Methods to an inquiry based classroom

mind map

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

reasons-use-inquiry-ficSource 

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 

 

Philosophy

Mission

The Nabeel Abed Academy is committed to providing high quality educational development to schools and their teachers’ through internationally bench marked programs and disciplines

Vision

We endeavor to be a regional network of high quality training and development for schools and education facilities with an uncompromising commitment in our role to prepare teachers ,students and individuals with the skills necessary to be able to continue in their roles as leaders and mentors to the future generation. We strive to offer an educational environment where a teacher’s skills are enhanced and the focus of 21st century methodologies are emphasized. Teachers and schools are exposed to the latest methods of teaching through the medium of technology.

Our Beliefs

Every student is different, and has a unique learning style.

  • Every teacher should be trained and equipped to deal with the different levels of students’ within the classroom.
  • Professional development that leads to life-long learning
  • That a school has a collaborative responsibility with the community
  • Students and teachers should develop an appreciation, tolerance, compassion and respect for the rights and cultures of all people.
  • That the multi-cultural diversity of students and teachers is an asset to the development of any community.
  • In honoring the Universal Declaration of Human rights by not discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin or other status.

 

Peer Assessment

In peer assessment, a collaborative learning technique, students evaluate each other’s work. This technique is often used as a learning tool, which gives students feedback on the quality of their work, often with ideas and strategies for improvement.  At the same time, evaluating peers’ work can enhance the evaluators’ own learning and self-confidence. Such an involvement personalizes the learning experience, potentially motivating continued learning. blog-resource-pic.jpg

When used in grading, peer assessment can give the teacher the much needed information on each student’s performance. For large online classes, it may allow inclusion of assignments where students’ creative work could not be graded reliably through automation or efficiently by teaching staff.

Peer assessment techniques vary considerably, and are often best understood through example.  To give effective, valid and reliable feedback to fellow learners, students need clear guidelines, training on assessment criteria and scoring rules, and practice with examples.  Before students are ready to give feedback to others, their assessments should be compared to staff-grading of the same examples for quality assurance.

How does peer assessments help students?

  • It engages students in the learning process
  • working cooperatively
  • thinking critically
  • giving constructive feedback
  • learning from critical appraisal received from others
  • managing one’s own learning autonomously
  • developing interpersonal skills and
  • developing an awareness of group dynamics

Strategies for peer assessment

  • Make it clear for students to understand why they are being involved in such a task
  • Criteria for peer assessment needs to be set out clearly
  • Develop peer assessment skills
  • Make it anonymous

Complement peer assessment processes with a formal and explicitly stated moderation process so that students can see that grading is reliable even while students have a significant role in it.

example

To ensure that students reflect critically and early during a large, summative assessment task such as a report or essay:

  • Use cluster groups
  • Have students present to their group a short draft of their work to date
  • Ask the group to give informal feedback to their peers on their progress
  • You can also have the group provide a formal assessment based on, for example, how well points are supported by evidence, as well as the style and presentation of the draft.

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!

Voices in the classroom

Classroom management is all about procedure. Many like to say that you should have “rules”, but that right there is a problem. Students don’t like rules. A classroom should be a place where students should be free to express themselves within a controlled environment. Rules in a class just stifle students. Makes them feel as if they are in prison and a classroom is anything but a prison.

A classroom needs to be a place where creativity is exchanged; students learn and develop skills that they will take with them into the future. Education today is all about collaboration. If kids are not collaborating, they are not as effective. Many teachers fear that group work brings about noise. Nevertheless, there are many techniques that could be followed to facilitate an effective, collaborative classroom.

One of these techniques is the 6-inch voice. What is the 6-inch voice? This is a technique used among students were by if you were speaking to anybody other than the teacher you are required to use a 6” voice. So how this works is that if a teacher is standing 6 inches away from the student, they should not be able to hear any voices. This technique is perfect for group and pair work. If students fail to use the 6” inch voice then it would result in them not being part of the group or pair activities.

From the first day of school, the 6’voice should be modeled to students, describe how it should work, and have them practice it.Before any group activity begins, remind them of the 6’ voice and over time if need be, put up some signs in the class so that it is always a reminder. Another good way of reminding students of the 6’ voice is to make little cards for each group and stick it on their table which would remind them of the 6’voice and also the fact that if the 6” voice is not used then they would have to complete the group work on their own.

Teachers need to remember that always using a loud voice isn’t as effective as using a softer voice or even whispering. Using a lower pitched voice will always grab attention faster. Teachers also need to remember that preparation is key. Students tend to get bored fast and so preparing well ahead of time is always best.

