An Inquiry learning program is very different to a teacher-centered classroom. A quick and easy way to transform your curriculum into an Inquiry model is to start with the existing curriculum and work from there.
Many language programs have topics or themes outlined that are taught to students. The teacher usually decides the outcomes and the way students will learn the content. This is the current mode of teaching in the vast majority of language classrooms.
Of course a true Inquiry classroom will be driven by the students but as a way to dip your toe into Inquiry learning, this is a good starting point.
For example, many teachers teach name, age, family and descriptions as the first topic in their language program. However, if you ask students the question: ‘Who are you?’ a lot of questions will emerge directly from the students.
To start an Inquiry learning program, teachers need to find an exciting and interesting way to help students tune in. This can be in the form of a provocation, an object or a simulation. Language teachers may ask students to introduce each other and find out they know nothing about each other. This creates the need to know experience which will lead into a student brainstorming session.
WHAT I KNOW / WHAT I WANT TO KNOW
During a brainstorming session or a Pair and Share session, some possible things students may want to know are:
- What is your name?
- How old are you?
- When is your birthday?
- Who is in your family?
- What sports/hobbies do you like?
- What’s your favorite food?
- Where do you live?
- What’s your favorite subject?
- Who are your friends?
So immediately, the shift has moved to what the students want to know NOT what the teacher wants to teach. The teacher can then scaffold the program with language content that students will need to find out information.
By posing a simple question to the students (‘Who are you?’) you can see already the content is tailored to what the students want to learn and students are empowered to find out who the people in their class are.
Mini-lessons can be prepared for small groups of children while other children are conducting surveys about classmates in English.