These questions are not ones found on tests. They are, however, the basis for inquiry-based learning where students are invited to be active, rather than passive learners. Inquiry allows students to explore and learn about a topic that can possibly ignite their wonder and desire to learn. They are also questions that can help you blend reading and writing workshop in your secondary classroom.
PLAN FOR THE END:
At the end of the year, my students will complete a multi-genre project that will illustrate their exploration of an inquiry question. This will require that they read non-fiction, poetry and other texts, as well as their novels, looking for answers to the question they pose. It will also require that they experiment with various types of writing as they explore the idea.
However, we won’t start working on that until later in the semester. At this point, I just want them to find something that captures their attention or imagination.
FIRST YOU MODEL:
Before you ask your students to develop inquiry questions, you should model your own process. Here’s how I do it: when were are reading our novels at the beginning of a semester, I record the things I wonder about as I read my book. I’ll share this with my class and then model how I could use these “wonders” to create an inquiry question. I want them to focus on an area that they would like to explore, something they would like to learn more about. For example right now I’m reading The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn. It’s set in France and spans the time between the first World War and immediately following the second. I could share the following questions with my students based on the things I’ve wondered: How true are the facts of this story? How many women worked as spies/for the resistance? Did they make a difference? What are the towns in the story really like? Did they recover from the German occupation? After I share my questions with them, I ask them to brainstorm a list of their own.
Discuss Universal Themes
The students will often need guidance to see links between texts, so we spend a lot of time discussing the concept of universal themes. Students will meet in small groups to come up with common ground between the individual texts that they are reading. After group discussions, students will reflect in their notebooks about the ways that these themes are present in their own reading. It’s a great critical thinking exercise because sometimes, the link is not obvious — but is often there.
This is an effective strategy for helping them find ideas to explore, especially if they are having trouble finding inspiration on their own.
Finding a Topic for Inquiry:
I let my students read and question for several weeks, but then I want them to choose a topic to explore. They spend time some time reflecting in their journals and discussing with their classmates as they explore ideas for their inquiry project.
After they’ve had time for individual reflection and discussion with partners, they will share their ideas with the class, so those who are having trouble coming up with an idea might be inspired by the ideas of others.
Link to Full Class Texts
Because I want my students to complete a multi-genre project, I need to expose them to a variety of works. I choose engaging non-fiction texts and poems that work for my mini-lessons and connect to some of the themes my students have been discussing. I allow them to use any of these works for their final project and encourage them to find their own.
For example, imagine if your students had read any of the following, either on their own or as a class: The Merchant of Venice, Animal Farm , Night, 1984, The Poisonwood Bible, The Hate U Give, or All American Boys. They may be able to use a combination of any of them to do a project that explores why it seems to be part of human nature to want to wield power and/or control over another — and what we can do to change that.
I hope that gives you some ideas for how you can use inquiry in conjunction with reading and writing workshop. If you’d like more ideas, and some freebies, please sign up for 5 Days of Workshop Freebies.