My colleague, Jacqui, and I have spent the last few months supporting the Grade 2 students in an inquiry around the interconnectedness of living things and the impacts humans can have on plants and animals. As soon as we began tuning-in to the concepts of this inquiry we noticed that interest levels were way high. Jacqui and I saw a great opportunity to teach non-fiction reading and research skills, a possible chance for teaching skills around presentation, a possible poetry connection, and a chance for the students to learn more about what it means to take action.
Below are some photographs from our work alongside the students on this inquiry, along with my 9 big takeaways.
1. Be flexible- always! As teachers, be ready to meet and talk often. Our meetings were often very quick and to-the-point. We had no specific protocol, however, our meetings (some in person and some via email) tended to follow this loose structure: 1) Share what we were seeing. 2) Share what we think could be the next step. 3) Split up to each have a ponder for a day or two. 4) Meet back to quick share and delegate planning tasks.
2. Delegate planning, teaching, resource collection, and organizing tasks. Be efficient and sensible. Are there resources on your computer that you made last year but can use or adapt for this work? Who will lead the next lesson? Who will sit back to watch and jump in as needed?
3. Give the students time to foster an interest. We found beginning with an immersion worked great for beginning this process. After a few days immersed in art, videos, texts, and objects we lead the students through a series of discussions and conversations. These sessions took place over nearly two weeks. The time proved valuable as the students had real time to see where their interests lied.
4. Then, continue to give students the option and opportunity to change and shift their interests. It does not do anyone any good to make students lock in their focus too soon. If they are learning new things their interests will shift. This is fine!
5. Let the students be 7 and 8-year old students! Don’t try to push them too far past their interests and understanding of the world. Push them, definitely, but not too far. Jacqui and I had frequent honest check-ins with each other to ask: “Is this our idea of how their inquiry should look, or is this their idea?”
7. Grade 2 students love animals! They love them so much! Honor this love.
8. As Stephanie Harvey said, “Honor what they know but celebrate the new learning.” Teach lessons on noticing new learning.
9. The student actions do not have to be perfect. No one is perfect. They are in Grade 2 and, hopefully, have a long road of inquiry and action ahead of them. Again, honor their process. Sometimes, for example, while planning and preparing an action project that is to be a club whose sole focus is to reduce paper use, the students use so much paper. Before swooping in to point out this seemingly obvious infraction, look at the whole picture. Are they showing passion and stamina, incorporating their research, collaborating well with their classmates? Guidance, feedback, and probing questions can be so helpful, but be sure that the adult influence is moving the action along rather than killing the energy.
I’m sure my next big “Ah hah!” is just around the corner. I’m curious, what big takeaways have you had recently?