Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today

Trevor MacKenzie on episode 315 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Fantastic ideas to bring the inquiry mindset into the classroom including curiosity jars, provocations and more. Trevor MacKenzie gives us ideas to help kids become excited and curious.

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Enhanced Transcript

Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today

Link to show:
Date: May 18, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Trevor MacKenzie, 17-year educator from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and author of Inquiry Mindset. I actually found him on the hashtag, because #inquirymindset going crazy, Trevor.

Today we’re talking about five ideas to bring inquiry mindset into the classroom.

Trevor, what is your first idea?

Trevor: Thanks so much, Vicki, for having me. My first idea — and it sounds like such a simple one, but it’s often one that educators overlook — is to simply ask our students what their curiosities and interests and passions are. Then use these as leveraging points to create powerful learning opportunities.

Idea #1 Ask students what their curiosities and interests and passions are

So one really neat thing that I see in powerful inquiry classes at the younger years is called The Curiosity Jar.

The Curiosity Jar is a beautiful mason jar that teachers have decorated with their students, and teachers encourage kids to plunk a little written curiosity into the jar any time throughout the day. The inquiry teacher can beforehand — we never do this randomly in front of our students, right? — beforehand, pull out these curiosities and prep really awesome learning moments.

I’ve seen some amazing things come from The Curiosity Jar — wonders about space, wonders about humanity, wonders about learning. So really, when we ask our students what their curiosities are, we really do leverage those into powerful learning opportunities.

Vicki: Wow. The teacher looks at all of what they are, and knows what they are, and then the kids — at some point in the next day or so — will draw. And then the teacher will just use that particular lesson based on whichever one they draw, right?

Trevor: Absolutely. Sometimes it happens at carpet time. You know, we pull the kids into carpet time and we pull out these curiosities. It appears random, but the teacher has prepped and scaffolded for these carpet time moments to create really powerful, meaningful learning opportunities.

Vicki: And I love it because in some ways, even though you’ve planned ahead, it’s spontaneous for the teacher. There’s that element of surprise and spontaneity that’s so much part of the exciting inquiry-based classroom.

OK, what’s our second one?

Trevor: Our second one is to bring in provocations. Provocations in the inquiry-based classroom are those artifacts or images or videos, to spark further curiosity and meaningful questions and conversation around learning.

Idea #2 Bring in provocations

A really fantastic provocation that my son, who’s in inquiry this year, brought in Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day in Canada is the equivalent of, I suppose Veterans Day in the United States. Is that right, Vicki?

Vicki: It is. I believe so.

Trevor: Yeah, so he brought in his great-grandfather’s boots from World War II.

He brought them in, and rather than have him share them at Show and Tell, the teacher just put them down on a desk and had students go and explore them, pick them up, and ask questions about them. “What do you notice about these boots? What do you wonder about these boots? And what do you know about these boots?”

Between the students and the conversations about those three questions, further questions and curiosities and interests surfaced throughout this activity. So that one little provocation of the boots led into some really amazing conversations around Remembrance Day and specifically, World War II.

I think provocations are a really powerful way to spark further curiosities and questions in the inquiry classroom.

Vicki: I love that! So you’re really trying to provoke curiosity, aren’t you?

Trevor: Absolutely! And you know, to be honest, by having them be a part of those provocations — they can bring them in, we can bring them in — and then from there, we can connect to other plans that we have in our curriculum and with regards to our assessment, right?

Vicki: Oh, what a remarkable idea.

Idea #3 Bring in a real world problem or challenge

OK, what’s number three?

Trevor: Number three is to bring in a real world problem or challenge. I ask my students to help me attack this challenge and solve this challenge and try to make a difference in the world around us, whether it’s our school community or our local community or perhaps our global community.

Sometimes that turns into a letter campaign or an email campaign. Sometimes that turns into design thinking and creating a solution to this challenge. Perhaps it’s using technology to solve a problem that we see in our world.

