Methods to an inquiry based classroom

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Image created by Nabeel Abed

What are provocations?

Provocations simply mean to provoke! They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity, and ideas. They can also expand on a thought, project, idea, and interest.

They could be in any form…

  • An interesting photo, picture or book,
  • Nature (e.g. animals)
  • Conceptual (e.g. light)
  • Old materials displayed in a new way,
  • An interest that a child or children have,
  • An object (e.g. magnets, maps)
  • New creative mediums,
  • Questions (from any source – e. what is gravity?)
  • An event (e.g. a presentation, a holiday)

Provocations can be as simple as a photo of a rock sculpture next to some pebbles or as elaborate as a table with an assortment of recycled materials next to a book on robots and resources to make upcycled robots. Often though, provocations are simple and displayed beautifully to provoke interest. Similar to strewing, they are usually created as an option, not as a premeditated activity.

Ultimately, the intention of provocations is to provide an invitation for a child to explore and express themselves. It should be open-ended and provide a means for expression where possible.

 

Effectiveness of Inquiry-based learning

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Simple Scenario

A teacher walks into the class with the students who all see a praying mantis on the floor, they huddle around astonished as to what it is.The teacher gathers around with them and then the questions begin to fly out.

What is it?
Where did it come from?
Can we keep it?
Why are its legs so long? Why is it brown/green?
Where does it live?
What does it eat?

And you can imagine the many other questions that followed. The teacher calmly answered some of the questions and then said to the students who are in grade 5 that it’s for them as homework to research more about it when they get home.

The students then prepared a place for it in the class and gave it stuff they assumed it would need for the night. The next morning they arrive and only to find that the mantis was dead.

Again questions began to flow,

How did it die?
Why did it die?
Where does it go when it dies?
Does it now become part of the cycle of life? What happens at a funeral?

And so the teacher again answers the many questions and the praying mantis has a legendary send-off by the students.

The point we take from this is that the teacher, when discovering the mantis with the kids knew that she had a plan for the day and needed to finish, however, she did not push the questions aside or even the mantis, she welcomed it because it opened a whole new way to learn…INQUIRY.

Of course, once the questions were done, she casually continued her lesson.Perhaps later on the students would do a topic based on the life cycle of an animal and they would always be able to reflect back to what was researched in the praying mantis incident.

Inquiry-Based Mini Lesson Plan – Example

“Teaching with Material Objects” – Lunch pail

Developed by:
Dianna Accordino – Wilson School District
Stephanie Procopio Lancaster-Lebanon IUB
Name of the lesson: Lunch Pails Discipline:
Language Arts / Social Studies

Target grade(s):
K – 2nd

Pennsylvania Standards Addressed:
Begin to develop an understanding of historical interpretation

Lesson Plan Procedure
Show a picture of the object to your class prior to visiting the Freyberger School.

Be sure  to:
Determine students’ prior knowledge of the content.
Introduce the lesson and how you will motivate or capture the students’ attention.  Determine how you will assess if the learning objective(s) was/were met.
Follow the step-by-step procedures that engage students in inquiry-based learning.

Descriptive Analysis:
What is this object? How do you know?
What does it look like? Describe it.
Who would use this object?

Apply Prior Knowledge:
Have you ever seen one of these? Have you ever used one?

Raise Questions:
Draw and write what you think it is or what you would use it for.
Develop Interpretation/Hypothesis Based on Evidence:
show a short video that includes children eating their lunch at school from the  1900s

Review:
Discussion about the video and what object really is.

Apply Information:
What would you have them do with the new information centers:

  1. Compare and contrast using a Venn Diagram
  2. Packing a lunch
  3. Book hook (picture books from the [or depicting] 19th century)
  4. Create your own lunch pail/box using recycled materials “thrifty”

Share Information:
Pictures/writing pieces
Which lunchbox/pail they would choose (then/now)

 

 

Taken from the Nabeel Abed Handbook on methods inquiry-based based learning classroom
© Nabeel Abed 2017 – All rights reserved 

 

Teacher Resources

All teachers have the daunting task of creating worksheets which are time-consuming and can be stressful at times when thinking of content to add.Compiled below is a list of websites you can use to get worksheets for your classes.All grades and subjects,.Some of the links below also include lesson plan ideas and templates.