13 steps to creating an effective learning environment

  1. TTT – 30 %  (Teacher Talk Time)
  2. STT – 70 %  (Student Talk Time)
  3. Teachers position in the class is important – don’t be stationary – walk around
  4. Students seating – More group work – Collaboration
  5. More meaningful activities
  6. Stop lecturing
  7. Allow students to question
  8. Provoke students using appropriate provocations
  9. use the 6 Inch voice policy
  10. Time management is important. Stick to it
  11. Explain well
  12. know how to grab attention
  13. Students must evaluate each other

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.

SACE in a state of confusion

downloadThese days there seems to be confusion is regards to the definition of the word qualification. We must understand that this word, qualification may refer to both academia as well as practical qualifications (experience). We need to stop using the word as we please and use it according to the correct definitions. What qualifies a teacher to enter a classroom or even label them as such? Is it the paper they possess which states that they have completed a 3 or year diploma or degree? Is it the number of years’ experience or is it the level of competence?
When looking to analyze these questions we need to take into account that many people have very many different opinions on these questions and all opinions must be respected.

After a period of three to four years (depending on course duration) a student would receive a diploma/degree to certify that they have now successfully completed their modules of study and have passed and been awarded a diploma/degree to be able to go out into the real world and work as a teacher or a better word to use is an educator.
However, the newly graduated teacher enters looking for a job only to be told that they must be registered with a body known as SACE (South Africa Council for Educators) and receive a SACE number in order to practice as an educator. SACE seems to have become the all powerfull of education in South Africa, with nobody really understanding what they really do.
In many countries today, especially countries who are leading in education, their teachers are directly registered with the ministry of education in those countries, yet in South Africa, it does not happen like that.There must be a middle man- SACE.
The procedure to obtain a teachers license from SACE is one of the most questionable procedures currently.

To ellaborate, if you are a South African citizen applying you must personally go into the SACE office within your province and apply by filling out a pointless form, submit your ID along with qualifications and experience letters, note that this must all be South African ( if you are a South African applying for the license).Your teaching at schools, as well as experience letters, should all be from South African schools not overseas, however the SACE website does not specify this,To me this is ridiculous because any teaching experience from any school should be accepted provided the applicant submits official documents from the school they worked with, and right now, any teacher with international teaching experience should be accepted considering South Africa’s disastrous ranking in world education.
In addition to the submission of required documents, applicants must also pay a fee of R200 for South Africans and R400 for foreign educators with an annual levy of R120.

What has SACE really done since its opening? Professional development topics have no relation to what it needs to be.The SACE points program from 2014 is still in its pilot program which is evidently failing.Professional development needs to be based on what is happening global education.Effective classroom environments that work well.Understanding students of the 21st century rather than assuming topics that would work which has just failed.
In order for our education system to improve, in order for our teachers to thrive, we must pay attention to increasing the hours of professional development that both engaging and modern.We must stop focus on whether or not the Professional development course is accredited or not, but rather does it ad value to teachers and can it, in turn, reflect in students behavior and performance in class? We must stop being brainwashed by “accreditation”.It isn’t about points or certificates but about adding value.

How is SACE assessing teachers in order to award a teaching license? they are just taking for granted that a teacher is competent because they have studied a teaching program.This I feel is the biggest mistake they are making and it is because of this that we have so many issues in schools today.The department of education seems to be more interested in teachers compiling paperwork rather than whats really going on in the classroom.Paperwork needs to be forgotten, we live in the digital age now! Teachers need to spend their time enhancing their capabilities within the classroom and not on pointless paperwork.SACE needs to effectively evaluate teachers before issuing a license.They need to perhaps have newly graduated teachers, teach for at least a year and then have them apply for their license.The application for the license needs to be a rigorous one, their needs to be a portfolio of evidence submitted with the application in order to prove a teachers competence in order to qualify for the license.If a teacher fails to meet the criteria for the portfolio then they should revisit the sections they are facing difficulties in.Along with a portfolio of evidence should be an interview with the teacher.The process needs to be a logical one, not an illogical one just to make money.
It’s like obtaining a drivers license, I cannot just go into the driving school office and submit documents, pay my fees to wait a few weeks and then get my drivers license.There are logical processes and assessments in order to deem an applicant competent.Once all evaluative procedures are passed a license is issued.

