moment.
Classroom displays are powerless and obsolete when they are static and represent the thinking that has happened months before.