Are You ready for This? Enjoy...


Establishing a Culture of Inquiry Starting the First Day

I've spent quite a bit of time studying and trolling other educators via social media this summer  trying to picture what I need to do differently, to really "show, not tell" that my goal is to create a passion for inquiry with my students. I want to show them that the playing field is wide open. I want them to find their creative, their skill and their purpose.

The learners that come to my class do learning differently and I want them to recognize that not only is that okay but that they have something to contribute when working with other learners. I want my kids to know that I trust them to take on their own learning and believe they can and will overcome obstacles.

I want to set the tone from day one and would love to share a conversation with you about how to make this happen. I will be setting up the chat to begin  at 7 pm CST this evening. Be sure and use #MMPD to join in on the fun!

I will set it up using Q1 - A1 starting shortly after 7. In the past, chats I've hosted last for about 45 min.  The questions are:

Q1 How do you utilize classroom setup to establish your goals?

Q2 What are your favorite beginning of the year activities that establish your goal of inquiry and passion for learning?

Q3 Does your curriculum reflect your goal of inquiry? How?

Q4 Do you utilize any tech tools  for "getting to know you"  projects the first week of school? If so, what and how do you use them?


Chapters 4 & 5

Since I'm posting a little late I decided to completely mix it up and post about both chapters I was planning on discussing this week.

If you have the book and have been following along with me you'll agree that Wiggins and McTighe continue to require thoughtful questions as they explain how to implement essential questions by giving scenarios which examine the "flip side of the coin," or issues that fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. They describe both a four and eight phase method which gives insight into how to balance the approach with the gradual release model. They also mention the issues, the indicators and suggest some trouble shooting methods. But they never tell you how to do something. That's what I love about their style of teaching. There are no clear cut answers. Only thoughtful suggestions that leave possible questions and answers unspoken.

I've learned a great deal from this book and look forward to studying it again with my colleagues as I implement some of the suggested strategies offered by these amazing fellow educators. While I've not covered all the chapters I'm going to wrap up this book study with this post. I will be back to discuss Chapter 7 but it will be in a different context for a different purpose.

I will also continue to use twitter for weekly chats #MMPD. They will not always be book study chats so please follow along so you know whats coming up next. Topics and questions will be posted on Thursday before the Friday night chat.

Until next time,


Don't miss out!

Hello guys!

I'm in a huge learning curve here as I figure out all the amazing things to explore on Twitter and Thinglink. I've recently signed up for their 2015 Thinglink Teacher Challenge! It's been amazing and we're only in week 2! Plus I'm trying to make sense of Essential Questions and how I can apply Understanding by Design in my intervention program.

This week we discussed Chapter 1 & 3 in Wiggins and McTighe's Essential Questions  and I had a lot of ah ha moments.  Maybe because I've devoured this book and I continue to go back and as I reread it my understanding seems to deepen each time!

I've been on a journey to figure out how I learn for as long as I can remember. Each time I do a book study, take a a class, do Twitter chats or just discuss with colleagues I learn a little more about how I learn and how I can improve my methods of listening, understanding and applying new knowledge.

As I reread these chapters and wrote my posts this week my biggest ah ha moment occurred when I made a connection with my experience with where I work. We've taken the long journey of hashing out what we deem essential. But it was messy.  When we wanted to see in black and white it was gray. Unbeknownst to anyone essential questions were being asked and we didn't always have the "correct" answer. But was there a "correct" answer?

Fortunately we have an amazing administrator who steered through the storm with only the occasional "bump and bruise"  but nothing serious.  My understanding of learning has been pushed to a new level.

Another key concept that stuck out for me was teaching and learning are intentional practices that need attention and careful handling. Another connection was made. As we muddled through the gray we stood firm in our intentional belief of essential understandings. We were given room to practice and reflect and come to understandings that we hadn't experienced before.  We all grew. We changed and our practices changed.

My hope is that you're making connections and learning like I have been so far throughout this study. I hope you can join in on the chat tonight and look forward to discussing designing essential questions.


Chapter 3: How do we design an essential question?

Tuesday we talked about what makes a question essential. Today we're going to further that discussion by delving into what Wiggins and McTighe call the designing of an essential question. We touched on actively exploring the content, looking at targeted understandings and overarching versus topical essential questions.

