I had never tried one of the Scholastic webinars, or Teacher Talks, before this past Thursday, but must say that I am a believer now. The session was surprisingly short, only thirty minutes, but I am still amazed at the amount of solid, usable information was packed into those thirty minutes.
The focus of Thursday’s talk was Inquiry and Motivation in English Language Arts, led by Jeff Wilhelm.
One of the first questions introduced was on the pros and cons of a student-centered approach versus a teacher-centered approach. Wilhelm, however, advocated for a learning-centered approach, focusing first on the “how” of learning, then on the “why” and the “what.” From this point, the conversation continued from a learning-centered perspective for the remainder of session.
I was especially drawn to Wilhelm’s description of using essential questions in the classroom. My pervious misconceptions on how and why these were used in the classroom had kept me from employing them in my own. However, It is much more clear to me, now, that using this tool to construct an inquiry based classroom will help learning to become more personal and purposeful. Students will be led to take a more active part in their own learning. In particular, Wilhelm suggested that with an inquiry based approach, we as educators are more prepared to answer the question : “How are we promoting what real experts do?” Students want to know that their learning is relevant. I was a little overwhelmed, yet convicted and motivated when Wilhelm stated that “you can re-frame anything you teach as inquiry.”
And so you have my new call to action. My own essential questions as I enter into the nest week and remainder of the semester are these:
HOW CAN I PRESENT MY CURRICULAR GOALS AND CONSTRUCT MY CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT SO THAT STUDENTS ARE TAKING AN ACTIVE PART IN INVESTIGATING AND CONSTRUCTING THEIR OWN LEARNING?
WHAT IS THE TEACHER’S ROLE IN AN INQUIRY-BASED CLASSROOM?
I will definitely keep you updated on the results of my own inquiry. I plan to post some ideas on how I can reconstruct some of my current curriculum from a more inquiry frame of mind by the end of the week. I would love to hear your thoughts as well.
In the mean time, I’ve embedded the video of the webinar below, or you can click here to go to the actual page.
Skype discussion on Inquiry and Motivation in the ELA classroom
"I talk half the time to find out my own thoughts, as a school-boy turns his pockets inside out to see what is in them. One brings to light all sorts of personal property he had forgotten in his inventory. "