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Classroom Inquiry in Grades 1-6. Adapted from: Paul Vellom, WMU Department of Education. From the literature…. Oxford English Dictionary

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classroom inquiry in grades 1 6

Classroom Inquiry in Grades 1-6

Adapted from: Paul Vellom,

WMU Department of Education

from the literature
From the literature….
  • Oxford English Dictionary
    • Inquiry 1.a The act of seeking, esp.. (not always) for truth, knowledge, or information concerning something; search, research, investigation, examination.
    • attrib. and Comb., as ….. problem-solver, one who finds solutions to difficult or perplexing questions or situations; hence problem-solving n., the action of finding solutions to such problems;
from nses
  • National Science Education Standards -Pg 23

Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results. Inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations.

from a methods text
From a Methods Text…

Problem solving is also an important strategy for constructing and negotiating meaning.

Learning to Teach Science: A model for the 21st Century(J. V. Ebenezer & S. Connor; 1998) pg. 140-141

methods text continued
Methods text.. continued

In general, inquiry is finding out about something. It centers around the desire to answer a question or to know more about a situation.

Science Instruction in the Middle and Secondary Schools (Chiapetta, E. L. and Koballa, Thomas R.; 2002) pg 91

kinds of inquiry
Kinds of Inquiry:
  • Open  Guided  Directed
  • Students’ questions  Our (class) questions  Teacher’s questions
    • Motivation and interest are key here…
    • Also must consider how to intro abstract or new concepts
  • Given our need for accountability and a common set of understandings at grade level:
    • Guided/Directed Inquiry (most often)
    • Open Inquiry (for some topics)
before you design instruction
Before you design instruction:
  • “Dig in” to the topic (discuss & work with others, if possible):
    • Examine district or state benchmarks
    • Look over teaching materials, resources
    • Identify/craft learning statements (what do you want your students to be able to say/write at the end of the unit/lesson?)“Plants need sunlight in order to live.”“Plants make their own food using water, carbon dioxide, and energy from sunlight.”
begin with two events in any order but do both
Begin with two events, in any order (but do both!):
  • Find out what students know about the topic, in as much detail as possible


  • Pose a problem that focuses on "how does this work?" or "why does this happen?"
as you engage students in the problem topic
As you engage students in the problem/topic:
  • Work with students' notions, ideas, language so that the inquiry is "theirs"  "ours" (not "yours" alone).
  • Feel free to add terms/ideas that are central to your lesson/unit, so that students can use these in their thinking.
as you engage 2
As you engage…(#2)
  • Frame your work as, "Let's find out", and perhaps ask "How could we find out?" and value students' ideas about this.
  • Tell the students at least a portion of the path you will take to find out.
what scientists do tope by dr charles anderson msu
What scientists do: TOPE (by Dr. Charles Anderson, MSU)
  • Working on TECHNIQUES for observing, gathering data
  • Making OBSERVATIONS (using senses and sometimes using special tools) and recording them in an orderly way
  • Looking for PATTERNS in recorded data
  • Developing EXPLANATIONS using evidence from data
  • Specify Techniques that will be used
  • Students should record Observations by:
    • Writing (first draft rules)
    • Drawing & labeling
    • manipulating data and images
  • Should also be encouraged to think about "why".
  • Encourage talk and share/compare as needed.
investigate 2
Investigate! (#2)
  • Can include:
    • Experiments (controlling all but one variable)
    • Observational study
    • Structured play, modeling, role playing
    • Discovery activities
    • Using reference materials (texts, internet, video, etc.) for specified tasks/quests
    • Teacher-led demonstrations
    • Etc…
after sometimes during investigation a critical point
After (sometimes during) investigation: *a critical point*
  • Gather class data: pool your data/findings
    • By reporting out from groups/individuals
    • By recording on a big chart or overhead transparency (durable artifact here)
    • Other methods…
  • Seek Patterns in the data with students offering ideas and you "filtering".
develop explanations whole group class or pairs individuals
Develop Explanations: Whole Group/Class or Pairs/Individuals
  • Do this work with your lesson/unit learning statements as a guide.
  • Refer to texts, experts, other resources as needed.
  • Re-demonstrate with explanation as needed; employ diagrams, models.
  • Goal: Every student can explain.
explanations 2 and re cycling
Explanations (#2) and Re-cycling
  • As ideas different from desired understandings emerge, make decisions about:
    • 1) investigating more, or
    • 2) providing counter-evidence, or
    • 3) using discussion, comparing, reasoning out to refine/limit those ideas being considered.
  • Remember that investigation often leads to new questions! Value/honor this.
desired outcomes
Desired Outcomes
  • Every student should demonstrate understanding of the key concepts, terms, ideas.
  • Use a variety of methods:
    • Known-response: short-answer worksheets, multiple choice, true/false, matching, sentence completion, labeling diagrams, defining terms, “quick writes”, performance, etc…