Reflective Discussions

Today was the lift-off (the evaluation phase) of our inquiry learning unit.

I’d always done inquiry learning in the safety of my New Zealand school where inquiry learning has been a part of the curriculum for awhile.  But at my current school, it isn’t as prevalent so I really did not know what to expect.  But my amazing students persevered and they just did famously and I’m very proud of what they have done.  (Inquiry learning post coming soon!)

What I was particularly impressed about my students, though, was their skills in engaging in reflective discussion.  When I first inherited this class for a long-term sub position, it seemed that the students were not particularly used to being let loose to have discussions.  This type of teaching style is something that I’ve grown extremely accustomed to and often expected to do.  But my students seemed to have a real difficulty with this.  When I first asked them to have a discussion with their group or a buddy, the normal ‘buzz’ of kids talking did not happen.  Instead, the students seemed to just share simple answers and thought they were done.

I did little mini-lessons here and there about needing to respond to others, agreeing, disagreeing etc etc.  I didn’t think I put in a whole lot of effort into teaching the ‘how to’ of discussion, though.  But, after weeks of being in the classroom with me, and after being given almost a daily time of conversing in groups and pairs about their thoughts, somewhere along the way, something clicked.  And now, they are absolute experts.  Today was a perfect example.

The students were given two sheets for reflection for their inquiry learning.  They had a simple PMI chart (Plus, Minus, Interesting) to fill out to reflect on their inquiry learning experience.  And then they had a self-reflective one.  I told them to sit with their inquiry learning groups to fill out the chart.  After going through the PMI chart and the self-reflective chart I let them get started.

The first awesome thing that I noticed was the buzz of the room.  It’s the kind of buzzing you hear when there are some serious discussions going on.  Rather than getting in on the discussions, I opted to just sit in the corner of the room and observe and listen intently to their discussions.  I only have 22 students in my class so it was not hard to eavesdrop.  Their discussions were just fabulous.

I heard discussions about what went well and I heard a lot of justifying of the answer.  I heard kids disagreeing with each other and also justifying why they disagreed.  I heard kids making suggestions.  I saw kids going back to their poster (which was a product of the inquiry learning unit) to look again to see what they had done.  And this went on for a good 15+ minutes and everyone of them was engaged.  I truly had a proud teacher moment.  They were awesome.  It just goes to show that sometimes, kids just need that opportunity to grow and learn.