Sunday, August 5, 2012

Inquiry-Based Classrooms - Book Review

Why Are School Buses Always Yellow?: Teaching for Inquiry, PreK-5

Mandatory Summer Reading.  Another thing my new district does that I had never experienced before.  I have mixed feelings about this. For one, I really love professional books, and learning new things, so it's a plus. Also, my building is involved in an inquiry-based PYP program, so this is a great resource to help me know what the heck I'm supposed to be doing- since I've got no clue.  Countdown to training session on the 13th is a GO!  But, as a hold-over from my own school days- I hate required reading. Ironic, isn't it? As teachers we assign required reading how often?  And we get upset when they hate it? Life lesson right there.  I cracked this baby open two days ago and decided to give it a whirl before my training.  Turns out, a pretty decent read.

I attached a link to the picture above to the author's site.  You can read his blog, check out some other inquiry info, and of course, link up to a book seller to buy it.  

The 11 chapter book was a pretty simple read.  I got it done in just a few hours broken up over a couple of days.  The only chapter I didn't find particularly engaging was the chapter on parent involvement, I didn't feel like I really got any advice on how to include parents in the process, as the bulk of the chapter was examples of how different members of his family has instilled the idea of curiosity and wonderment into his own life.  I suppose it sort of gave me an idea as how I should do that for my own kids- but it didn't help me out with the idea of getting other parents involved in my classroom. But someone else might have a completely different experience with that chapter.  The rest of the book, super helpful.

He broke down questioning into three levels - gathering, processing, and applying information.  This is going to be really good for me to analyze the sort of questions my students and I are generating in class during inquiry.  Many parts of the book reminded me of Bloom's Taxonomy, and I was wanting to use that more effectively this year.  There was a great section on breaking down the process of planning for a unit in order make sure you're meeting your curriculum objectives while still using children generated questions.  I also enjoyed the section on authentic assessment, as it gave me a focus on how to plan for a more engaging way to measure student understanding rather than a traditional test.

I liked the section on starting the inquiry process the most, as it got my mind swirling over ways to create curiosity and wonder in the classroom.  His ideas were simple enough, but I hadn't really considered them before: training myself to use "wonder talk", teaching the students through modeling how to wonder about things, keeping a wonder journal, bringing in an object a week to wonder about as a souped up version of the by-gone days of show-and-tell, mystery bags, wondering more during read-alouds. 

Reading the book made me realize how often I had a tendency to cut-off curiosity and wonderment because I had this feeling of having to keep up with the curriculum pacing.  And I know I'm not the only one.  We cut off tangents because we've got to go go go!  It just makes me wonder what we are doing long-term to these kids?  It's nice to know that my new school is fostering this environment, but it is daunting as well.  It will certainly be a journey.



  1. You rule follower!!! At least it was somewhat decent. Maybe I'll crack the spine on mine too then...

  2. I read this book a few years ago. I wasn't wowed by it, but I love the idea of inquiry learning! Still trying to find a method that will work for me.

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  3. Indeed, I wouldn't count this as a WOW. But, I do give it a "not bad, meh" for required reading. I think overall, it helped me focus on the idea of how I really need to work on that air of mystery in the room. I'm used to the straight lecture and giving out the necessary information. I need to learn to pause and let the kids mull it over for a bit. I'm hoping that my training this next week will give me some ideas for general go-to inquiry standbys for lesson planning. Like, should I always have a picture sort with every topic, or whatnot.