Let's start with exploring the content. No matter what  you consider your "essential content" to be, that is the place to start.  It was interesting to have Wiggins and McTighe confirm what our administrator has been telling us for years now when we're working on curriculum. He taught us to highlight the verbs  and key nouns in the standards to get to the point of what is essential. This method was helping us really unpack the standards,  become a more cohesive team,  and our students are reaping the benefits. I see now that this system has the potential to set the stage for inquiry based learning. In chapter 3 there is a table that highlights this method and gives examples of essential questions to use with a small sample of ELA, Math And Science essential standards.

When we've unpacked the standards and come to an understanding of the big ideas; then we can  target our desired students' understandings.  These understandings are generally essential in all disciplines. Understandings are not concrete and "teachable" in the traditional sense. Understanding comes from "guided inference." We are not teaching them what to think but how to think.  By designing our essential questions around our targeted understandings this is what we are doing.

Another way to think about how to design topical essential questions is to look at the overarching essential questions derived from unpacking "essential content" standards. The overarching questions assist in coming up with more "topic-specific" questions.  A bonus to this idea is once the targeted understandings are established;  the overarching questions to support said understandings are in place, the topical questions can be designed to span  grade levels.  In turn, causing a spiraling effect  that provides the roots needed to develop and deepen understanding.

Essential Questions can also be designed by using possible and predictable misconceptions. With time and experience as an educator, comes the patterns of misconceptions of students'  to the more abstract and subtle ideas.  Another way to find misconceptions is to use pre-assessments. Using these predictable patterns will gain insight to many essential questions.

Wiggins and McTighe also found their previous study on the 6 facets of understanding to be quite useful in this endeavor as well. The six facets of understanding that they propose are: the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize and self-assess.

I hope you found something to take back to your classroom and look forward to chatting about this topic tomorrow.

Don't Forget the Twitter chat tomorrow @ 6pm use #MMPD #inquirybasedlearning I changed the questions a little so use this chart for reference. 


What makes a question essential?

Now that we have a better understanding of what a culture of inquiry looks like and why we should use essential questions we're going to take a look at the essential question. What does that mean? What is essential? What is their purpose?

 Wiggins and McTighe state that essential questions have seven defining characteristics. These include: open-ended, thought provoking and intellectually engaging, call for higher order thinking, lead to important and transferable ideas, invoke more questions, require you to support and justify your answer, and can continuously be revisited over time.

With the characteristics defined Wiggins and McTighe (2013 ) delve into the purpose of essential questions which we touched on in chapter six.
We propose that education should strive to develop and deepen students' understanding of important ideas and processes so that they can transfer their learning within and outside of school. (pg )
Essential questions require actively exploring the content; understanding how it lends support to the idea of broadening students thinking that allows for transfer-ability.  Essential questions are the "flip side of the coin" of targeted understandings. When we look at our targeted understandings we can build essential questions that focus on essential content.

Several years ago the teachers in my district sat down together to  determined essential standards. We spent countless hours determining which content standards were the most important to "master" by the end of the year (at all grade levels). We did activities together as a whole staff. We did activities in grade level teams and we did activities in small vertical teams.  What we didn't know at the time was our administration was setting us up for this exact way of thinking.  I'm forever grateful to be apart of such an amazing community of educators.

Next in chapter one,  we take a look at the meanings of essential. We have "essential" that means important and timeless. Then we have  "essential" that means elemental or foundational.  And last, we have essential that means vital for personal understanding. All equally important. This goes to show that even in skills-based courses essential questions can be utilized. As a literacy interventionist, this was key for me and my PD plan this coming school year.

 I love and have many highlights and notes in the next Subtitle: Intent Trumps Form. Why you ask a question is more important then how you ask a question. You can post, and ask, and encourage students to use questions but if there is no purpose behind the question other then requiring general knowledge, it is not essential. That's not to say that questions that require recall and basic knowledge do not have a place in the classroom because they do. But this study is about the "essential question."

At the end of this chapter they discuss several different types of questions and their purposes. I like how they include this because reiterates that in order to support a culture of inquiry in the classroom all types of questions are necessary. Sometimes when we start studying a topic it becomes unclear that topics around this same idea are also necessary to creating balance.  I know I'm guilty of that and sometimes that leads me to believe that a particular idea is not good and I abandon it.

I hope you were able to read chapter one and gain some personal insights.  If so comment below, or if you'd rather, start a discussion in the forum. I'd love to see you you plan on applying this learning.

Don't forget our Twitter chat Friday, July 17th at 6 p.m. Use #MMPD to join in the chat!

I'll post chapter 3 Thursday July 16th. Until then, 


The Cycle of Inquiry-Based Learning

5 Phases of Inquiry-Based Learning Cycle
by viikka.