We must understand that no matter how many degrees and certificates a person may accumulate over time, it does not necessarily equate to practical competence. What we mean by this is that when we look at the ministers of both education departments, and I still fail to understand why the department was broken down into two separate divisions as it makes no sense. Both ministers maybe well qualified for the job academically however they do not know what is going on in the classrooms. They would speak as if they know but they fail to really understand what is really going on because if they did there would be a substantial improvement already.It is and will always be the practical experience that proves to be more successful.

Those in power assume they know what’s going on however the sad reality of the situation is that they know nothing about what’s going on. They pass laws and policies according to the degrees they hold which are now outdated and by this, I mean that the content that is being taught at the B.Ed. level of study is terrible.I ask many new teachers to talk to me about the education systems in other countries and they just cannot do it.I ask them to talk to me about the different examination boards and different curriculums and they simply cannot answer me, I also ask many who study early childhood development to discuss the emerging and successful approaches to ECD and they cannot tell me about them. I ask about methods of differentiation and why are they not interested in using them and the answer I get is that these methods take up too much of the teachers time. Such an attitude is an attitude that must be done away with and can only be done at a tertiary level. The most shocking thing about my findings is that it is not only new teachers but also many experienced teachers.

Teacher training needs to be brought back immediately.We need to follow the systems of the most successful educational systems being Singapore and Finland.We need to follow the model of the IB Curriculum.We need to develop our students to become critical thinkers and not spoon fed.We need to enstil responsibility and independence into them.We must assist their social development in more meaningful ways and together with parents, we must encourage family time so that they may bong and experience the sense of togetherness which makes them less selfish and more caring.

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Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning is a student centered pedagogy where by students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge is more about knowing and doing. Project based learning students take advantage of technology to produce high quality collaborative products.

Teachers are not in school to impose habits or ideas into kids but is there as a guide for the kid to be able to select influences that would best affect the child.

The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke critical thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. A teacher is the facilitator, who would work with students in their tasks to frame meaningful questions and together find solutions that they need answers to.

 

Projects are focused on student learning goals and include Essential Project Design Elements:

Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management.

Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.

Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.

Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.

Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.

Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.

Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.

Public Product – Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the  classroom.

 

Early Childhood Development of today

A-Day-In-First-Grade-237

Montessori and Reggio
Looking for creative and colorful classrooms? Do a google search and you would find that your inspiration may come from either a Montessori or a Reggio school, which both would give you beautiful classrooms that are serene, filled with light and extraordinary.However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find, However, if you do another google search on the names mentioned, you would find yourself being left speechless with the amount of information being brought up. Information such as names in foreign languages, regions and a plethora of other research for each.All individuals who are considering the path of an early childhood development teacher MUST be familiar with the different educational philosophies for ECD. It helps guide you to understand the exact ECD path to follow. An individual wishing to start ECD should first do their own research and then look at the curriculum’s of various universities first, look for the methods that you are taught and then go on from there. In my opinion, if the universities do not cover all philosophies, you should look elsewhere.

So what are Montessori and Reggio schools about?

The Montessori approach
was founded in Rome- Italy by Dr.Maria Montessori in 1907.Her aim was to see an educational system that involved the whole child. Maria Montessori’s work became a global sensation and spread across the world. Anywhere you go today, they’ve got a Montessori school. The system groups kids into multi-aged groups to promote peer relationships and learning between the different ages. The Montessori approach believes that a child can naturally absorb knowledge from their surroundings and through exploration self-direct what they have learned. The curriculum is very much like today, with the very many subjects involved. The Montessori Method also focuses on observing a child. These observations are meant to guide the teacher on what to present next. Based on the observations, lessons and materials will be decided.

Reggio Emilia approach 
came about after world war 2.There was a desire for a new educational system. It took an Educational psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi to bring about the change with a new method to ECD. Founded in 1950, in an Italian city known as Reggio

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 Emilia. The main idea behind this approach is that the child should be an active participant in their education. There is no set curriculum as opposed to the Montessori Method. The curriculum moulds itself according to the child by their interests and responses. Malaguzzi collaborated with parents within the area to develop the new childcare. The Reggio approach focuses on documentation whereby a teacher documents both the work and words of the child, using everything from pencil and paper to audio and video equipment. The Reggio approach documents both the academic and social progress of a child.

In both methods students use their senses to explore and direct their learning, however in the Montessori approach students are free to choose from pre-planned activities to work independently and use movement. Montessori kids pace themselves and decide when to have a snack, and play with each other. In the Reggio approach, on the other hand, collaborative education is the main focus, any student can direct the learning, and using their many languages kids direct their curiosity and inspire lessons through questions and answers and questioning again. Students use the environment as the teacher and the teacher as their guidance.

