What does “Think Big” mean as an inquiry practice? We explored one of Kath Murdoch’s The Art of Inquiry cards at our first SMS staff meeting and talked about the big idea of “inquiry teachers design and teach with concepts in mind.” As a staff, we noticed that we often go straight to content when lesson planning. Starting with a concept, rather then content helps us to plan in a more engaging way. Kath Murdoch taught us, “don’t start with Romeo and Juliet, start with a unit on Relationships and falling in love; your students can’t help but be engaged”. Planning a unit starting with a concept and then moving to content helps the learning to go deeper and be more sustained. Concepts provide a context for our inquiry topic and help the inquiry from being too narrow.
As a staff, we are now looking at planning units with big questions like:
- How can the media influence our thinking and decision making?
- How could we tell people in China about our home country/family/school? What would we say?
- Why do people eat what they eat?
- What’s out there and how do we know?
- How do living things protect themselves?
- Why do we have money?
- What happens when cultures collide?
- How do we make a reasonable estimation?
- How does data influence others?
- How can we find patterns?
- How can goal-setting improve my health?
By beginning with a concept we are also noticing that it is easier to find where the “C’s” fit. Our goal is to plan learning experiences that grow students learning, but also that grow them as a learner. When we plan we are committed to beginning with a concept, moving to content and planning for a “C”. Beginning with a concept also helps us to bring in other curriculums; the concept ‘How do we know it’s true?” allowed us to include ELA, Math, Science and Social studies content in our plan, and was very intriguing for students.
Note: Concept questions come from p. 44 and 45 of Kath Murdoch’s, “The Power of Inquiry”, book. You can purchase Kath Murdoch’s “The Art of Inquiry” cards on her website.