What If Inquiry-Based Teaching Isn’t Always The Right Answer?

Inquiry-based learning has become more of a common practice throughout schools. It encourages asking questions, thinking deeper, and applying the material to personal lives. Inquiry-based learning is flexible because the student is the leader for where the conversation and learning leads. It can have higher engagement because the student can take the material where they want it to go. 

This type of learning is so beneficial in some studies. However, are there times when inquiry-based isn’t best? What are the parameters for inquiry-based versus direct instruction? 

Teamwork and group projects are where inquiry-based flourishes, students can collaborate, ask questions, and use the skills developed in inquiry learning to look deeper into the subject. 

Science lessons based on experiment and discovering new ideas is also a great platform for inquiry. 

Discussions on subjects are where inquiry-based can blossom. Promoting questions with long or different answers can assist in deeper inquiry, instead of direct, one-word answer questions. 

However, are there times inquiry-based learning isn’t the best way? Where does direct instruction fit into the school day? Here is a great rule of thumb- throw out inquiry-based as soon as you see a student struggling. It’s important to note that struggle is good when using inquiry because it can lead to more learning breakthroughs for the student. The struggle that causes red flags is the kids who are constantly struggling, the kids on a lower reading level than their peers, or the ones who cannot seem to grasp the concept enough to participate in these discussions. This is where direct instruction needs to happen. 

Imagine a struggling child who is constantly poked and prodded with questions about letters and sounds in order for them to inquire more about it, eventually leading to them knowing what the letter names and sounds are. If they are already behind, more inquiring isn’t going to help them. It’s a powerful tool to directly tell them what something is and how it functions over and over until it clicks. Once they can grasp this complex concept, they can continue to move up and work on each concept until eventually, they can participate in inquiry discussions. 

Sometimes, kids don’t need more questions, they just need direct information. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for inquiry-based learning, and plan to write more on the subject matter. But I am also an advocate for doing what is best for the student. 

What is your rule of thumb for direct versus inquiry learning? 

How To Teach The Entertainer Students

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Bubbly, energetic, social, and outgoing. Does this describe you or one of your students? ESFP students tend to have these personality traits. 

Extroverted
Sensing 
Feeling 
Perceiving 

ESFP personality type is nicknamed “The Entertainer.” They are social and thrive in group situations. Sitting in a typical classroom with the desks in a straight line and a teacher lecturing in front of the room is the fastest way for them to lose focus. ESFP students are hands-on learners, needing plenty of manipulations and visuals to fully grasp new concepts. 

These students are affected by their surroundings, they love bright, happy atmospheres and struggle with dark, not aesthetically pleasing rooms. The subjects they are drawn to are drama, dancing, painting, and other artistic studies. 

Improvisation is an important trait these students have. They don’t play by rules, traditions, or schedules, they would rather feel and change based in the moment of what feels right. When they are not understanding new material, they do not revert back to the procedures taught, instead, they look at how the material makes them feel. If it is something that makes them anxious or feels boring, they may leave it behind for lack of interest. However, if the material excites them or has an emotional pull they are more likely to dedicate themselves to studying said material to gain comprehension. 

Having a positive relationship with teachers and peers is important to these extroverted students, they constantly want to feel important to others and be in good standing relationships. Not having this type of relationship with a teacher can make or break success with an ESFP student. They can also feel hurt by criticism, especially at young ages where they cannot see a big picture of how the feedback can potentially benefit them. 

When you’re teaching an ESFP student you are teaching future veterinarians, hosts of any sort, or nurses. They tend to steer towards the careers where they can utilize their people skills while helping in their communities. However, these career paths are typically unknown to them until the time is down to the wire to choose because long term planning can be difficult for them to do. 

What are the tools you have for fostering a successful education in ESFP students? 

Looking into the Bond We Make with Literature

My daughter stared at a stack of library books with fear in her eyes saying, “No, mom. No!” as she grasped her favorite yellow book in her arms. How To Babysit A Grandpa has been on repeat over here for a few weeks now. I have a sneaky suspicion that it has something to do with the fact that her grandpa babysat for some time while I was out of town. 

