Core of teaching and learning…Inquiry-based learning!

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Chinese Proverb

I believe inquiry-based learning is the key to developing students understanding along with assessing their knowledge. Inquiry based learning is involving the learner and leading them to understand by asking good questions. I believe it is the core of teaching and learning. Questioning along with finding answers is an exceptionally important aspect of inquiry based learning as it helps the teacher facilitate students to effectively generate knowledge.

I’m often surprised how many teachers want to always be right with their student’s, which leads them to not ask good questions. I think one of the reasons why I am successful in the classroom is because I pretend I don’t know the answer to problems to help probe the students to ask more questions. For example, when we do our inquiry-based experiment-Does it sink or float? students always ask, “Why does the diet coke float and coke sink?” I could answer this two ways; I could tell the student the answer or I could simply say, “I don’t know, what do you think?”

Good questions always lead to more good questions. This question now opens the student up to start thinking why and leads them to ask more questions such as; how would the cans react in salt water? Or does it matter if the soda is room temperature or cold?

If it doesn’t lead them to more questions then it leads them to at least wanting to know the answer. This is when it is important for the teacher to say, ‘Why don’t you see if you can find the answer,’ verse telling the student the answer. When students discover the answer on their own it impacts them more and helps them understand the process of learning. Within a few minutes at the computer the student found this great video that explains why diet floats. http://www.sciencedojo.com/?p=192 . This leads to a great opportunity to ask the next question; “When would you see this happening in the real world?” This brings students to make a connection to the inquiry-based experiment and the real world.

Inquiry-based learning is not just for science but for all subjects. When teachers ask good questions, it can motivate students to want to learn new things, investigate why things work or how to solve a problem. Students need to be involved in the learning process. Asking the right questions in the right way, and you’ll engage students!

Never Underestimate Students

“Never underestimate the power of passion.” Eve Sawyer

This week I was in a fourth grade classroom teaching while a teacher was absent. The saying, ‘Things happen for a reason’ came into effect for me. I re-learned an important lesson that has made me rethink some of the ‘programs/projects’ I wanted to implement in my school, as a math/science facilitator this year. It all started with a 4th grade boy.

To get to know the students better, along with having the students learn about each other, we did acrostic poems that describe ourselves. The students used their last names and for each letter they wrote a word or phrase that best portrayed who they are. I was blown away at the great word choices the students came up with but one student’s word choice has made me think for days! This little boy had a U in his name and wrote underestimated. When I read it, my first thought was, does he know what it means. I quickly found out not only did he know what it meant but he could tell me that he could do a lot more then what people think. He said he loved to learn new things but is taugh the same things. I found this motivating.

I instantly was determined to challenge this little boy. Then it got me considering how many other students might be thinking that they are underestimated too. No one should feel underestimated. I want students to know they are smart and can do anything. If they are feeling underrated then they feel no one believes they can do it when in fact I do believe any student can achieve.

This brings me back to my quote I started with, “Never underestimate the power of passion.” These students, along with many other students, have the passion to learn and we as educators can not let students down. How do we do that?

I know the key is to set high expectations but we also need to challenge the students and let them problem solve. We must facilitate in the classroom, posing high order thinking questions. It is essential to pretend we don’t know the answer to questions the students pose to us, so in turn the students find the answer.

Not underestimating students will be what I will be thinking about when I implement these new ideas. I hope this blog inspires others to not underestimate their students!

Passionate About Science Notebooking

“The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil to learn is hammering on cold iron.” Horace Mann

This week I taught a science Professional Development for elementary teachers in my district on incorporating Science Notebooking within the science curriculum. It got me thinking about why I started embracing Science Notebooking a few years ago.

It wasn’t until I decided to get my masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Winthrop University that I started to have passion for science. Professor Dr. Linda Pickett inspired me beyond words. She was so passionate about science. She made every class fun and engaging. I realized that I need to do a better job of teaching science. I wanted my kids to love coming into my classroom as much as I loved going to Dr. Pickett’s class. I taught all the other subject with enthusiasm, why hadn’t I with science.

That year, as I had taken her course over the summer, I decided I was going to implement Science Notebooking. I researched Science Notebooking and at that time there wasn’t a whole lot out there about it. I made up what expectations I felt were best and what rubric would best meet my high expectations and I launched Science Notebooking. I am not going to lie, I hit many bumps that year but I could see the difference in the student’s interest in science and summative test scores.

That summer, I tweaked my expectations, rubric and launching process and got the rest of my fifth grade team on board. That year our kids loved science! We started doing a lab every week, we were having fun and learning! Then I met Wayne Fisher, who also inspired me to be a better science teacher. (Wayne is our district level science coordinator.) His workshops and professional developments made me stronger. He introduced me to the 5E learning cycle and much more. He helped me to realize that what I was doing in my classroom not just with Science Notebooking was important. He got me started in teach professional developments across the district on many science topics which then turned into also doing other types of professional developments such as “Using Data to Drive Instruction.’

Now when we are at recess the students are ‘talking science’ by describing clouds, rocks and Newton’s Laws. They are always wondering, exploring and asking questions. What more could you ask for! This brings me back to the quote that I started off with. We need to inspire in order to get results and I believe Science Notebooking inspires the students because it is something real scientists do! On my blog scroll is a link to my website where I have resources for starting Science Notebooking. My hope for this blog post is someone will read it start Science Notebooking in their classroom and motivate more students to embrace science!

New School Year = New Beginings

“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.” Dave Weinbaum

This is the week when a lot of things are swirling around in my head- lesson plans, curriculum maps and common assessments. I still get the butterflies days before I start back! This year is no different. There are always new challenges no matter how many years I have been in education. But with the start of school brings new beginnings.

New beginnings encourage you to focus on what’s really important to you in your life. That being said, a new beginning for me is to find balance between work and home. It will be a challenge as I have always thrown myself into work because I truly enjoy it but if I have learned anything this summer; I have learned I need time for me so I can relax and do things I love besides work. In return I can then be a more effective educator.

In the midst of new beginnings also brings adventures and time to make improvements possible. This year I welcome failure as it is a sign of learning. I will be open-minded to all ideas shared and I will also voice my ideas without being nervous that no one
will like them.

Good luck to all my fellow educators, may you figure out what your new beginning encourages within you!

Vision

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making positive difference” Joel Baker

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I want this blog to be. A great educator told me to make sure you set a vision so you can accomplish what you want. I took this advice to heart and took days to really think about what I wanted to accomplish. My current vision is below. I am sure it will change as all great visions do over time but for right now, I am happy to be on the right path to bettering myself and my profession.

Vision: To collaborate with educators to make a difference in education through improving methods and reflecting. I want to seek new perspectives, take risks and continue to pursue my passions of curriculum and instruction, technology and 21st century learning.