“What is the question?”
“In what way is that question interpretive as opposed to evaluative?”
“Pose only questions that have, at the least, two possible answers for a given passage of a text.”
Such was the conversation at the Shared Inquiry training on December 2nd at the Long Beach Teacher Resource Center, led by Kriko Michaels of the Great Books Foundation. The Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING hosted 37 fellows, mentors, invited colleagues and one principal for a day’s training in conducting inquiry with K-5 students.
Building on the interest generated by last year’s Shared Inquiry presentation, teachers new to the process attended after having seen and heard text-based discussions at their own schools. Interest has been further heightened by the emphasis placed on close attention to the text in the Common Core standards.
The training promotes the development of powerful questions that demand text evidence as support for student responses. Since Cotsen teachers have a keen interest in thoughtful questioning (as evidenced by the books they check out from the Cotsen library), Shared Inquiry is a practice that has a broad application across the curriculum.
At this year’s training, Kriko Michaels used a Roger Rosenblatt non-fiction article, “The Man in the Water” from TIME magazine to model the entire process – in abbreviated form – with the group: read aloud (a must to be sure all students have access), another silent reading, followed by selectively identifying meaningful words or passages, and then eliciting the group’s wonderings to create a visible list of potential questions on which to base the final focus question for the inquiry.
Resulting from this preparation was a 45-minute intense conversation with teachers monitoring their questions, aiming for interpretive as opposed to speculative or evaluative qualities. That, plus the requirement that evidence be adduced to support responses, made the experience a rigorous one.
The afternoon was taken up with teachers practicing question development based on Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, M’am”’ and testing them out on their colleagues.
The day ended with information about the online component of Shared Inquiry that each teacher can access as convenient and the distribution of a class set of narratives to start their practice of Shared Inquiry.