Overall, really what it does is it generates high interest in our community and our global community. It creates some authentic skills with our students. They look at how to attack a problem, plan a solution, and then of course follow through on that plan.

Then it’s just really meaningful learning, isn’t it? When we are looking at our community, whether it’s our school, our community, our city, our country, and then globally, it’s so much more meaningful than just reading out of a textbook or signing out a book.

It’s an authentic connection to the world around us. And I love it.

Vicki: Trevor, you have got to give me at least one quick example? Go for it.

Trevor: So a really quick example. Graffiti art has really been a hot topic at our school this year because around us there have been some artists who have been, of course — taking liberties, tagging, creating their share of art around us.

So I posed that question to my students. What do we do about this graffiti art? Is it even a problem? Should graffiti art be legalized? What do we want to do about it?

My students decided that graffiti art, when done tactfully and artfully, shouldn’t be illegal. It should be promoted and celebrated in our community.

So we followed up that belief with a plan to try to make a positive change with this topic. Essentially, they wrote letters to our local municipality, encouraging them to consider legalizing graffiti art in some of our public spaces.

So much fun, right?

Vicki: Oh, that’s awesome, and they’re being a part of advocating for meaningful change in the world. That’s fantastic!

Idea #4: Model your own passions, interests, and curiosities

OK, what’s our fourth, Trevor?

Trevor: You know, number four is that I really do try to — as an inquiry teacher — model my own passions and my own interests and my own curiosities for my students.

Not only do I want them to see my thinking and hear my thinking — around what gets me ticking and what gets me excited about learning — but also I want them to see what lifelong learning really looks like.

I want to be a role model for what their future as a learner could look like. Really, by modeling that and sharing my thinking aloud, I’m helping them work out that metacognitive thinking behind what we see day in and day out for our students.

I think a real strong inquiry teacher models their passions, models their thinking, models that friction that we know students have in learning — and then how we deal with that friction and how we deal with the heavy lifting of learning.

So yeah. I encourage inquiry teachers to model their passions, model their interests, and model their thinking, Vicki.

Vicki: Oh yes. Bring it in to your classroom! Let them see you get excited. Let them see you learn. Let them see you talk out the challenges that you have as you learn it.

OK. These are fantastic!

What’s our fifth, Trevor?

Trevor: Our fifth is the power of the PLN. You referred to the hashtag earlier. I know this is bringing the inquiry mindset into the classroom, but number five is really about bringing the inquiry mindset to our school.

Idea #5: Use the power of the PLN

I’m going to encourage teachers who are listening to find a collaborative tribe within their building to partake in some professional inquiry around teaching and learning in our school. Inquiry just isn’t great for our students, it’s powerful for our staff as well.

So asking a big question of myself and a little group of teachers within my building — and that question, obviously revolves around how my teaching is impacting my students’ learning.

That can look like many things. It could look like provocations, as I referred to earlier. It could be a big question around my assessment practice or my preparation for my learning moments with my students.

But that — harnessing the power of the PLN in our building — is going to quick create the inquiry mindset with our staff, with our colleagues, and with our teachers. Once we have that happening with our staff? Amazing things are going to trickle down for our students.

Vicki: Trevor, while we have time, what’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen happen on the #inquirymindset on Twitter?

Trevor: Oh my gosh!

You know one thing that I’m real excited about — and it’s happening slowly because I think this one takes a little bit of time, but — I’m seeing teachers start to look at their learning spaces, their classrooms, and really start to re-jig and redesign how their classrooms look.

Quite literally, it’s playing with the furniture in the room. You know those Before and After photos that we see in design TV shows all the time?

We’re seeing teachers take this to the next level and really think about, “OK, what’s the teacher-centered room look like? What’s the student-centered room look like? How can I maybe find a balance between the two?”

Because we know teacher-centered time and teaching directly is important. We need that in our classroom. But then what does the student-centered classroom actually look like?

