Friday, 29 November 2013

Session Four: Exploring the Word 'Inquire'

Written by Lindsay:
After a lot of time and effort we were able to put all the pieces together for all 20 of our Think Tank Bins. We have been looking forward to having the students dive into the individual bins since we began this project and it was clear that our students were too.

Our 'skeleton' was also eager to get out of the bin and stretch his bones!!
On Thursday we had the students do a walk through of the bins and do a little exploration before beginning our session today (Friday). This really peaked their enthusiasm as they were introduced to bins with titles such as "Stop Motion Animation", "The Impossible Spiral" "Be an Architect" and "Why is Origami Square".

Here are the names of the bins the students will be working with.

This session began with our opening circle where students were engaged in structured partner talk discussion. Students were asked to tap into their background knowledge and share what they knew about the word 'inquire'. Students were also asked to think about the Habits of Mind that they thought they might be using in this session. The students were very excited to get started with their bins. For this session we decided that for each of our classes we would determine partnerships that students would be working in and the bins that they would be starting with. Our ultimate goal is for students to self select partnerships, small groups or to work on their own and also to self select their bins.

Once the students had grabbed their bins and begun exploring their contents we asked them to pause and write down a question that they were wondering about. They used their reflection journals to do this. After that, the kids were engaged for a solid hour of pure exploration and investigation of their bins.
Exploring, sorting and categorizing rocks and minerals.

Playing with stop-motion animation.

Discovering snap circuits.

Mr. Bones stretching his legs (femur, tibia and fibula, as the students discovered)

Drawing out the floor plan to their 'Dream House'

In the afternoon, my class returned to the Think Tank to take part in our Reflection Circle. Once again, the students were asked to engage in structured A/B partner talk around their experience in the Think Tank today. After some discussion, the students followed four writing prompts to respond to in their journals:
               -What did you do in Think Tank today
               -What did you learn in Think Tank today.
               -What does the work 'Inquire' mean to you
               -How did your thinking get stronger today.

Teacher's Reflection:
All in all, I would have to say that today's session was quite successful. It was clear that they pre-planning that we put in place was well worth it. We were unsure how the students would handle working with their own bins but once again, all the students were engaged, working hard and wiring well with others. There were a couple of structural changes to be made and fine tuning of bins but those are all easy fixes.
After looking at the students reflection journals and seeing the questions they were asking it became clear, like with most tasks in a classroom, their is a wide range of abilities. Some students were able to ask meaningful questions and others were asking basic questions such as 'how long, how much and how many'. It might be helpful to incorporate a 'questioning' component to regular classroom activities to help encourage students to develop deeper, more meaningful questions.
Also, during the reflection portion of the session many students struggled with writing down a higher-level reflection. The first two prompts were 'do-able' for almost all students. The other two writing prompts proved more challenging despite the pre-discssion, the reference to the 'Habits of Mind' and other scaffolds. We may need to re-think how we ask students to write down their reflections. Perhaps they need more of a template to follow.
Here is a sampling of some of the students' reflections:

Stay tuned for Joys' reflection next week!!

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