Letting inquiry unravel naturally

I apologize for the long post. I wanted to record the process of inquiry in my class and this is how it has began to unravel. This is the second week.

There is a definite buzz in the air.  The new unit has started. Students are excited and eager to know what we will be inquiring into

Warming up and creating a safe haven.

TUNING-IN  as it rains outside. All we needed was hot chocolate milk 🙂

Our new unit on Natural Hazards has just completed its first week. I had to pull things down from my boards and so they look fairly bare, but we do a lot reading and reflecting everyday, so it is slowly filling up with students’ work.  

Students have started bringing clippings on current natural disasters and are in turn, learn geography skills. I clearly need a title for this board! Hazard Hounders maybe?

I used technology to provoke their thinking. This was a lot of fun specially since we had access to Ipads. The students had to use a QR code reader to find out what the mystery picture was. They then did a Visual thinking activity (10 X 2) to observe the picture carefully.

We began with our pre-assessment task where they had to write about what they knew about disasters. I modeled a KWL chart using Volcanoes as a entry point into the unit.


We worked on the L poster twice. The second time to sort out the information.

 Cooperation, the “Attitude” being the lens though which we peer at the unit.

I will be creating a lot of scenarios where the students will have to work in groups as they need to learn to cooperate and organize themselves. Learning about how cooperation feels like, sounds like and looks likes was a very fruitful learning engagement. It set the tone and mood for the unit. The students keep referring to the board whenever there is a conflict. Most of them, to my great surprise and glee, resolve their conflict without adult intervention. I hear talk such as:

“You were not cooperating. You need to listen more carefully”….or…”Why are you quiet. I am sure you have some great ideas. If you don’t share, you’re not helping the group. Please cooperate!” I also hear them using the words ” adult intervention”, though some of them still find it hard to pronounce it! 🙂

A little bit more on the inquiry cycleand how we are proceeding.

The students are working on their own choice of hazard. They are using all phases of the inquiry cycle to guide them. As they were “finding out” they had to reflect on their findings to see whether they were addressing their guiding questions. Kids do tend to get distracted and deviate from tasks. I do too. At times, they asked questions which caused them to go further and deepen their understanding. For example, how is the sound of a tornado alert different from that of an ambulance? As I walked around, I saw information scattered all over their posters. It was hard to locate information. How could they present it so that I could easily find answers to my questions? They clearly realized they needed to “Sort out” the information. Three days of hard work on posters had to be undone. 

They understood why. 

These students are amazing and a determined lot. They have come up with posters that reflect most areas of the inquiry cycle.

Student Action while inquiry is going on

A student took charge of a 45 minute lesson to demonstrate how some of the disasters occur.( I am glad he chose not to do the volcano experiment because it does not really address any on our learning outcomes.) This child is usually very quiet and reticent. But he changed a lot during this unit. The power of emotional connect with the topic was very evident here.

How cyclones look from a satellite picture using water and tissue paper.
The nature of a tornado
Tsunami: What happens to waves once they hit land. I learnt a lot from this student and will incorporate these experiments in my future lesson plans.

This child keeps thinking of ways to enrich my curriculum. He knocks on my door at 7pm (We stay on school campus) and hands me his intentions on a slip of well-crumpled paper. His dads tells me he has been working on it and the whole house is a disaster zone!

Consolidating, researching, cooperating…

Maths integration. I can see a lesson  ahead showing the student how much more they can extend their thinking using a Venn diagram.

After one week’s work into the project, I felt the students were ready to tackle the summative on their own. (Earlier, we had been doing the rubric together.) This was the outcome. Though it has many areas that need clarification/modification, I felt they did a really good job!


You will notice how we start with 1 and lead on to 4 in the continuum. One of the main criticisms about rubrics is that it curtails excellence. Who decides what is the best? Why should we start with the best when the best can always be outdone!

Our inquiry cycle continues. We will be using tools and learning strategies that help the student delve deeper into the content. Let’s see where it takes us!

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9 Responses to Letting inquiry unravel naturally

  1. Lindy Buckley (@LindyBuckley1) says:

    I love the way you step us through this inquiry. Don’t apologise for the length of the post! I always like to see samples and hear quotes of what students are saying and see evidence of their thinking. It always helps me as I develop inquiries in my classroom. It looks like you have a very engaged class! Many thanks!


  2. nainisingh says:

    Thanks Lindy. Happy to share.


  3. I love the fact you logged your entire inquiry. I am also doing a Unit on Natural Disasters. Could I get a list of your children’s experiments ? You have inspired me to log my current UOI and Blog about it.


    • nainisingh says:

      HI I’m not sure how I shall address you as. Dwanyne, I’m guessing? The experiments were as follows. the first one I initiated during the tuning in…which was amazing. I forgot to include it in the blog.I put a number of materials in 4 ziplock bags -foil, plastic sheet, string, 70 cm tape, and whatever you can think of) then made groups of 4 students. The had to build a house with them. Then I used a really powerful blower to blow their house away. The focus was on cooperation and using the materials wisely, creatively. The student who came up with the experiments did the following: Tsunami:In a tray, he filled half of it with sand . It tapered off like a beach. He put a few cubes to mimic buildings. He then added water to the rest of the tray and with a jerk he swayed the water back and let it come frwrd with a force to emulate how water behaves when it

      Hurricane:very simple but looked fabulous just like the satellite pictures. He put tissue paper in a pail of water and swirled it with his hands 🙂 We spoke of forces , wind and atmospheric disturbances which create such swirls. Tornado:Two bottles attached at rim with lots of masking tape. One has water at the bottom. turn the bottle and quickly swirl it. A tornado forms inside. Quite fascinating to watch the mini tornado. There you go! RegardsNaini

      > Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2013 07:16:44 +0000 > To: naini_basu@hotmail.com >


    • nainibasu says:

      I think that is what a PLN is all about. 🙂


  4. L Kemp says:

    Thanks for this! It’s not often that I have the opportunity to see how another teacher’s inquiry has progressed – lots of ideas to steal :).


  5. Pingback: Inquiry-Based Staff Orientation – Making Good Humans

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