Summer School and Inquiry? Yes!

Promoting inquiry in our classroom is tough! Add the distracting lure of summer pursuits and you have a recipe for frustration. In any season, students in general have learned somewhere along the way NOT to ask meaningful questions. They seem most comfortable sitting back and waiting for information to be delivered to them. This week I have set about reconditioning my class — setting them up for a summer of inquiry.

  • We had our first Socratic circle this summer.  Dedicating ten minutes to discussion of our novel, the outer circle observed the inner, offered feedback, then switched places. Although the long silences were painful, the kids quickly realized that I am not going to save them with questions they can dutifully answer. The second circle did much better, having learned from their peers that participation is key and that there are no wrong questions. They do need to learn to respond to their peers and pursue lines of thought, but that will come in time. Socratic circles give students such valuable experience in critical thinking and communication. I truly love this method! I have no doubt that our next circle will see more preparation and participation. 
  • We started our curiosity tag in Evernote. Initially, it was like pulling teeth just to get students to point out topics of interest.I get the feeling they are more accustomed to the “study guide” methodology:  teacher talk, students take notes.  I am truly interested in what THEY think, so I try to keep my prompting to a minimum. When I began class with the question, “What topics suggested by our novel are worth exploring? What can we find out more about?” You could hear crickets rubbing their legs together. I’m hoping their first “Hypertexted” blog post reveals some of their interests and articulates how delving into these interests can aid in their understanding of our novel.

What’s ahead? I’d like to begin our twitter use by having kids pose questions as they read, as a way of interacting with the text more effectively. These students, although new to my class, aren’t new to twitter, as it is a tool used by many teachers at our school. I’d also like to expand our curiosity tag into a genius hour of sorts, having been inspired by the work of Gallit Zvi. I’m excited to continue what I hope will be a question-riddled journey this summer!

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4 Responses to Summer School and Inquiry? Yes!

  1. Denise Krebs says:

    Exciting times in your inquiry classroom! I’m excited to read about what you are doing. I hope you will share more about what your students are doing and how they progress. (Do you have another blog where you do this?)

    It is so sad that we have to recondition students, isn’t it? Somewhere along the path of “learning,” schools snuff out the natural curiosity that the students had when they were young. Inquiry and thinking is hard work, so we have to help them recapture curiosity, as it sounds like you are! Keep up the great work!



    • BillieN says:

      Hi Denise,
      Thank you for your encouragement! I just started a blog at My twitter is @Billie808. Looking forward to sharing and learning more.
      ~ Billie


  2. You captured perfectly that confusion and resistance that shows up when students are actually encouraged to think for themselves. Some teachers have used the Question Formulation Technique before beginning with Socratic Seminars as a way to help students discover they are indeed capable of asking their own questions. It also greatly increases the participation in Socratic Seminars of traditionally reluctant or reticent participants. See for more info. Great work!


  3. Pingback: Inquiry Based Learning with Teaching Channel & Inquire Within

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