I was annoyed with her persistence to continue reading the same book I’ve read at least 100 times today. Don’t get me wrong, I know the benefits of repeating text. However, we had Caldecott Medal books, Christmas themed books, and books about animals that go on wild adventures. How in the world could she not be excited about them? 

I attempted to pick up the books and briefly explaining what was happening in them. “Look! Santa is eating the cookies the kids left! I love cookies, do you love them too?” 

Nothing but fear came from her. 

“Oh! There is a puppy in this book! She looks like our puppy! Do you want to come to see?” 

Instead, she backed up, clenching her book even tighter. 

Why was she so hesitant about these fun books? We have a giant library of kid books at our house and she is very familiar with all of them. She’s well versed in Dr. Seuss, fairy tales, and how to babysit grandpas, so why was a few new books such a red flag on her radar? 

It took me a few days to understand, but finally, it clicked. She found safety in her books. She’s the kind of kid that thrives on predictability and sticks to what she knows. Venturing beyond brings anxiety, even in the form of books. She needed the comforting words of How To Babysit A Grandpa and she knew she could count on each different colored animal in Brown Bear, Brown Bear. There was no indication that these new library books would give her what she needed from them. 

So how did I eventually coax her into giving them a try? I stopped pushing. 

I left them to her access where she could see them always. We built up the predictability of these books by showing that they would stick around. 

I let her see me reading them. 

I referenced them often as we talked. “These cookies we made are yummy! They remind me of the cookies in the book about Santa!” 

When she finally did show interest, I didn’t push, I let her explore on her own. When she was ready, I joined her. 

We kept the books checked out for as long as the library would possibly let us keep them. By the time we had to return them, we didn’t make it through every page of every book, but we did read a significant amount. Then we filled our bag with new books and started the process all over again. 

This experience made me truly realize what comfort we can find in books. For the third-grader who is going through a really hard time with family troubles, Roald Dahl may hit right at home for her. The first-grade student who wasn’t quite ready to be away from her mom for a full day yet might be flipping through the pages of Goodnight Moon over and over because she can hear her parents voice reading it to her. Maybe a high school student continues to check out The Hunger Games from the library for the 6th time that school year because he feels confident in his ability to read the storyline and is intimidated by other similar series. 

Books can have a huge impact on anyone’s life, especially kids. They bring a sense of safety, security, and predictability into their lives. It opened my eyes to realize that books can be scary, and books can be comforting, it all depends on the situation. 

How do you encourage hesitant readers to try something new? Have you been a hesitant reader before too? 

Loyal, Dedicated, Supporitve, and Organized: Teaching ISFJ Students

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Do you have students stressed by last-minute changes? Or maybe you know someone who is extremely supportive of friends, family, or peers? Loyal, enthusiastic, and hard-working are also traits they may possess. These students may be an ISFJ personality type. 

Introverted 
Sensing 
Feeling 
Judging 

ISFJs need linear learning. Sequence and order are important to their comprehension of the subject. When they can see the beginning, the middle, the end, and how it applies to where they will use it later in life, they can fully grasp the concept. There is nothing that infuriates an ISFJ student more than a teacher who jumps around or doesn’t stay on track with the material. 

This personality type often is given the nickname “The Defender” or “The Nurse” and for very good reason. These students are known for dropping everything to help a friend or family member. ISFJ are some of the most selfless people, constantly giving and assisting others with everything they can. However, burnout can happen to them when they start to feel underappreciated. This is most likely the cause of the majority of their problems with their peers. 

ISFJs are most likely to have the best grades and excel in school. They are naturally great learners and love the idea of school and learning. It makes sense that their future careers most often end in education, with nursing and counseling falling shortly behind. They strive to choose careers that assist and help in any way that they can. 

When it comes to group work, these students do well. They feed off of ideas from their peers and will do everything they can to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and valued. Larger groups can be hard for ISFJs because it feels less personal and it can be intimidating to speak up in front of so many peers. 

ISFJs are a great balance of sensitive, yet practical. Always in tune with others’ feelings, but likely to make a list of steps to deal with said feelings. They may not be the student with the most friends, but the friendships they do have run deep and are genuine. 

How can you use the deep feelings of an ISFJ student to their academic advantage in your classroom? 

