I’ve blogged before about my time conundrum: inquiry takes time, and where do we find this additional time? Integration helps, and since returning from the Winter Break, I’ve really re-looked at our daily schedule and moved beyond teaching to the bells. Even so, sometimes our plans just don’t work.
This week, I introduced the students to this Social Studies Election Inquiry Activity, and they’re very excited about it. They’ve been reading newspaper articles, watching news broadcasts, talking to their parents at home and peers at school about various issues, and exploring the many links on our Government Pinterest Page. Exploring these issues takes time.
- I’ve had to ask many questions to get students to see beyond the example to the underlying issue. Often this takes multiple conversations.
- Students have had to look at the overlap between different levels of government. On paper, there is a list of specific responsibilities, but in reality, these responsibilities are often interconnected.
- Not every issue in the newspaper is a government issue. Small group discussions have helped students critically look at “issues” versus “government issues” … and sometimes it’s hard to tell.
- Students often need to research to find out more background knowledge. For some students, this is the first time that they’ve read the newspaper or watched news broadcasts. They may be missing the prior knowledge needed to understand the content. They need more reading and thinking time.
- This inquiry activity is not just about listing problems. Students are using the Disciplines of Thinking, specifically significance and perspective, to formulate questions about the issues and guide future investigations.
And so at the end of our reading, thinking, talking, and writing time today, we created a list of problems and issues. Then I asked, who feels as though they’re ready to start selecting the issues on Monday, and who feels as though they need another day to find out more about the issues on the list?
I was pleasantly surprised when every hand went up for my second option. Not that long ago, students wouldn’t have cared if they knew enough information yet. They would have wanted to select the issues right away, so that we could move closer to the election. As the students are inquiring more though, they realize that understanding the content matters, and they can assess for themselves that they need to read, think, and question more. So this may mean another day, but it’s a day that I’m willing to take. We can’t rush good thinking!
How do you “slow down” to help students understand more? How do you balance the need for understanding with the constant issue of “time?” I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!