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Lesson Plans

Curriculum Issues: Inquiry Seminar

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Eldon L. Katter (katter)
Mon, 7 Apr 1997 15:20:11 -0400 (EDT)

I'm back from observing student teachers and have an interesting
observation related to inquiry learning. The student teacher was
involving a class of fifth graders in a lesson called "Ask Picasso".
Working in cooperative groups, the students first grouped postcard size
reproductions of Picasso's works according to subject matter. Using a
worksheet they recorded the questions they would want to ask Picasso if
he walked into the room. I wrote down a few of the questions each groupd
shared after this part of the activity: "You must have thought you liked
women because you painted them a lot, but deep down inside, did you really hate
them?", "Were you trying to get back at the women in your life?", "Did
you go to the circus a lot when you were a kid?", "How do you manage to
come up with so many different ideas for paintings?", etc. etc.
They then sequenced all the images in chronological order and genereated
another set of questions. I noted a couple: "You sure changed the way
you painted a lot. Were there things that happened to you that made you
change your style?", "Were you depressed when you painted the blue group
of pictures?", "You painted for a very long period of time. Did you ever
think about doing something else with you life?"
The groups then speculated about the answers Picasso might give, gave
reasons for their answers, and then wrote down some ideas about how
they could find ansers to their questions since Picasso was no longer
around to answer them. There was more to this lesson, but the point to
this story is that these kids were actively engaged in a hands-on
activity. There was "awe", there was "magic", there was "spirit". The
natural curiosity of kids was being attended too. The teacher was
LISTENING to what kids were asking. There was no formula; no top-down
questions. This was grass roots, gut response, and "bottom(s)-up".
Of course the personality of the teacher and the familiary of the
students with cooperative group work were significant to the success of
this lesson.
Excuse me for this long response, but I may not get back on for a
few days and also want to share this story. Some of you out there have
probably heard of "Token Response". It's been around for a while. I
think you should know that that activity was the result of my LISTENING
and paying attention to the types of questions primary school children
were asking about works of art in our campus gallery. Teaching in our
laboratory school twenty five years ago, I would take the children to the
college art gallery for each new show. We heard the same types of
questions/statements -- the "GeeIwunder" questions and the
"NowIbetcha" statements. "Gee, I wonder how long it took her to make
that?" or "Gee, I wonder how much that costs?" or Gee, why would anyone
like that?" or "Gee, I wonder how he came up with that?" or "Now, I bet
you my parents would like that one." or "Now, I bet you no one else can
paint that good." or "Now, I bet you it takes a lot of practice to do
work like that." From the nature of kids questions came the structure for
an activity that for me is not intrusive, really gets kids eager to
participate, raises many new and exciting questions, and the cut paper
tokens -- hand, heart, clock, money, blue ribbon, house, and yuk -- work
with all ages. The point of this story, again, is that questions are
improtant, but listening is the key to successful inquiry. Long winded,
but short on time to visit: Eldon.