I’m seeing amazing BEFORE and AFTER photos of these classrooms where teachers have tried to strike that balance a little bit more explicitly and intently. Some of it is just so, so cool.

And it doesn’t take this huge budget. We’re not talking about spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on new furniture. It really is a matter of redesigning what we currently have in our room on a low, low budget.

And that to me is just so inspiring to see teachers re-jig what it is that they have in front of them to better meet the needs of their students. It’s super exciting!

Vicki: Trevor, give us a thirty-second pep talk for adding inquiry-based learning into our classroom.

Trevor: Wow. A thirty-second pep talk?

I tell you, some of the biggest changes I’ve made in my practice all stem from just trying to better meet the needs of my students. You know, I never set out to write two books on inquiry, or become kind of a global consultant on inquiry. The very first question I ask myself with regard to this journey I’ve been on has been, “How can I meet the needs of the students I’m serving?”

To me, that’s always been relationships first, right? It’s the high-five in the hallway. It’s the kind smile. It’s really being present to hear the needs from each of my students. Then, of course, really thinking on what a proper and powerful pathway is that I can create to better meet the needs of my kids. So relationships first!

It starts small and it ends up big.

Vicki: Educators, we know, we’ve got to relate before we educate.

These are some fantastic principles.

Hope to see you on the hashtag. I think I’m going to be adding it to HootSuite now after we finish up the show.

Thank you, Trevor! The book is The Inquiry Mindset. Follow #inquirymindset. So many fantastic ideas here.

We can do this! I really love the provocations and asking students about curiosity.

A previous show guest actually has kids keep a “Wonderings Journal,” where they write about things that they wonder, and these are all exciting ways to add the inquiry mindset into our classroom. Let’s do this!

Trevor: Love it! Thanks for having me, Vicki! So much fun!

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Trevor MacKenzie is an award winning English teacher, instructional coach (focusing on inquiry and technology), and graduate student from Victoria, BC, Canada who believes that it is a magical time to be an educator.

By increasing student agency over learning, weaving in strong pedagogy, transformative tech use, and sharing learning to a public audience, Trevor’s learners are ready to take on important roles in the 21st century.

Trevor is the author of Dive into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice as well as Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners (co-authored with Rebecca Bauthurst-Hunt).

Find out more about Trevor and his work at


Twitter: @trev_mackenzie

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!


Ann Oro: Developing A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Ann Oro on episode 314 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Ann Oro helped her diocese develop curriculum standards for digital citizenship by grade level. Ann also talks about the fifth-grade course piloted by Seton Hall in two of her schools.

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Enhanced Transcript

Ann Oro: A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Link to show:
Date: May 17, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Ann Oro.

We were just talking about how we’re pretty sure we met just about ten years ago to the day that we are recording this, in Princeton way back in 2008. (laughs)

I really followed so much of what Ann has done. She was in the classroom for many, many years.

Now she is working as Director of K-12 Instructional Technology for the 93 schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, and really working with their digital citizenship initiative.

So today we’re going to talk about, “What should we be teaching kids about digital citizenship?”

So Ann, I know that you’ve worked with reworking your curriculum. You’ve partnered with Seton Hall. You’ve done a lot of these things. But where do we start talking about this broad topic?

Where do we start?

Ann: Vicki, where we start is with the teachers, and really being intentional at every grade level with what’s appropriate for the students.

I work with teachers from preschool all the way up to the twelfth grade, and it really just takes a spiraling approach — meaning that when you’re in the preschool class maybe that digital citizenship just looks like, “How do you appropriately share a device with somebody else?”

Then as you work up through the years, it begins to take on different meanings, everything from asking a grownup if it’s okay to go online and if a site’s appropriate to understanding how to research that information. And finally, how to truly put your best self out if you’re doing that on the internet.