The key to any successful system is the environment, in particular, the classroom which needs to be friendly welcoming and ready for learning. In the Montessori approach, the classrooms contain specific material that’s required and set up accordingly to allow students to choose how to use them. Instead of desks tables are put in place and is at eye level with the kids, in fact, everything is at eye level to accommodate the little ones and make things easy for them. This approach also allows for the use of the floor if they feel comfortable to learn on the floor rather than their tables, but keep in mind cleanliness is also a key factor in Montessori.
With the Reggio approach, the classroom is also very important. However here we find that teachers would set up different sized tables according to the different sizes of children in their classes. The Reggio approach is a very hand on approach and so we find that in Reggio classrooms the tables are different in textures and colors in order to inspire students more. Efforts are collaborative and documented throughout and as such on a walk around a Reggio classroom you will find displays of the children’s work. The idea of displaying their different works I actually like because it encourages them, and also allows for reflection which is important at any stage of development.

In both methods students do not take assessments or exams and are not graded, they work on a portfolio system where they are documented according to their levels of success and participation level. It must also be mentioned that while Montessori groups different age groups together, Reggio would group the same ages together as in a more traditional style. In a Reggio classroom, you will find that students will learn directly from their environment meaning that their environment is created to be an extension of the children’s world. Whereas in the Montessori approach there are age-specific tools of learning which are also self-correctable whereby if a child makes a mistake they can go back and correct the mistake.

For parents, the decision to send your child to a Reggio school or a Montessori school is a hard decision. However they both offer unique experiences, and both have their benefits and are similar in ways to the subtle differences that can lead you to make the decision that you need to make. The Reggio approach is a very collaborative method, parents are active in their child’s education, not just at home but are also invited to the school to be part of it. The Reggio approach to early education reflects a theoretical kinship to the ideology of constructivism. The Reggio approach, in my opinion, is a modern-day early childhood development.

For teachers, if your path is traditional, I would suggest going the Montessori way, but if you are a modern day teacher who, like me, believes that kids need to be kids, they learn to learn lifelong skills that they can actually use, that kids need to socially develop and become critical thinkers and should ask questions, then is suggest look at going the Reggio Emilia approach.

Reggio Emilia Approach to ECD

5-Facts-About-Reggio-Emilia-T8STli

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

 

 

Inquiry- Based Learning

Students learn more due to the fact that they take action and apply the skills that they learn.IBL is a fancy word for curiosity, every child is curious. Teachers need to allow this curiosity within a controlled environment. The best way to learn is to question. Human nature is to question therefore questions by students should always be welcomed by the teacher. IBL is about igniting passion and relevance and not just about finishing the routine. We need to assess knowledge and understanding and not memory and speed. IBL is about student exploration.

The basics of IBL are to come up with rich questions for students. Questions that don’t already have the answers in it. This enables thinking. The student will begin to do things related to passion and excitement, they become inspired and motivated, they struggle at times but this is the meaning of a true education. The IBL method allows for students and teachers to go far and beyond the expectations of the curriculum. Students become invested in their learning and are able to transfer what they learn in school to the real world.

 

How does an IBL lesson begin?

A teacher begins with the idea of where they would want to end in mind but gives the students the opportunity to drive it to that point.

Guided Inquiry – Teachers guide the students through the curriculum and gradually shifts the focus to a student based inquiry.

Student-based Inquiry– Students use what was guided by prior knowledge and begin to build their own inquiries, thus making them critical thinkers.

Teachers develop the guided inquiry based on the curriculum, however, students shape how and where they want to go with it.

 

Incorporating IBL into the classroom

The incorporation of IBL into a classroom may seem expensive, too open-ended and time-consuming but there are ways of avoiding this. IBL is a very good method as research has shown that it increases motivation and deepens a student’s understanding. Many ask the question of what if a teacher hasn’t ever been introduced to IBL or rarely incorporates it into his/her classroom, what steps can be taken to fully integrate IBL into classes so that it becomes a normal routine?

Firstly teachers need to be familiar with their content and topic for the lesson by looking through the curriculum which will help their understanding of what the students need to learn and also what is not part of the curriculum.

Teachers, as we know, have limited time so to brush up on content understanding teachers could use resources such as textbooks which are useful but in the age of technology sites such as YouTube, Google and Wikipedia saves time and is very effective. Teachers do need to be careful of sites such as Wikipedia as Wikipedia may have information that may be too intense and not relevant to that particular grade. Colleagues also can be helpful as a form of resource.

