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Jumping into Inquiry

What do you want to learn?
31 January 2012
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Author: Brooke Moore
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We had scheduled a Skype conversation Thursday afternoon, which is probably why Shelley Wright and her inquiry-minded ways were on my mind when I met with my Grade 8 English class Thursday morning. I had had a beautiful lesson plan ready to go; it involved a Venn diagram and some discussion that would lead to an epiphany about The Outsiders and life. It was a beautiful plan.

But then I opened my mouth and this came out: “what do you want to learn?”

My students played along and we ended up circled around ten of our favourite questions. We needed to come to consensus, so I asked one of the students to keep a speakers’ list and notified everyone that I would be part of the circle.

Liam threw me a sharp look and said, “You mean you aren’t going to give us the question?”

“No,” I said. “The whole point of this is for you guys to decide what you want to learn.”

“Yeah, but I thought you were just going to “let” us choose.”

“Nope,” I felt almost as shocked as Liam looked and wondered if “letting” students choose is what I normally do.

Liam, now looking incredulous, got more fully engaged in the consensus-making. 

About 6 years ago when I went from grading to feedback, I felt a sense of flow enter my classroom. I feel on the brink of that flow again.

As for what my students really want to know? Here is their question: How do people find happiness in the darkest places?

As for what I want to know? Other than what to do next class (something Shelley helped me out with – thank you, Shelley!), I’m curious to see where this path will lead me and where it will lead my students, because – this time – we’re all learners.