Just click the on the titles below to get endless resources…

 

  1. Super Teacher Worksheets
  2. Teachnology
  3. education.com
  4. Teacher Planet
  5. TES
  6. TeacherVision
  7. Edhelper
  8. SchoolExpress
  9. BusyTeacher
  10. Student treasures

 

        Enjoy!

Technology in Education

 

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The big question today is; does technology benefit or hinder a child’s learning process? It is universally understood that technology has its benefits, however, there are those who believe otherwise.A quick search on google would pull up a plethora of information related to technology.
As we know, in theory, we can say whatever we like but in reality, proving our views is a totally different ball game all together.Some research shows that students who use technology actually perform worse than those who don’t and some studies show that technology is actually beneficial.

Many argue that social media can have many negative effects.Such arguments have been going on for many years now and will never end. What we do need to realize is that in everything that we do in life, there is good and bad, how we engage would ultimately categorize it for us. Today we look at social media as a blessing for the simple reason that we can easily connect with friends and family who are far away from us. We have the ability to make a video call, voice call, easily share our daily activities with video or photo, we can even have group chats and group calls.

Businesses today use social media as it has enabled effective communication.Technology in education has arisen in recent years in the form of E-schooling, and online applications that are created to streamline education. There is an abundance of apps related to education online. From online libraries to apps for math or science, even comprehensive tools to assess students’ progress, yet with all of this there is still negativity around the use of technology.

I love technology, I work through my phone as I am always on the go. Some choose their laptops while others may prefer their tablets. Classrooms and boardrooms are now equipped with smart boards to effectively enhance their experience. Schools take it a step further by creating an application that would allow teachers, parents and students to interact even while not at school. Students can submit their homework through the apps and teachers can provide feedback almost instantly. Parents can easily send teachers messages about their kids and vice versa. However, with all the capabilities we would still find a lot of negativity.

Many say that technology is a distraction. Kids have become anti-social, kids are facing eye-sight problems because of the constant use of mobile devices. I could say the same when the television had first come out, or when the radio had first been introduced. We need to be able to draw the line somewhere.
Technology is vital in today’s world. It is how the world operates now. However, we have to realize that we must set boundaries. Both teachers and parents need to play an important role. While the effects of technology are alarming, we cannot turn a blind eye to the actual benefits that it comes with. Students should learn to read a book, they should learn how to hold a pen and write. Students should be able to easily switch from technology and this is where parents and teachers come in. There needs to be limitations, there needs to be understanding.
Reading a book on a kindle is fun. But let’s remember that before we teach kids to read, we must teach them to imagine. Technology in education can be fun. Even social media can be fun and educational if used correctly.

Parents need to monitor tech use at home. Time must be equally divided. Teachers also should promote this. Parents need to constantly monitor what their kids are doing while using technology. Don’t just come home from work and then relax. Pay attention to your kids, monitor them, engage them and guide them. The issue today is that many kids don’t really have such a system at home. They are merely left to do as they please when they get home so that their parents can go out and enjoy themselves. If your child spends too much time on technology then yes they would develop eye sight issues, they would become anti-social, however, creating a balance, giving them other forms of activities to do, encouraging social development outside of technology may just help in strengthening their abilities to be responsible and be aware of the world around them.

Technology in education is establishing its place. Today the teacher is just the guide. In the past a teacher was the source of information, but today technology has changed that. A teacher’s job now is to facilitate the learning process and to facilitate in the best ways possible. Facilitation also includes regulating the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Schools must develop proper after-school development activities for students. Don’t just offer sport programs but other programs such as art, dance, drama, debating, community service, after school trips to the community to further develop their understanding and help them grow to become better independent thinkers who can also work in collaboration.

While I may be an advocate of technology, I am also a firm believer that education should also be facilitated through various means.
We all have different abilities and capabilities. What appeals or works for one may not, for another, but to conclusively state that technology is negatively affecting our kids is wrong. To everything in life, there must be a balance and if we can effectively balance our use of technology in and outside of school, then I think we would have no issues.
The biggest issue with the doubts surrounding technology today is the lack of parents’ regulation of their kids’ use of technology.

Encourage creativity in children

Every child is born with the potential to be creative individuals, but their potential can be stifled if teachers and parents are not careful to nurture and stimulate creativity. Creativity shows one’s uniqueness. It is the individual saying that they are who they are, unique, individuals who can do. Isn’t this what we want for our children? Creativity is the ability to see things differently, to see problems that no one else may even realize exist, and then come up with new, unusual and effective solutions to these problems.

