Strategies to Integrate Inquiry-Based Learning Curriculum

How to integrate inquiry-based learning and phenomenon-based learning into your classroom curriculum

Strategies to Integrate Inquiry-Based Learning Curriculum 

Hey, y’all! I’m back with some tips and ideas on how to fit your inquiry-based learning unit with all the other curriculum you have to work with. I admit, planning it can be daunting, but you can totally do it! My first piece of advice is to start small and work your way up from there.

One of the most structured forms of inquiry-based learning is controlled inquiry. You give students questions to answer or a science lab to complete and they do it. Teachers have been doing this for years. There are different ways to make this more engaging, like tailoring your questions or lab to your students’ interests, or by creating a puzzle-type of experience for them to complete.

This is by far the easiest way to both adhere strictly to your school’s curriculum and increase engagement and student-directed learning. This can be done throughout the school year and with any topic that you’re teaching. If you’re not sure where to start with inquiry-based learning, this is it.

Another way to plan out an inquiry-based learning unit is to give students a problem to solve, or a project related to the topic you’re studying. For instance, if your class is learning about simple machines, you could have students create a machine to get an object from point A to point B. If you’re learning about adding numbers and it’s Thanksgiving, have them plan out Thanksgiving dinner and calculate the costs of the total meal. And if you’re learning about text features in reading, students can create their own nonfiction texts with a certain number of text features used. These are simple ways to stay with your district’s curriculum but take the learning to the next level.

This type of inquiry requires a little more prep work, but is totally worth it. Students typically love projects like these. And if you have one of those kids that says no to everything, it can quickly be adapted to strike their interest and get them on board. You just have to think a little creatively.

If you have time in your science or social studies block for some free inquiry, but all means institute a genius hour or independent project time. Just be sure to give some general guidelines so students understand what it is they’re doing. There are tons of resources out there on genius hour and independent research. I teach littles so we tend to take a more guided inquiry approach.

My favorite way to work inquiry into our schedule is to look at the topics we’ll be teaching in reading and math, and the standards we still need to address in science and social studies, and create a phenomenon-based learning unit around those topics. Later this year, we’ll be doing a patterns unit. Patterns themselves are not specifically a standard in math at our grade level, but patterns can be found everywhere.

We’ll be looking at patterns in reading and writing by exploring poetry and creating some poems of our own. We’ll be looking at number patterns, skip counting, doubles, shapes, and more in math. In science, we’ll be learning about patterns in nature such as seasons, day/night, routines, how animals move, life cycles, and more. And in social studies, we’ll be exploring the human side of things by looking a patterns of behavior. This is all based on the topics we’ll be learning in our district-provided curriculum at the time.

When we can take what the district gives us and broaden it enough to overlap into other subject areas, students’ begin to think critically and make connections they wouldn’t normally make. And we get more bang for our buck.

Next week, we’ll be sharing how I plan out a big inquiry/phenomenon-based learning units step-by-step. Think “thematic based learning unit on steroids.” This will be a big post, so be sure to stop by next week with a coffee in hand ready to go!

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week. I’ll talk to you soon.

Stay cozy,

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