Vicki: So Ann, you think we should be intentional. You know, a lot of times, it’s kind of the shotgun approach. I’m just going to pull out my digital citizenship and just hit a bunch of stuff at once and hope I cover what I need to, but there really are things that need to be age-appropriate, aren’t there?

Ann: There absolutely are.

When I worked with the teachers in the 93 schools, we realized that we didn’t have that intentional look at the skills that students and teachers needed.

So we began by looking at the ISTE standards, which is the International Society for Technology Education. We looked at state standards, and then we talked. We spent about two years going with this approach to find the skills that we needed across the curriculum, not just digital citizenship.

We started with the ISTE Standards and state standards

Vicki: Have you shared these somewhere online?

Ann: They are online, and when you look at the Shownotes, I have a link with the resources that I’ll be talking about, and our entire technology curriculum map for K-12 is online. It’s helped give everybody focus, and it really helps us be intentional, like you said, about what it is that we want our students to be thinking and doing when they’re online.

Vicki: Yeah. So, now, you recently made the news, when you partnered with Seton Hall Law of of fifth grade course. Tell us a little about that fifth grade course and what it was about.

Ann: Seton Hall Law School has a division that is the Privacy Protection Institute. It is a Catholic university.

In addition to working with public schools, they reached out to us to find out if we would be interested in piloting this program.

What it really does is it takes looking at digital citizenship away from, “Be afraid of who might meet you online,” to “How much time am I spending online?”

It’s not, “Be afraid of who might meet you online.”
It’s, “How much time am I spending online?”

It really started with a focus on fifth graders because the research that they did said that that’s approximately the age when many students get their first cell phone.

They wanted to make sure that students are thinking about the implication of, “How often are you touching that cell phone?”

Also, the implications of the way that you use your phone to search is going to give you different results from the way that somebody else uses the phone to search.

It really has been very well-received by the two schools that we worked on with it. They shared an article in The Washington Post, and the leader of the programs said that they have been truly just been overwhelmed with the requests for information about this pilot program. It just points to the fact of how very topical and important it is.

Fifth grade is when most kids get their first cell phone.

Vicki: Did you get any pushback with the age of the kids? Some people think, “Oh, the kids need to be older.” But you’re right — fifth grade is when it happens. But there are a lot of folks that live in denial. How did you approach that when you got the pushback?

Ann: You know, truthfully, and maybe surprisingly, we didn’t get any pushback.

There really is a clamoring for information on the parents’ part. I’m seeing it in different ways around different schools.

A couple of the schools did a screening of “Screenagers” for the parents and attended one of those. It’s a video of them talking about the research that a doctor did on cell phones, and, again, how sticky they are.

The parents, when you talk to them afterwards, are really just interested in how much is too much. And they feel like it’s just something that’s happening to them. They don’t realize that every other parent is dealing with that across the grade levels.

Vicki: What kind of results have you seen since implementing the curriculum and this program in fifth grade with your students? Has the behavior changed? Are they talking about change? What’s happened?

Ann: Well, this is, again, it’s very, very new. We’ve only been doing it for about eight weeks in two different schools.

So the results are not in yet, but we also — through the Washington Post article, The CBS Morning Show chose to interview the school. What they found when they were interviewing the students is that the kids really clamored for the information. And the students were really becoming more intentional about how often they were touching that phone.

Vicki: Because, you know, digital health and wellness is something that you and I have talked about for years.

These devices are designed to be addictive

These devices are designed to be addictive. They’re sticky, is what marketers call it. They want it to be sticky. They want the eyeballs.

But we have to learn how to put them down. Isn’t that so hard, Ann?

Ann: It’s absolutely hard. I’ve heard you talk about it before on other shows.

It’s that concept that we’re talking about young children with young brains, and whether it’s touching that phone or whether it’s not perhaps leaving the nicest message for somebody, that kids’ brains are really developing up until their mid-twenties, depending on whether you’re talking about male or female.

A lot of what they do is really spur-of-the-moment, so it’s really a need to help the students realize that adults have a hard time with this. They have a hard time as well.