Adults are often amazed by young children’s unexpected cognizance of the world and the unique ways in which they express their imagination. We also know, however, that children usually need adult support to find the means and the confidence to express their ideas and present them, day after day, to teachers, parents, and friends. This digest considers both teacher-initiated and child-initiated strategies for enhancing young children’s self-expression and creativity.
The most creative of people are those who have the ability to switch easily between primary and secondary unconscious thought processes. Kids find this easier to do because their frontal lobes are less developed, as a child matures they are able to assess whether instinctual desires are a good idea or not, the rules and inhabitations begin to creep in.
Spontaneity and self-confidence are essential to a child’s creative spirit. Parents and teachers who choose to constantly control their children actually do more harm than good. Stop controlling kids! Allow them to think, allow them to be free, allow them to be kids. Creative expression is vital for development. If the product of creativity is not seen through then their creative energy is just waste. Allow them to be creative and follow through with their ideas. Kids need to know that it’s ok to make a mistake because that is how we learn. It is not always important to have the correct answer but innovation and unique ideas are very much valued. Like anything we do in our lives, we need the right atmosphere or it just would not feel the same, likewise, with our kids, they need an environment that would stimulate them, an environment that is creative, and friendly to them. Materials within the environment need to child-friendly and stimulating. Building blocks, books, pens, pencils, crayons and objects that they would be able to make sounds with are just a few examples.
Never stop a child from daydreaming! Many parents often make this mistake. Daydreaming is an imaginary process, some of what goes on in daydreaming is really just problem-solving.

Often parents think that they need to teach their children to first read and this is the wrong approach. Kids must first learn to imagine, they must learn to visualize and create their own understanding before they can even read.Don’t stifle creativity, promote it.If you, as a teacher or parent, truly believes that every child is different and is unique in their own way, then practice the belief by allowing creativity, allowing them to be kids.Don’t just say you things, mean it.Teach kids to look at alternatives, evaluate and then decide how to carry them out successfully. Stop overcrowding them with activities and orders with the thought that you will be cultivating their creativity, you are only holding them back. Allow your child some alone time so that they can develop the creativity that is within.

Reggio Emilia Approach to ECD

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An education philosophy based on the image of the child, and that of human beings processing strong potentials for development, and as a subject of rights who learns and grows in the relationship with others.The Reggio approach was developed after World War 2 in Italy by a young and inspirational teacher called Loris Malaguzzi.He promoted the idea of children as active participants in their own learning in a unique reciprocal relationship with their teachers. Learning is an active process and not a transmission of pre-packaged knowledge. Rather, the child has a hundred languages. Suggesting that children have multiple ways to express themselves.

100 Languages of children
What’s unique to the Reggio approach philosophy is the belief that there are 100 languages of children. Every child has 100 languages that they can learn in all of these forms of expression whether it’s by the use of clay, paper making, dance, drama, musical instruments and much more. Being Reggio inspired means that you have great faith in children.

In the Reggio approach, the educator is considered to be three things. Teacher, child and the environment. Teachers are given non-contact time to give them the chance to talk about the children and to be able to write their observations and plan what will be offered to the children next. The value and encourage child initiated activities, they challenge and provoke the ideas of the child. They allow the child to make his/her own mistakes learn from them. They closely observe children to document the child’s progress and to judge appropriate moments to intervene.
A Reggio school aims to create a welcoming, nurturing a home-like environment that’s recognized for its potential to inspire children. It is a place of encounter and connection, interaction, and dialogue. The Reggio teacher is a keen observer, documenter, and partner in the learning process. The teacher allows the children to make their own hypothesis, test their hypothesis and share what they’ve learned.
Documentation plays a critical part in children’s learning. Children revisit their ideas and get a new perspective. A teacher works on projects with small groups of children while the rest of the classroom continues to involve itself in other self – selected activities and explorations.

Reggio Provocations
Reggio inspired provocations are activities prepared by the teacher to extend the child’s way of thinking.These inspirations
provoke a child to use their senses, ask questions, solve problems and think further.

EXAMPLES OF REGGIO INSPIRED ENVIRONMENTS:

According to the Reggio approach, the environment is like the 3rd teacher. It must be inspiring with natural light, order, and beauty. Make sure to de-clutter your room and have clearly defined spaces. If you need to redefine your spaces make sure they respond to children’s interest.
An example would be chandeliers which are very common in Reggio inspired environments. They can be made out of recycled and natural materials as well as bits and pieces from around the house.

