I originally wrote this post several months ago back in the spring and never got around to polishing it off and posting it. This is one of my favourite examples of inquiry learning from this past year.
The flash of lighting. The boom and rumble of thunder. The splish splash of rain. The majesty of a thunderstorm.

Is it any wonder that my students were highly intrigued by the passing storm yesterday afternoon?

I was reading a book to them after returning from the library, when one of my students blurts out "Why is it so dark outside?" as he gazed toward the window. I stopped reading and looked, along with the rest of the class. The light was so dim is seemed to be dusk. I knew trying to regain their attention on the book would be useless, so I stopped reading and put the book aside, instead addressing my student's question. We had a discussion about what might be happening outside, looking to see if it was raining (which it was), then amazed as lightning flashed in the sky and thunder rumbled a short time later. We stopped and listened and observed intently, waiting for the thunder and lightning to strike again. Then we quietly talked about storms, what made the thunder and lightning, and what we were observing out of the windows. Some of my students had brilliant ideas! One of my little JKs said that lightning was "electrics coming from the sky and that makes the thunder." One of my SKs observed it was windy; when I asked her how she knew, she said she saw the trees moving.

We had made our own storm on Monday afternoon, using our bodies as sound effects, so I suggested we do it again, since they had enjoyed the activity. I had a student man the lights for the lightning, and the rest of us started by rubbing our hands together to make the sound of wind in the trees. We then began snapping our fingers and/or clicking our tongues, slowly at first, then getting faster, to imitate the sound of raindrops falling. Then we began patting our thighs to sound like a heavy rainfall. Finally we added stomping feet and the flickering lights to replicate thunder and lighting. The effect was awesome and for a moment I almost thought we had a real storm in the room! Then we slowly went backward through the list of actions as the storm passed away, just like the storm outside as the sky began to brighten again. We actually made a storm twice and probably could have done it several times until home time because the kids really enjoyed it.

All the talk of storms reminded a couple of students of some songs that they knew, so we sang "It's Raining, It's Pouring" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (with a twist about screaming for a crocodile, instead of life being a dream), and made up our own actions to go along with each song.

This is a great little snapshot to illustrate the essence of inquiry learning. Through an hour of simple activities and discussion, generated and directed by the students, I was able to touch on curriculum expectations from science, drama & dance, and music. But that never would have happened if I had instead insisted on the students quieting down and listening to the rest of the book I had been reading. Inquiry learning requires the teacher to be flexible and willing to put aside her own plans and jump into whatever the students show an interest in. It requires improvisation and quick thinking to facilitate the learning and guide the inquiry toward meaningful observations, discussion, connections, questions, and experiences that extend the students' interests beyond the surface and dig deep to generate higher level thinking and learning. Perhaps next week when my red class is back, I'll be able to extend their thinking further on this topic...but as my neighbour is fond of saying, "A lot depends on the weather."


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.