Inquiry in Collage

I often hear the question “What does inquiry LOOK like?” when talking with teachers who are new to the PYP or inquiry based teaching.  While I am happy to prattle on for hours with examples of lessons and anecdotes of teachers in their classrooms, I want to attempt to address this question in a new format: digital collage.

One of the best and complete examples of inquiry at my school is the grade 5 PYP exhibition.  As part of the reflection process for the exhibition unit, I spend a lot of time documenting the work of the students and putting it up on bulletin boards and our blog for parents, mentors, teachers and visitors to view when they come to the exhibition evening.  Using these collages has really helped everyone understand the process we follow with our students to shape their learning and understanding in an inquiry format.  In addition, since we are an ESL community, is it essential that the message be as simple as possible to share so I have turned to visual language to capture the essence of what we do.

Below is a collection of our collages illustrating the different steps in our inquiry process.  Our inquiry cycle and stages (see below) are based on Kathy Short‘s work out of the University of Arizona.  We’ve chosen this model for the exhibition because it is a circle which highlights visually the back and forth nature of the students’ inquiry process during the unit.

To see these collages online and ones from previous exhibitions view my gallery.


 Graffiti Wall for brainstorming topic ideas

 Students using Graffiti Wall across grade level


Student presentations on class suggestions for topic to whole grade level for voting


Student volunteers collaboratively write Central Idea for grade level on chosen topic

Focusing and Preparing

 6th grade students give advice during Opening Ceremony while students see excerpts from past exhibitions

 Guest speaker for grade level on science and technology integration

 Guest speaker for grade level on communication and technology integration

 Guest speaker for grade level on marketing and technology integration

Student small group brainstorms on areas of interest

 Students work in interest groups to refine lines of inquiry, guiding questions and action plans

Finding Information

Guest speakers for interest groups on additional topics like security, animation, environment and social networks

Students learn about primary and secondary resource and apply balance in research resources

Students finding information in books, by interviewing experts and surveying people around them

Students use technology to find information from websites to online surveys using QR codes

Using Information

Students Works with mentors to organise information, analyse survey results and discuss understandings

Students work in groups to discuss information and how to use it effectively in their presentations


Interest groups prepare presentation boards to synthesize and exaplain their enduring understandings

Groups combined work during specialist lessons to synthesize their understandings in alternative ways


During unit students reflected on progress, understanding, group work skills and personal development skills

Students presented to grade 3 & 4 students to gain feedback & refine presentations before final night

Groups presented to grade 1 & 2 students to gain feedback & refine speaking skills before final night


Throughout unit students took action about what they were learning: blogs, posters, songs, drawings, models, surveys

Students presented enduring understandings to visitors in classrooms

Students guided visitors through specialist displays of their perspectives & enduring understandings about topic

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2 Responses to Inquiry in Collage

  1. whatedsaid says:

    Fabulous post! We have just completed our second ever exhibition and I love your visual representation and the fact that most of your images could just as easily be at my school,… on the other side of the world! Even the sticky notes which make thinking visible! We like Kath Short too but we have been playing with the model she calls the ‘authoring cylce’


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