On the last day of march our school will have its annual Explore More festival. This is a celebration of science, social studies, social justice, and student inquiry. This year I find myself between units in social studies which puts me in a strange place for an in-depth inquiry project, especially for my next unit which is the Renaissance. So I’ve decided to theme our Explore More this year around beyond-the-book inquiries and let students find their science and social studies topics on their own.
In their book, Comprehension and Collaboration, Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels describe literacure circle inquires as a natural and authentic way to follow literature circles. Instead of students engaging in a teacher assigned activity they work together to identify areas of lingering interest and then work as a team to seek out answers. This often leads them on a path of discovery far beyond the scope of the original book.
Because my students are just starting a round of literature circles/book clubs I’m going about this process a little differently. In phase one each student is responsible for reading and recording beyond the book questions about 10 different texts. (Although there is a great deal of natural collaboration happening because they get really excited about what they are reading.) I’ve provided quality picture books and magazines to get them started and many of them are going back to their independent reading lists and prior book club books as well. In this phase I am teaching and supporting their efforts, helping them to understand what a good “meaty” beyond-the-book question looks like, and explore new topics and ideas. In phase two they will be teaming up based on interest to form their inquiry circles. Then they will intensify their research and design a way to share their learning that is guided by the content of their project and the message they want to send to their audience.
I will be blogging about my journey with my students as they engage in small group inquiries for the month of March. You might also want to check out this post.