Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Final Thoughts on Inquiry

Upon entering this course, I felt that much of inquiry was related to Science. Knowing that I do not teach Science on a daily basis, this worried me a bit based on how I would complete the tasks at hand. Throughout my time in class, I have come to learn and realize that inquiry is not just taught in Science, but rather curriculum wide. Sure, there is a strong need for it in a Science type of setting, and it may fit best here, but I have also come to realize that inquiry is formed through various skills. I have found that these types of skills are what students should be exposed to in all content areas as often as possible to help create lifelong learners.

I definitely want to make the implementation of inquiry a personal goal of mine for future lessons and years to come because I feel that it opens the doors for students. It helps to provide a sense of ownership for their learning, and it teaches them to search for answers. I think that taking an inquiry-based approach to all content areas will not only help to improve the quality of student understanding, but of student enjoyment as well. Inquiry allows students to fully participate in their learning, rather than simply absorbing it. A key component that I have learned from this course is that inquiry-based learning does not need to be hands-on, and not all hands-on learning is inquiry. When students discuss, debate, hypothesize, and draw connections, they are inquiring. During this time they are also discovering new things and actively participating in the learning process.

Teaching students how to discover and learn through inquiry provides them a wonderful educational experience that they can carry with them forever. Many life skills are developed through inquiry, that will help to create contributing members of society for our futures. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about inquiry and I will strive to utilize these strategies within my classroom, and throughout all content areas, as often as possible!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Developing Thoughts on Inquiry: Week 6

In this week's unit, many things were discussed. For one, the concept of the 5 E's were introduced, along with a discussion on the integration of Web 2.0 tools and assessment. I teach in a Learning Focused school, therefore the whole idea of the 5 E's seemed familiar to me based on the fact that we are required to have these areas in our daily plans. Engaging, exploring, explaining, elaborating, and evaluating are all important keys to a successful lesson.    

The engagement piece involves a hook to get the students interested in the task at hand, along with discussing the Essential Question of the lesson. Background knowledge and interests are activated and students are excited to learn. Within the exploring area, students have the ability to become actively involved in their learning. They feel safe enough to take risks and have a desire to learn more about the topic. Here they also begin to connect to their learning and share personal experiences. 

Next comes the area where the teacher explains the lesson and guides students. Here, students are able to explain the answer to the Essential Question and they can describe and explain what they are learning. After they are done explaining, students have the ability to extend their knowledge of the topic and can apply it to other situations or to the real world.

Finally, evaluation occurs. Evaluations include both formative and summative assessments throughout the entire lesson. Formative assessments are check ins throughout the lesson, and summative assessments of various skills will determine if the students mastered the overall topic.
I have learned this week that scoring is more commonly associated with formative assessments, and grading goes hand in hand with summative assessments. I do believe that formative assessments are crucial to the teaching process so that you know where your students are throughout their process of learning. I tend to do various check ins with my students such as thumbs up/thumbs down, clear, a little buggy, or totally buggy, or street light signs on their desks. These assessments are not only important for the teacher to gauge student understanding throughout the progression of a unit, but they are important for the student so they can gauge their own understanding of the material in preparation for the summative assessment. I stress to the students that they must be willing to take risks in order to learn, and that these check ins allow them to see where they need to work a little harder. 

This week's unit also stressed the idea that technology is an integral part of the formative assessment process. With all of the available web 2.0 applications that are available  online, most of which are free, it would be silly to not include these in our every day lessons. I have found a few that I love using such as Wordle, Tagxedo, Kid Blog, Glogster, Edmodo, and Prezi. All of these tools allows students to participate in their own learning, as well as allowing me to perform a formative assessment throughout the lesson. I do not always look at each of these assignments via Web 2.0 tools as a grade, but rather as an evaluation of their application of the skills being taught. I am always curious to find new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom, especially for formative assessments. 

Each elementary school in our district, along with a few individual teachers, have a set of clickers that allows students to respond throughout a lesson. I am curious to try something like this so that I could accurately judge their learning based on their intitial responses throughout the entire lesson. I think the students would also enjoy something like this, and they would be actively engaged the entire time.

I don't have any burning questions at this time, but I am enjoying this class and the fact that I have had some experience with the technological tools being used. It gives me a bit more confidence when taking these tools and applying them to my lessons, assessments, and evaluations.