Vicki: So, Ann, as we’re finishing up, if you could challenge those working with a digital citizenship curriculum around the world with students with a thought about what it means if they do NOT have digital citizenship in their curriculum, what would you say?

Ann: Well, I would say that you’re lacking not even a future skill — I mean, this his is a skill that everybody needs.

If you’re not teaching this, then you’re setting your students up for failure

If you’re not intentionally taking care of it, you’re really setting your students up for failure when they move on into college. If they don’t go to college, when they move on to work, because you need to manage your identity.

You need to ethically interact with other people. You need to understand the rights and responsibilities of posting things online, taking control of making sure that intellectual property is cared for. And again, finally, just being very cognizant of how you’re sharing your data.

If we begin in preschool and keep spiraling through that, through twelfth grade, we’re setting students up for success in a way that other students, in previous years, really fumbled through on their own.

Begin in preschool and keep spiraling through twelfth grade

Vicki: And we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is educating! We’re not just saying “Hey, just figure it out yourself.”

We don’t give them geometry formulas and say, “Here’s some formulas, figure it out.”

But we hand them the phone and we don’t do that, and phones don’t come with user manuals anymore. It just kind of blows my mind.

Ann: Absolutely. In the course of looking around online, if a teacher isn’t comfortable with this, there are so many resources out there.

One of the resources that I had shared recently with some of the local teachers is a Google program that’s in their training center in Google for Education. It’s a digital citizenship and safety course for adults. Adults say, “You know what? I’m new at this. I have no idea what to do.”

It really talks about why to teach digital citizenship and safety, how you can search online in a savvy way, how you can protect yourself from phishing and scams and how you can manage your online reputation.

If so if they’re not comfortable with this, that course really gives them just the nuggets that then they can turn over to students in an age-appropriate way.

Vicki: Well, teachers and educators, we have a lot to think about with creating our digital citizenship curriculum, with things that we should be considering.

And also the challenge that, you know what? Fifth grade, is really kind of a key age to start into pretty deeply understanding of what kids need to be sharing, even if they’re a little younger than that technical age of thirteen, they are they getting phones and that does put things out there.

So I just challenge you to go to your district, go to your school, ask, “What is our digital citizenship curriculum? What are the things that each grade level should know or understand?”

Truly, I’m not sure how a school who calls itself a 21st Century School if it doesn’t have an intentional digital citizenship curriculum. It’s just part of it.

So thanks, Ann!

Ann: Thank you so much, Vicki.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Ann Oro is the Director of K12 Instructional Technology for the 93

schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. Ann has been leading teachers and students in the instructional use of technology to support student learning for over 15 years. Ann works to assist teachers in integrating technology into the curriculum to engage students in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The ability to critically review search results is an integral part of life in the 21st Century. It is equally important to communicate results in a creative manner. Ann shares collaborative projects with students and teachers across the globe. Her Monster Project, co-led with Anna Baralt, was highlighted at the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference closing keynote. She and her students were part of a project that won the Chase Multimedia in the Classroom Award with Lisa Parisi. She has been a K-8 computer and middle school math teacher and received her M.A. in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University.



Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Ann Oro: Developing A Digital Citizenship Curriculum appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

FREE Healthy Lifestyle Program for Schools: fit4Schools

Daily Fitness Challenges, a Fun Sweepstakes, and a Way to Link to Parents for Healthy Lifestyle Choices

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

We need promote healthy lifestyles for our students. The program fit4Schools from Sanford Health, collaborating with WebMD is just that program. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the fit4Schools, a daily program you can use in your classroom to boost fitness, and an awesome contest that you can enter to win rainy day supplies for PE teachers or flexible seating for your classroom.

Sponsored by fit4Schools

What is fit4Schools?

fit4Schools gives families simple things they can do each day to help make healthy lifestyle choices a habit. Parents can create an account and follow a classroom and their activities, which connects home and school in a powerful way to talk about fitness. Educators create accounts and can create a classroom.