The curriculum should be fluid, emergent, dynamic and unique. It stems from the child’s own interests and curiosities.
The child is a researcher trying to answer the questions of life. Children learn documentation techniques that give them tools to express their ideas.
The school combines a lab and art studio in one for the developing and valuing the research process of the child. The classroom is designed to be aesthetically pleasing to the children. Teachers take great care to keep it organized and attractive. Natural lighting from large windows and open spaces give the environment a relaxed feel. Collaboration in such a process should be highly valued.

How to get started?
‘The wider range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense their motivations and the richer their experiences.” Loris Malaguzzi – Reggio Emilia founder.

Reggio Inspired Materials

Take a look around your classroom. Get rid of as many plastic materials as possible. Choose open-ended materials instead.Open-ended materials are the ones that can be transformed and that require the children to use their imagination and their own experiences.They must be natural, inviting, sensory and aesthetically pleasant.Use objects and materials children would find in their own homes.

Some examples of materials…
Loose parts, Mailing cardboard tubes, Playdough, Fabric scraps, Paper, Stones, Cotton Wool, Buttons, Beads, Bark, Corks, Elastic bands, Plastic figures.

Source: Nabeel Abed teacher development handbook: Reggio Emilia Approach to ECD

 

 

Cambridge Home-school

A Cambridge home-school matric is one of the options for South African high school home-school students to get a matric certificate with university exemption.

Who is Cambridge?

CIE is part of Cambridge Assessment, Europe’s largest assessment agency and a department of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Assessment was established in 1858 as the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

What qualification does your student get?

In South Africa most students do two courses:

IGCSE (International General Certificate of Education) takes 18 months – 2 years to complete and is for students from 14 – 16 years of age. This is the same as grades 10 and 11 in local schools although the subject content is different. Your student will take 7 subjects on this level.

Following this South African high school students do the AS Levels normally from about 16 – 19 years of age. This is also an 18 month – 2-year course and is the equivalent of Grade 12 in South Africa. Your student will take 5 subjects on this level.

NOTE: If your student does very well on a subject at IGCSE level (B or A) they can “carry” it over as an AS level subject. This means that they will only write for 4 subjects at the end of their AS course and one of their IGCSE subjects can count for the 5th.

To achieve the equivalents of “A Levels” the South African student needs to complete a Grade 13, but most students do not take this option as it is not necessary for matric exemption and university exemption.

What subjects must your student take?

According to the guidelines set by the exemptions board of South Africa, your student needs to choose subjects according to the groups laid out. For example:

Compulsory Subjects
English
Afrikaans (or another second language)
Maths or Maths literacy

Discretionary Subjects (two from the following list)
A third language or Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics;
Art, Economics, Geography, History, Music
Accounting, Business Studies, Computing, Design and Technology or Further Mathematics;

However, practical subjects are not available to some homeschoolers who prefer to do the Cambridge Homeschool Matric independently i.e. without the help of a private college. While Cambridge offers over 70 subjects at IGCSE and AS level, not all can be taken in South Africa.

Where does my student get their textbooks?

Once you have chosen your subjects you will refer to the list of resources for each subject on the Cambridge website. Take special note of resources with a check mark next to them. These are endorsed by Cambridge and should be your first choice. These books can be bought directly from the publishers but we have found that online stores are just as reasonably priced and quick to deliver.

Where and when does the student write exams?

Exams are written twice a year either through the chosen college or if you are an independent student at a Cambridge examination venue. Some private schools allow independent examinees to sit and write with their students or you can write at the British Council in your town.

Exams are written in May/June and November each year. Cambridge will charge a per subject exam fee of about R450 which you have to pay in advance. There may be other fees on top of this according to where you choose to write the exam.

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Home Schooling Process

Step 1: Decision

It is important to know that, when you start homeschooling your children, either part time or full time, you as a parent is going to take up the responsibility to ensure your children is having the needed education.

If you are not able to educate your children full time, you could always get assistance from some private learning centers/tuition centers in your local area. But please bare in mind that these private learning/tuition centers are there to help, they are NOT a formal school.

Home education is a marathon. You can’t give up halfway before reaching the finish line; for example wanting to send your children “back to school” when you feel you cannot or do not have time to continue the responsibility anymore. Chances are, your children would get rejected due to the absence of formal primary school certificates.

So you may wonder, when/what is the finish line?

The finish line is the final exam at the end of the secondary level education - IGCSE / O Level.

