Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Spontaneous Inquiry

I recently attended an Inquiry PD hosted by the amazing Kath Murdoch. It left me feeling so much positivity and excitement about what is possible in teaching and learning. One thing I grappled with was that feeling that, as a specialist teacher this year, I no longer have my own class. Don't get me wrong, I do love my new role (it's amazing and I have so many opportunities to grow from it) but I had let myself feel as though I can't use an Inquiry approach as effectively in my classroom. That changed this afternoon and I wanted to share it.

This device is meant to "Whoosh" the rain away
when you spin it fast. 
I teach Prep every Friday afternoon in the final hour of the school day. Yes, SESSION 5, FRIDAY…PREP! Those poor kids are so tired from a busy week and the last thing they want is something structured. They are a really great bunch of kids but
so very diverse. I often have to change things a little bit to cater for their tiredness and moods. Today's lesson was to introduce the Engineering Design Process (the last Prep class to have this lesson this week). This is to segway them into understanding what is involved in trying to plan their own toy (from thinking about it and planning, to making it and then finding ways to improve it, then reflecting). I showed them a short video where the actor had a problem (she couldn't reach the itch on her back) and they had to try and solve the problem for her using different construction materials in our classroom.

This one's kind of like a hat
but specifically can keep
rain out of your ears.
It's quite a fun activity normally and the other Prep classes really liked it. However, today it decided to pour down with rain part way through me modelling the activity (if you've ever taught in a 'portable' classroom then you would understand how loud this is). The kids weren't listening, they were distracted; one was commenting on the water 'leaking' through a pipe outside, another was scared of the loud noise and the rest were just kind of in awe. I sat there for a second and just thought "Ugh! Just what I need on a Friday afternoon". Then, something clicked. I decided to choose my attitude and take the distraction and run with it. "Hey kids, let's go and look out the windows at the rain" I  said excitedly. We all got up, I moved cupboards away so they could stand closer to the windows. It was quite fun and the kids were just excited to be able to get up and look (it's all they really wanted to do).

This is a special rain hat. 
Whilst we were looking, one of the boys said to me, "Mr Summerell, how are we going to get back to our classroom now?". It was like it all hit me at once - this is a problem, one we could design a solution to; this is real world stuff, it's in context; it's already taking all the attention, I need to run with this; I can use the Engineering Design Process after all and still have a successful lesson!

I was really excited about where this was heading. I announced the young boys problem and we all talked about what we could do to solve it. We brainstormed on the whiteboard with pictures about what we see, how we felt, what we could do. The kids were so engaged. I asked them to go and draw a picture of their solution and then try and make it out of Lego, Duplo, K'nex, Texo or paper. Off they went, they were in heaven. They weren't quiet, they were chatty. They were busy talking about how they are going to solve the problem. This was teacher heaven and I was there.

Even though we talked about raincoats and umbrellas as solutions, I didn't see one child draw or make them. I got weird looking hats made from Duplo, A rotor made from Texo that spins so fast it "Whooshes" the rain away, an amazing '4 Wheel Drive" chariot style device with a covered roof made from gears and a cool looking head cover that also stops the rain going in your ears. These kids were thinking way outside the box and were engaged the whole way through.

A rain hat and another device to "Whoosh" the rain away.
This was Inquiry as I hadn't ever experienced it before and it was in a specialist teacher setting. This has completely changed what is possible for Inquiry learning. This is only one success but it's as though the floodgates are open and my mind is no longer 'closed' to the idea that I can't have Inquiry in my current classroom. I think I knew that before this anyway but I always had that doubt which is what I think held me back. Now the doubt is removed thanks to this amazing and inspiring bunch of kids I feel like the sky is now the limit.

What are your experiences with Inquiry in the classroom? Are you doubting your abilities to lead Inquiry successfully? How can you let go of your doubts and seize the moment?


  1. Thanks for sharing. Lovely!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it Ricardo.

  2. Capturing the learning moment ! Way to go :)

    1. Thanks Abhishre. I love to capture the good moments.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. It's a great invention. Thanks for sharing :)

  4. very cool going the way the students lead you to... sometimes we need to just go with the flow (pardon the pun) haha.

  5. Fantastic class. Kids learn so much and get so much joy from this kind of teaching.