I like how the site demonstrates that we have influencers in our life — MOOD and RECHARGE that influence the choices we make about the FOOD we eat and how we MOVE.


  • MOOD: feelings and attitudes
  • RECHARGE: sleep and relaxation


  • FOOD: what and how much you eat
  • MOVE: exercise, play, and physical activity

The daily fitBOOST gives teachers fun ways to add fitness breaks to their classroom each day. Other features include a weekly fit Calendar, and weekly lessons organized by grade level. The lessons include slide shows and are standards aligned. This is a great addition to your weekly activities in your classroom to help kids become more fit.

Enter the fit Commit Sweepstakes

The fit Commit Sweepstakes are an awesome contest you can share with students. Teacher must enter by May 25, 2018 and is open to all who are currently employed full- or part-time as an educator by an accredited public or private K-12 school in the United States.

All teachers have to do is enter and they will possibly win a Rainy Day Kit, a For the P.E. Teacher Kit, a Classroom Active Seating Kit or a Flexible Seating Kit! Teachers can select the prize kit of their choice if selected. There will be 16 winners. All prizes are valued at $650

fit Commit Prizes

The Rainy Day Kit Includes:

  • A giant tower game
  • A physical activity BINGO set
  • Clever Catch™ activity balls
  • A set of fitBoost cards
  • Plus loads of other indoor get-moving games and activities including hula hoops, a dance CD, beach balls and more

For the PE Teacher Kit includes:

  • 6 SST™ Scooters
  • 24 ACTION™ ToppleTubes™
  • A huge parachute
  • A set of fitBoost cards
  • Plus all of the balls, Frisbees, jump ropes and more to make your P.E. class awesome.

The Classroom Active Seating Kit includes:

  • 3 ergoErgo chairs
  • 6 BALLance™ stability balls
  • A Yze standing desk
  • A set of fitBoost cards and Brain Breaks activities

The Flexible Seating Kit includes:

  • Tabletop standing desk
  • Mogo active seat
  • Active seat cushions
  • Deskcycle—you have to try one of these!
  • Stability ball chair
  • Stability ball set

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post FREE Healthy Lifestyle Program for Schools: fit4Schools appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

102 Brain-Based Learning Resources For, Well, Brain-Based Teaching

102 Brain-Based Learning Resources For, Well, Brain-Based Teaching contributed by Sara Bass Researchers in neuroscience, psychology and education are uncovering new information about how brains learn best at an unbelievable pace. We have more insight into the brain’s learning processes than at any other moment in history, and we are poised on the brink of […]

The post 102 Brain-Based Learning Resources For, Well, Brain-Based Teaching appeared first on TeachThought.

The Simplest Way To Slow The Summer Slide

The Simplest Way To Slow The Summer Slide by Terry Heick There’s a lot of dialogue right now about the dreaded summer slide. Lots of scary statistics, technology layers, and socioeconomic concerns. Tips, resources, ideas, and strategies to reduce the impact of students being away from the classroom all summer. This is a topic that […]

The post The Simplest Way To Slow The Summer Slide appeared first on TeachThought.

Carrie Pierce: Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math

Carrie Pierce on episode 313 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Eighth-grade teacher Carrie Pierce uses discovery and inquiry-based learning in her classroom (and no textbooks.) Dig into how she makes math marvelous!

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Enhanced Transcript

Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math

Link to show:
Date: May 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Carrie Pierce, 20-year middle school math teacher, about discovery and inquiry-based learning in math.

Carrie is just up the road from me. She lives in Edison. She’s at Lee County, just one county over. Two counties over from me here in Mitchell County in Georgia.

So Carrie, let’s talk about how we can have discovery and inquiry-based learning in the math classroom. How do we do it?

Carrie: Well, it is a challenge.

One of the things that I try to do as I plan my lessons is to start at the end.

