Enthusiastic students from Years 4, 5 and 6 sit in a circle at the end of the day and share reflections on our Program of Inquiry. I tell them the teachers are considering which units to keep and which need changing and they are eager to have their say. As always, the children’s insightfulness delights me!
I ask them to write down what makes a unit of inquiry worthwhile. They put their initial thoughts to one side and spend some time examining the K-6 curriculum document, expressing their opinions of the units into which they have inquired this year. Green stickers for the ones they have loved and felt they learned a lot. Red for the ones they didn’t enjoy at all. Yellow for the ones in between. (No sticker at all if you can’t even remember the unit!) They discuss the units in pairs, paste their stickers and record their reasons for these ratings. Next I ask them to think about all the units from the preceding years , share the ones they still remember well and consider why they remember those. One girl remembers a unit she explored six years ago because ‘It had strong personal connections. I like units that are about me.’
Finally, they return to their original statements and refine them, now that they have reflected more closely on the units of inquiry. Here are their thoughts on what makes a good unit of inquiry:
A worthwhile unit of inquiry has/is…
- Lots of options so kids can choose what interests them (Mischa)
- Activities that engage you and take your freedom to another level (Brodie)
- Ways that kids can connect to the inquiry (Jesse)
- Excursions, incursions, projects, building things, freedom to learn. (Zac)
- One that students have connections to. Relevance to everyday life. (Mia)
- Fun, interactive, different materials, getting your hands dirty. (Mia)
- Freedom for students to inquire into what interests them (Tammi)
- Enough for kids to explore. Not too small.
- Open ended, so we can figure it out for ourselves.
- Skills and knowledge that will help for the future.
- Freedom to lead your own inquiry. Hands on experiences beyond the classroom. (Benji)
- Complex questions you can pursue without running out of material. (Yoshi)
- Enough time to go deep into your questions. (Yoshi)
Their reflections about the specific units of inquiry turn out to be less valuable than the bigger picture. Ask yourself these questions about ALL the learning in your class?
- Are there options for the learners to investigate what interests them?
- Are there possibilities for everyone to connect to the learning?
- Do the learners have freedom to explore?
- Is the learning relevant to their lives?
- Is the learning engaging and challenging?
- Are there opportunities for play?
- Is it open-ended so learners can figure things out for themselves?
- Are there opportunities for development of skills and knowledge for the future?
- Does the learning extend beyond the classroom?
- Is there enough time to for deep learning?