It is NOT at the primary level. Most parents make this mistake, thinking they could home educate their children up to the primary level, then send them to a formal secondary school later.

This is called ‘halfway marathon’. The primary level is not the finish line.

So, make up your mind that you will finish the marathon. You can also take the ‘halfway marathon’ - continue reading to find out how to do that.

 

Step 2: Choose Your Curriculum

You can always follow your local government school’s curriculum. Otherwise, IGCSE / O Level is a good choice for homeschooling.

IGCSE syllabi are written for the current international audience. You will find interesting content addressing the global arena, as opposed to the more locally oriented curriculum such as O Level and GCSE.

Children who learn global facts at an early age would be more likely to be open-minded and able to mix with and respect other cultures.

 

Step 3: Plan Your Teaching Programmes

Once you have chosen your curriculum/exam board, you need to plan your teaching programmes from start to finish.

It might sound intimidating for a start, however, if you plan well, it would be very fun and rewarding.

Here are some suggestions you could use:

Primary Stage:
Generally, primary Year/Grade 1 would start from age 6/7, depending on which country you are residing. In our example, we will stick to age 7 as the standard Year/Grade 1 age for most of the countries worldwide.

You may choose to educate your child for 6-year primary programme - that is a normal practice and minimum requirement internationally.

Your child would finish primary programme at age 12.

Your child would NOT obtain any primary school leaving certificate, nor any formal primary exams certificates.

If you think these certificates are important, you may plan to enter your child into a formal primary school at Year/Grade 5, just to proceed to Year/Grade 6 and sit for the formal primary exams.

The reason why you should do it in Year/Grade 5, that is because no schools in the world would take new students in Year/Grade 6.

These certificates might be helpful if you suddenly can’t cope with the teaching nor have any more time to complete the secondary programmes by yourself, and want to register your child with any formal secondary schools, you certainly need those certificates.

This is the ‘halfway marathon’. Please put this in mind from the start.

Lower Secondary Stage:
Once you have accomplished primary programme, it’s time for you to start ‘Lower Secondary’ programme. At this point in time, it would be Year/Grade 7 for schooled children.

The lower Secondary programme can be quite flexible if your child has very strong basic and could cope faster.

The general Lower Secondary programme lasts for 3 years - Year/Grade 7, 8 and 9.

If you think your child could do 2 years only, then proceed to the Upper Secondary programme, you are more than welcome to do so.

But please know that we do not encourage speedy zooming through this stage just to get your child graduate faster. What’s the point at the end of the day? Is entering university at very young age a vital and meaningful goal to achieve? Guess not.

If your child follows the normal 3-year Lower Secondary programme, he/she would be 15 years old at the end of the programme.

If you make a shortcut, just do a 2-year programme, then your child would be 14 years old at the end of the Lower Secondary programme.

Again, your child would NOT obtain any formal Lower Secondary certificates, nor this is required for the final exam in IGCSE / O Level.

This is where the stamina to keep going on for home education gets low, and problems would arise if you want to send your child to any formal second school. Since your child does not have any formal primary certificates (assuming you did not get one for them from the suggestion above), no schools would accept him/her.

Upper Secondary Stage:
This is a 2-year programme, generally. This is where the IGCSE / O Level programme starts. For the schooled students, it would be Year/Grade 10 and 11.

Again, you might accomplish the whole IGCSE / O Level programme in just 1 year - that is entirely up to the capability of your child (not how parents want it, sorry 🙂 )

Once your child is ready to sit for the final exam, search for the nearest exam centers in your local area. Your local British Council is the best option for private candidates. If you can’t find any British Council near you, you can always try to approach any Cambridge School which accepts private candidates to sit for the exams HERE.

It is always good to know all the exams registration key dates, so you don’t miss out the registration closing dates. Bookmark this exams registration key dates page, and know all the dates by hand.

If your child follows the normal route, he/she would be 17 years old when he/she sits for the final exams. Otherwise, cutting short a year would make him/her sitting for the exams at age 16 - that’s the benefit of being home educated.

Finally, this is where your child obtains the official IGCSE / O Level certificates as a home-educated child. This marks the end of your journey in home education for your child - congratulation!

So you see. Home education is a marathon actually. You need to have the strength and stamina to keep going for 10/11 years (starting from Year 1-Year 11) until your child obtains the one and only official exam certificate in your child’s life, that could be used for further studies - either A Level or any other equivalent level.

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