Shared Inquiry on Display in Cotsen Classrooms

Shared Inquiry on Display in Cotsen Classrooms


Acacia Elementary (Fullerton School District) and Coeur D’Alene (Los Angeles Unified School District) welcomed film crews to selected Cotsen classrooms the week of Oct. 12. Headed by Bill Siegel, Great Books Foundation staff member and professional learning consultant who trains educators how to use Shared Inquiry, the team videoed Shared Inquiry conversations in the classrooms of Cotsen alumnae, Kim Buck and Carly Payne, at Coeur D’Alene, and current Cotsen fellows, Kristina Cathcart and Debra Kojima, at Acacia.

Siegel and the ART of TEACHING agreed to a collaboration in developing videos for both Cotsen’s and Junior Great Books’ video libraries following last year’s Shared Inquiry training when Siegel witnessed Cotsen teachers’ interest in and engagement with Shared Inquiry.

“When we were initially offered to have Bill Siegel provide professional coaching and filming, there was a natural blend of excitement and nervousness,” said Stephanie Given, second-year Cotsen mentor from Acacia.

“Bill’s calming presence and deep knowledge of Junior Great Books allowed my fellows and their students to simply be who they are: engaged and curious. The film crew seamlessly worked in and around the discussion to capture both teacher and student interactions as the conversation grew and took shape.”

Preparation for the video included students’ rereading of the selected text and an in-depth conversation of their questions and wonderings about the reading. The books, selected because the narratives raise questions and support multiple interpretations, included Jack and the Beanstalk, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, Thank You, M’am by Langston Hughes, and The Green Man by Gail E. Haley.

Siegel and the teachers took turns in the role of questioner or recorder as they solicited the students’ thinking of the text. Derived from the students’ input, questions for the students’ next Shared Inquiry provided the focus for thought-provoking discussions in which students demonstrated their understanding of text, inquiry, and polite discourse.

“I am so proud of my fellows’ dedication to create an environment where their students can ask questions, converse about a multi-faceted topic, provide text-based evidence for opinions, and reflect on their own thinking,” continued Given. “We are forever grateful to the Great Books Foundation for supporting the work of educators across the nation to build readers and thinkers.”