Once the teacher is confident about his/her research of the topic, the teacher should then come up with a rich inquiry-based activity for their students, again the internet is a great place to find activities and ideas. A teacher may want to change the activity a bit to fit the level of the students and of course one that fits the curriculum as well as links the activity to society.

Find activities that don’t require materials of a big budget, the important thing to understand here and implement is the concept of making do with what you already have before looking elsewhere.

Spreading the class into groups of not more than 6 groups allows for collaboration. Choose activates that are comfortable for both the teacher and students to do in class. Make sure that any activity done ensures the safety of students which is of paramount importance.

The teacher should begin the lesson by laying down the foundation with the basic content. This means that the teacher is going to teach.Teaching the BASIC CONTENT to develop the interest early on. Once the basic fundamental concepts have been presented the teacher may move onto some STRUCTURED INQUIRY.

Structured Inquiry

With structured inquiry the teacher provides students with a question to answer or a problem to solve and also gives the students a procedure to follow in order to arrive at a solution, the teacher does not provide students with a solution. The solution is what students have to figure out.

Structured inquiry helps students go over the content they had learned during the basic content phase of the lesson. Using groups allows for all students in the group to become active members. Every student in the group has an important role to play thus teaching responsibility. Teachers should then challenge students with a guided inquiry activity.

 

Guided inquiry

With guided inquiry, the teacher asks a question to the class presenting what they have learned thus far.It is now up to the students to figure out the procedure and come to a solution. Guided inquiry gives the opportunity for students to be creative and inquisitive therefore allowing them to ask the many questions they would develop. To stimulate this, the teacher can come up with creative scenarios.

Guided inquiry can be very rewarding as it ignites emotion when students arrive at the solution through the procedures they have created.Guided learning gives the balance of freedom and constraint. Meaning that they should solve a specific problem with specific resources but are given the freedom to use their own strategies. The end result is that they take ownership of their work and arrive at the conclusions without being overwhelmed by too many options and going off track.

 

Open inquiry

During the guided inquiry, students ask questions which would lead to open inquiry. Open inquiry is the bi-product of the other forms of inquiry.

In open inquiry, the teacher does not provide the solution, procedure or question. Students come up with the question, the teacher at the start of the lesson had already provided the foundation and guided them through as well as scaffold questions to them, students have the ability and confidence to answer questions from their peers. They do this by experimenting and making predictions with some teacher assistance.

Because questions come from the students there is a level of motivation to reach a solution, Open inquiry leads to powerful, teachable moments and is satisfying for both the teacher and students who can both take the opportunity to learn something new.

 

How to get your students to become critical thinkers?

Critical thinking has always been an important issue in education. All students will need an exercise critical thinking well beyond their school years. Experts agree that in keeping up with the ever-changing technological advances, students will need to obtain, understand, and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. It is our job as educators to equip our students with the strategies and skills they need to think critically in order to cope with these tech problems and obstacles they face elsewhere.

Fortunately, teachers can use a number of techniques that can help students learn critical thinking, even for children enrolled in kindergarten. Here are some teaching strategies that may prove immediately effective:

To Encourage Creativity

Traditionally, elementary teachers prepare templates for art projects before they give it to their students. By doing so, it levels the creative playing field and can, in some ways, help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s snowflake looks the same.

I know it may be a bit unnerving to relinquish a bit of control, but rest assured that not having everything prepped in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all of the supplies needed to create a snowflake, and let them do it on their own. This will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to use their prior knowledge to consider what a snowflake looks like, how big it is, what color it is, etc.

Do Not Always Jump in to Help

It’s too easy to always find a solution for a student who needs your help. Kindergarteners especially will get very upset when they can’t find their crayons or scissors. The easy way for a teacher to answer is “It’s OK, you can borrow a pair of scissors from me.” Instead of always readily finding a solution for your students, try responding with “Let’s think about how we can find them.” Then, you can assist the student in figuring out the best possible solution for finding their lost item.

Brainstorm before Everything You Do

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get young children to think critically is to brainstorm. Regardless of the subject, have students think about what they’ll be doing, learning, or reading— before actually starting each activity.  Ask a lot of questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me three things you think you will be learning in this lesson about space?” Give students every opportunity you can to be critical thinkers.

