In you lies our hope

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Inquiry with artefacts

When we begin with a new unit of inquiry, the first thing we want to do is assess the prior knowledge of the students and then 'tune' them into the unit. 

When I began my teaching career, like many other teachers 'tuning in' was to merely build students' interest into the unit. I would show them movies, take them on field trips, call a guest speaker and then just move on to 'finding out' information, which is the next stage of inquiry. However, over the years, I have come to realise that this 'tuning in' stage is in fact one of the most important stages of any inquiry cycle. I say so because it is after this stage that the students frame their inquiry questions which in turn drive the entire unit!

Off late, in the PYP workshops I've attended, the workshop leaders have emphasized highly on the use of artefacts in teaching and learning. Artefacts are nothing but objects that signify something. For example, antiques and maps can be the artefacts that symbolise ancient civilizations. For light and sound, the artefacts can be torch lights, bulbs, speakers, glass, spectacles, prisms, musical instruments and the list can go on. 

For young learners, things that they can see, hold, touch, hear, feel and sometimes smell, take their imaginative thinking to a completely different level. The most abstract concepts become concrete. Artefacts open doors to new ideas and perspectives. They help them build their understanding of the world around them. For a bunch of six year olds, the concept of relationships is so hard to understand. But, if you give in their hands, pictures of families, tokens of friendship and gifts from loved ones, you will be taken by surprise! A tea strainer can help ten year olds understand filtration inside our bodies!

If you really think about it, anything around us can be used as an artefact for conceptual understanding or creativity. The glass in which we drink water can used for units on materials, water, light and quantity and measurements (in math). You may use it in language to come up with a descriptive essay or to just make up a story! You may also touch upon the essential elements of PYP with these simple objects.

Having made these observations, I ensure the increased usage of these in the different subject disciplines. It is also a great idea to have a display of them in the classroom. My current unit of inquiry is on traditions and rituals and the central idea is: Traditions, rituals and artefacts help us understand the beliefs and values of different cultures. I thought it was important for the student learn 'about' artefacts along with learning 'through' artefacts.

For tuning in, we did a bus stop activity. many artefacts were laid out on the tables and groups of students analysed each artefact in turns. They were asked to write what they see, what they think it is and what they wonder (Visible thinking tool, Harvard Project Zero). 

We spent two days looking at these interesting objects. On the third day, the groups were asked to come up with inquiry questions. By then they knew to differentiate between conceptual and factual questions (we call them fat and skinny questions). They took the help of the key concepts  come up with the questions and I must say, they were much better than I had anticipated! I also grouped them according to the lines of inquiry.

On the next day, the students also came up with the central idea. For the finding out stage, we watched the movie 'Around the world in 80 days' and constructed the meaning of culture using We have also set up a wiki  to exchange information about different cultures. Do visit is and add in info if you feel like.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NEw Project: The Health Journal

We will start working on our next project "The Health Journal" from tomorrow. We will using for this. The link to the wiki page is:

Visit this link and join the wiki by clicking on 'join' (right hand top corner of the page). You can add information on the wiki only if you are member.