Start with the end in mind

I always have to think of what is it that I want the kids to know, what do I want them to learn, and how can I get them there using what they already know.

I think it’s really important to build on that prior knowledge whenever you can, but then tweak it just a little bit, to ask, “What if we did THIS instead? How would that number change this equation, or change the situation?” And try to get them asking the questions and get them excited about what they want to know.

Vicki: Carrie, this is more than just a math textbook, right?

Carrie: Absolutely. I don’t really use a math book. I have not touched one in probably fifteen years.

I teach from the standards, teach lessons that I have compiled and created and borrowed and adapted and tweaked throughout the years. And of course that changes with each group of kids. Everything runs differently the longer you do it.

Vicki: Okay, so “Discovery in the Math Classroom” Help us understand what you mean by that, because discovery and math don’t usually go together, right?

Carrie: Right, right.

When I was growing up and learning, we had our topic. I guess these days it would be the essential question (EQ) that you put on the board. The EQ was on the board.

The teacher says “Today, boys and girls, we are going to learn about functions,” and then launches into the lesson. “Here’s what it is, and here’s what it isn’t. Now work some problems.”

A common catchphrase that I hear teachers say often is “I do, we do, you do” and in my opinion, that’s not the best way. I like for the kids to wonder.

I like for the kids to wonder

I want them to get excited about math. I want them to see the real world connections that math has.

So instead of introducing the lesson with how things work, I might have a mini-lesson or perhaps a “Do Now” on the board to get them to ask the question, to get them to wonder. I might say, “Hey! What happens if… “ and then let them fill in that blank.

Vicki: So does this blow kids’ minds when they come into your classroom? Maybe they haven’t experienced this before?

Carrie: Absolutely.

I think it’s a period of adjustment. It usually takes them about three to four weeks to get used to each other and to get used to my teaching style.

One of the things that I do often is we’ll practice the problem for a little while, and I get them working.

We don’t start with notes. We don’t start with examples. That comes at kind of the middle of the lesson. Once they’ve tried it and kind of gotten their feet wet a little bit, then we’ll put our notes into our active notebook. Mainly that’s something for them to refer to if, you know, they have to take some practice home or to look back later in the year if they need that for a reference.

So definitely there’s an adjustment period.

There’s an adjustment period

Vicki: How do you start the class? You start with inquiry? Discovery? Very beginning of class?

Carrie: Well, usually the way I run my classroom, we do have our EQ on the board. They have their Do Now question, their bellringer, warm-up, whatever you want to call it.

And they come in, they kind of get settled. Now the Do Now could be a review of last night’s homework, but usually when I’m starting a new lesson, I’m trying to think of something that’s going to build on some prior knowledge. I try to think of what have we done yesterday, or in a previous lesson, that I can put up here and use, and often it just launches into my mini-lesson.

Vicki: Okay, so it launches into your mini-lesson, and then you’re always asking questions, trying to get them to inquire. Do you ever have your students come up and just ask you a question out of the blue, that leads to some math discussion?

Carrie: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I have a really hard time planning.

My administrators want me to have my lesson plans a week in advance.

And it’s not realistic because kids do wonder and they do ask, and often the lesson or the class takes a different direction. We still get our same standards done, and we still have great discussions.

Often the lesson takes a different direction

But maybe we wanted to do a different activity than what was planned or was already copied. It’s really amazing to hear how they think.

I think, as teachers – especially math teachers – one of our biggest (things) is that it’s not about formulas, it’s not about always doing it my way, but try to hear what they’re thinking.

And I’m always amazed at sometimes how children will approach a concept that I would have never considered because I’m trying to do it a certain way.

Try to hear what they’re thinking

And so as teachers I think we tend to teach in the way we’re taught, how we were trained to think about things, but to allow a child to discover a concept on their own and put it into their words is so powerful.

Vicki: Carrie, what’s a mistake you’ve made with inquiry-based learning that you would like the listeners not to make?