Classify and Categorize

Classification plays an important role in critical thinking because it requires students to understand and apply a set of rules. Give students a variety of objects and ask them to identify each object, then sort it into a category. This is a great activity to help students think and self-question what object should go where, and why.

Compare and Contrast

Much like classifying, students will need to look closely at each topic or object they are comparing and really think about the significance of each one. You can have students compare and contrast just about anything—try this out with the book your class is reading now. Compare and contrast the weather forecast for today and yesterday. Compare the shape and color of a pumpkin to another vegetable. Compare and contrast today’s math lesson with last week’s—the ideas are endless.

Make Connections

Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.

Provide Group Opportunities

Group settings are the perfect way to get your kids thinking. When children are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think and that their way is not the only route to explore.

When this valuable skill is introduced to students early on in the education process, students will be capable of having complex thoughts and become better problem solvers when presented with difficulty. It’s important for students to possess a variety of skills, but it’s just as important for them to understand the skills and how, and when to use them.

A humble question is an indispensable tool: the spade that helps us dig for the truth, or the flashlight that illuminates the surrounding darkness. Questioning helps us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change.

That makes it a most precious “app” today, in a world where everything is changing and so much is unknown. And yet, we don’t seem to value questioning as much as we should. For the most part, in our workplaces as well as our classrooms, it is the answers we reward — while the questions are barely tolerated.

To change that is easier said than done. Working within an answers-based education system, and in a culture where questioning may be seen as a sign of weakness, teachers must go out of their way to create conditions conducive to inquiry. Here are some suggestions (based on input from question-friendly teachers, schools, programs, and organizations) on how to encourage more questioning in the classroom and hopefully, beyond it.

 

How to Encourage Questioning

  1. Make It Safe

Asking a question can be a scary step into the void. It’s also an admission to the world (and more terrifyingly, to classmates) that one doesn’t know the answer. So teachers must somehow “flip the script” by creating an environment where questioning becomes a strength; where it is welcomed and desired. The Right Question Institute, a nonprofit group that teaches inquiry skills in low-income schools, encourages teachers to run group exercises dedicated entirely to formulating questions (no answers allowed!) — with clear rules and guidelines to ensure that students’ questions aren’t judged or edited, and that all questions are written down and respected. There are many variations on this type of exercise. The second-grade teacher Julie Grimm uses a “10 by 10” exercise, in which kids are encouraged to come up with 10 great questions about a topic during a 10-minute span. But the bottom line is, designate some kind of safe haven in the classroom where all students can freely exercise the “questioning muscle.”

 

  1. Make It “Cool”

This is a tough one. Among many kids, it’s cool to already know — or to not care. But what if we could help students understand that the people who ask questions happen to be some of the coolest people on the planet? As I discovered in the research for my book on inquiry, questioners thought of many of those whiz-bang gadgets we now love. They’re the ones breaking new ground in music, movies, the arts. They’re the explorers, the mavericks, the rebels, making the world a more interesting place — and having a heck of a time themselves. How cool is that?

  1. Make It Fun

Part of the appeal of “questions-only” exercises is that there’s an element of play involved, as in: Can you turn that answer/statement into a question? Can you open your closed questions, and close your open ones? There are countless ways to inject a “game” element into questioning, but here’s an example borrowed from the business world: Some companies use a practice called “the 5 whys,” which involves formulating a series of “why” questions to try to get to the root of a problem. Kids were practically born asking “why” questions, so why not allow them to use that innate talent within a structured challenge? Or, show them how to use the “Why/What if/How” sequence of questioning as a fun way to tackle just about any problem. Whatever the approach, let kids tap into their imaginations and innate question-asking skills in ways that make inquiry an engaging part of a larger challenge.

  1. Make It Rewarding

Obviously, we must praise and celebrate the questions that are asked — and not only the on-target, penetrating ones, but also the more expansive, sometimes-offbeat ones (I found that seemingly “crazy questions” sometimes result in the biggest breakthroughs). Help create a path for students to get from a question to a meaningful result. A great question can be the basis of an on-going project, a report, an original creation of some kind. The point is to show that if one is willing to spend time on a question — to not just Google it but grapple with it, share it with others, and build on it — that question can ultimately lead to something rewarding and worthwhile.

  1. Make It Stick

If the long-term goal is to create lifelong questioners, then the challenge is to make questioning a habit — a part of the way one thinks. RQI’s Dan Rothstein says it’s important to include a metacognitive stage in question-training exercises wherein kids can reflect on how they’ve used questioning and articulate what they’ve learned about it, so they can “pave a new neural pathway” for lifelong inquiry.