Planning an inquiry can feel daunting. There are so many decisions to make!
Here are 3 steps that can help you create a well-designed unit based on the Learning Plans in the Concentus Citizenship Resources.
Choose your outcomes, and develop a clear picture of the level of thinking and specific content each one targets. (Tip: Each outcome contains a verb which cues the level of thinking you’re after. This chart can help!)
Now that you know where you’re going, the challenge is to provide students with a vehicle to get there! Thinking routines are vehicles of thought that students can use to get to the levels and types of thinking they need to reach.
One kind of thinking routine is a graphic organizer. Matched to the thinking demands of the outcome, graphic organizers:
Scaffold student’s “thinking steps”,
Support peer collaboration,
Provide visible evidence of student thinking minute-by-minute as they learn,
Allow for responsive instruction that is both nimble and quick!
Another kind of thinking routine is a series of questions which invites and requires precise and deep thinking. Harvard’s Project Zero has developed a number of powerful routines which can be used across subject areas.
You can find them here. (Note: The link contains a video which explains the routines well.)
STEP 3: Now that you know where you’re going and have chosen the thinking routines to scaffold student thinking, it’s time to consider how students will interact with one another as they produce this knowledge. Given that the big picture goal of the citizenship inquiries is to develop the ECCs essential to a Justice Orientation, the way that students relate to one another as they develop knowledge is crucial.
“Discursive Strategies” is a useful term for “how students interact while learning.” For each step in your lessons, there are many options, and you can sequence these purposefully. For example, students can start off by working independently, then confer with a partner, then share with a larger group, and, finally, move back to individual reflection.
Well chosen and sequenced discursive strategies can ensure that:
Each person has voice;
Each person gives and receives feedback which sharpens and deepens thinking;
Each student’s thinking evolves;
The community is strengthened.
Here’s a Teaching Channel video that shows a discursive strategy in action!
Here’s an Edutopia video about a school that takes discursive strategies very seriously!
Here are two good sources of discursive strategies:
Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 2011.
Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner, 2nd ed. Himelle & Himelle, 2017.
Focusing your planning on outcomes, thinking routines, and discursive strategies can increase your confidence as you plan and your students’ engagement as they learn.