Carrie: It’s not easy. It’s not going to work every day, not going to work for every lesson. It takes practice. It takes experience. Sometimes you’re going to just fall flat on your face.

You have to be comfortable enough as a teacher, to be afraid to fail, so to speak, in front of the kids. Sometimes you think what you’ve planned is an amazing lesson for them to do, and it just bombs. They’re just not ready for it, they don’t make the connections that you hoped that they would make, for whatever reason.

And you have to be confident enough to say “Guys, I’m sorry, we’re going to try this again another day. You all weren’t ready for this,” or whatever. You have to be confident enough to fail, if that makes sense.

You have to be confident enough to fail

Vicki: What does it look like when inquiry-based learning and discovery in the math classroom goes right?

Carrie: It’s amazing. It’s fun.

They are teaching themselves. All I have to do is walk around and ask a few questions, and try to get them talking and communicating with each other and having those discussions.

What it looks like is the kids have taken ownership of their learning, and whether or not I was there, it would still happen.

Vicki: Do you ever have kids who used to hate math change your mind?

Carrie: I do. And I had a child who, yesterday, we were doing a complex — this was one of my algebra classes so it was a higher, higher level and it had a lot of plugging in and crunching numbers and (inaudible- FOILing?) and multiplying. We got to the end of the problem — it was just algorithms and one thing after another — and we got to the end, he said, “Huh. That is so satisfying.”

Vicki: (laughs)

Carrie: It was so funny. It was like he put the puzzle together. I thought, Oh my gosh. I love that. He sees that, and he’s got it.” It was just so cool to watch that.

Vicki: Carrie, if you could travel back in time and talk to Carrie Pierce on her first year of teaching, what would you tell her?

Carrie: I don’t know that we have time to address all that.

Vicki: (laughs)

Carrie: You learn and you grow, and every year is different.

Your life experiences change the way that you see children. I know that, as my daughter grew up and got to be the age of the child that is in my classroom, my perspectives changed and my focus changed. We constantly evolve and grow.

I think I would tell myself to give them a break. Sometimes they are just kids, and a lot of times, I think perhaps new teachers maybe expect too much. I know I did, coming straight out of college.

And you have your own classroom for the first time, and I was ready to go, and it was all about the content, content, let’s get it drilled in.

There’s so much more to kids than that. And there’s so much more to math than that.

Eighth grade, ninth grade, high school, they’re just beginning to see the “whys” of all this deeper-level content — see it apply to science, or analyze a graph in social studies.

I would tell myself to take it easy and to let them be kids and try to grow. Instead of me giving it to them, let them seek it themselves.

Vicki: Yep, you’ve got to relate before you educate, as I very often say, and it is about the relationship.

I’m so glad for people who were kind and patient with me when I was a beginning teacher. (laughs)

I know you are too, and so we always have to remember that.

But even when we’re beginning, we do have to remember that it does get better and when you start having those relationships, that’s really what keeps you teaching, in my opinion.

So, teachers, we’ve got lots of interesting things to think about with discovery and inquiry-based learning in math. We can really use that in every classroom, because we want students to inquire. We want them to discover. We want them to ask questions.

Thank you, Carrie!

Carrie: Absolutely. You’re welcome.

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Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Carrie is a veteran middle school teacher with over 20 years of experience, who incorporates discovery and inquiry based learning into her 8th grade math classes.

Twitter: @CarriePie

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Carrie Pierce: Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

20 Questions To Reflect On Your Teaching This Year So Next Year Is Better

20 Questions To Reflect On Your Teaching This Year So Next Year Is Better by Terry Heick I don’t know how your school year is going and/or ‘went’ (depending on when you’re reading this). Maybe it was amazing. Maybe you think it went amazing and it wasn’t. Maybe you think it went poorly and it […]

The post 20 Questions To Reflect On Your Teaching This Year So Next Year Is Better appeared first on TeachThought.