What is Inquiry Based Learning?
If you are not aware of this term, inquiry-based learning focuses on developing a students’ skills in asking good questions, forming thoughtful ideas and analyzing information. With inquiry-based learning, students are given the opportunity to investigate open-ended questions using reasoning and existing knowledge. We know this is great for students and allows them to bring in their own ideas, experiences and interests. It lends itself well to differentiation and students have more buy-in when they have the choice that inquiry provides.
If you are nervous about starting more inquiry, you aren’t alone! Often it is a challenge for teachers to introduce inquiry into their planning. It can be hard to change things you’ve “always done”, a busy class can be overwhelming without something new to try or often times we just don’t know where to start.
I created my Wonderwall Inquiry Based Bulletin Boards for these very reasons. Ontario Grade 2 and 3 Science and Social Studies units (Grade 1 Wonderwalls are also available) are available. This is a great way to add a manageable aspect of the inquiry into your existing Social Studies or Science program.
What are the Benefits of Inquiry Based learning?
There are so many benefits to inquiry based learning. I thought I would discuss 5 of my favourite:
1. It promotes curiosity and the love for learning in students.
Children are naturally curious. They ask a lot of questions – often one question leads to the next, and the next and the next! Give students the opportunity to be curious and allow them to ask those questions they are itching to ask.
2. This method teaches students to take ownership of their learning.
I have found, when prompted by their own thoughts, my students will ask more questions. When they have an idea, they will persevere to find the answer – they just love teaching us something, don’t they? They love to find things out and share them with me and with their peers. That feeling of accomplishment is a great intrinsic reward that will help them feel like a successful learner!
3. Researching and discovering makes learning meaningful.
Ever notice how small moments can stick with kids? I love taking my son for walks at the beach or at a creek. His enthusiasm is priceless when he discover something interesting. We always head home with a long list of questions to find the answers to. I know meaningful learning has taken place because he’s so eager to know more when he gets home! The same thing happens in the classrooms, when the students have their own questions and find those answers it is more meaningful.
4. Students have a deepened understanding of the content because they have not just memorized facts.
Discussing, wondering, noticing, asking questions, finding answers and discovering new things leads to knowledge that is remembered. It makes it relatable and memorable. Students own the knowledge and that will stick with them.
5. Inquiry based learning develops skills to ask good questions.
If you have had interaction with a three-year-old you will know about the “Why?” phase. As children get older they still ask “Why?” but now, to gain more understanding, include the other questions like, How? What? Where? When? Who? This method teaches them to ask meaningful questions and experience meaningful learning. Using rich questions is key for students as they prepare for junior and intermediate grades.
How do Wonderwalls Encourage Inquiry Based Learning?
- Young students will observe and model your questioning process when referring to the Wonderwall. They will start to make inferences and ask thought-provoking questions to learn more about the topic.
- The real-life photos will promote curiosity in learners. They can relate to the pictures. The variety of pictures will appeal to different students, ensuring everyone is enthusiastic to learn.
- They can collaborate by answering each others’ wonders or commenting on their “Wows”.
- Wonderwalls provide a situation where students take ownership of their learning and question-asking abilities. Students can answer sample questions and discover their own new questions. They are encouraged to record their findings in their “My Wondering Journal”.
- Students discover the information about the unit by studying the pictures, using the information in class and formulating answers.
How can I use Wonderwalls?
- Introduce the unit to your students by: studying the photos; making predictions; forming questions; sharing ideas; taking notes on sticky notes ect.
- As you are working through the unit, be sure to refer back to the bulletin board and ask thought-provoking questions. Encourage students to note their learnings and questions in their journals.
- Early finishers can discover some new wonders or choose someone else’s “wonder” to research and answer.
- Encourage your students to record their “wonders” and “wows” on a sticky note and place them on the bulletin board.
- Extend inquiry based learning to the home. Use the additional “Home Connection” activity to encourage inquiry at home.
- Don’t limit the board to your ‘high fliers”, with lots of visuals, your students who may be less able readers will be able to make inferences, learn from the photos, and participate actively.
What is included in the Wonderwall Inquiry Bulletin Board product?
- Headers for each unit topic.
- A “Big Ideas” card to display basic facts about the topic.
- 6 sample inquiry questions for each unit.
- 30+ photos: Photos can be used as inquiry provocations, conversation prompts or examples. ( I like to pick a few to place on the board and leave the rest on a binder ring for students to flip through for inspiration.)
- A Wondering Journal: Students reflect on their thoughts in their Wondering Journal. (I encourage students to take a few minutes at the end of the class to reflect on their new questions and learnings.) The journal includes the sample prompts as well as blank pages to customize for your students’ needs).
- Collage Photo Page: Limited bulletin board space? No problem! Project the “fun photo wall” onto your white board/ smartboard (a great ink saver) and use a tri-fold board to display the big ideas and prompts. Also great for posting in your online classroom.
If this sounds like the perfect product to get you started with a no-mess-no-fuss inquiry based learning activity in your class, be sure to check out the different units available here.