Using The Montessori Method In Everyday Life

The Montessori method is a common practice in schools today, mainly the places that focus on early childhood education. There are also entire schools based around this method Maria Montessori created in 1897. Maria has revolutionized the way we foster learning in children with her research and educational practices. 

The basic idea of the Montessori method is children take charge of their learning. The adult provides the material, the child makes the decision on where and when to spend their time. Everything is eye level with the child, making it easy access. Wood is the preferred material for toys, not plastic, being aesthetically pleasing, as well as durable and practical. It’s a method that can be adopted in homes, daycares, preschools, elementary schools, even up to high schools. 

“Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.”

Montessori Northwest

I had the intention to use the Montessori method in our home when my daughter was born, putting toys on a shelf at her eye level and practicing other Montessori ways. However, soon I began to feel inadequate about my implementing based on research I was doing and others I was comparing to, especially with my limited funds. Here’s how I brought the Montessori ways into my house without breaking the bank. 

We found a kid-sized card table we bought second hand. 
Toys were organized on a cube shelf, all at my daughter’s level. 
I was more mindful of the toys we bought for her, trying to stick with materials that promote imaginative play and learning, not limited, one-time-use toys.
We incorporated more play into our day. 
I let her prepare and be more involved in her meals. 
She took the reigns on her own learning, I stopped pushing her to learn letters and numbers and instead accepted that she would pick it up by herself eventually. She did. 

The Montessori method doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Certain aspects did not fit into our daily lives, but others worked great. Placing her dishes at her level to claim responsibility worked wonders, but setting up a functioning child-sized kitchen set for dishwashing and food prep wasn’t practical for us. I stopped comparing my small acts to those who had more resources. My main takeaway, in the end, was that just because I couldn’t orchestrate a perfect Montessori household for my two-year-old doesn’t mean that my efforts went to waste. This can be the case in any classroom. 

Move art supplies to kid-level. 

Give students access to imaginative play materials. 

Allow younger kids to use messy things such as markers and paints. They won’t understand the responsibility of playing with messy items until you give them the opportunity to. 

Place learning and classroom functions in the hands of the students. 

Be an advocate for responsible, independent kids, who will turn into responsible, independent adults. 

How do you implement Montessori ways into your classroom? How can this elicit deeper learning in other areas?    


 

Ten Ways To Switch Up Your Read Aloud

I am all for promoting a good read-aloud in every classroom from daycares to high school students. I know the power and lessons picture books can hold when you choose the right one. However, I am also aware that simply reading a picture book to students can become mundane and routine when done often, so here are a few tips on how to switch up how you share books with students. 

  1. Felt board stories- For those that aren’t crafty (like me), check Etsy for links to buy sets of felt storyboard characters. Or grab a crafty friend or two to help you create fun sets yourself.    
  2. YouTube videos of books- The majority of popular picture books have at least one YouTube video of someone reading the story. There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to read-aloud books, sometimes with music or discussions at the end.
  3. Vooks- This is a subscription for an animated book collection of popular picture books, however, last I checked it was offered free for teachers for one year. It seems worth checking out. 
  4. Guest readers- For those parents, friends, and community members that are wanting to help in your classroom. How exciting would it be to have a REAL firefighter read a story about what firefighters do? 
  5. Students draw as you read- Let their imaginations do a little work, ask them to illustrate the story as you read. 
  6. The student reads- If you have students that are strong readers that wouldn’t mind a little time in the limelight, give them a chance to read their peers a quick story. 
  7. Coloring pages that go along with the story- I distinctly remember in 2nd grade my teacher read aloud Charlotte’s Web while we colored pictures of pigs, mice, cows, goats, and spiders each day and we hung a few favorites around the room. It brought the story alive in a new way, especially as it became part of our classroom. 
  8. Puppets- They don’t have to be extravagant. Put a sock with some button eyes over your hand to speak as the pigeon in Pigeon Drives The Bus and suddenly your student engagement skyrockets because it’s a little different and a little new. 
  9. Act it out- Once the story is over, let a few students act out their interpretation of the story. 
  10. Change Your Location- Changing up how the book is read seems to be the first idea of increasing engagement. However, changing something like location can amp up the excitement of the book as well. A dear friend of mine once brought her students outside bundled up and ready for a cool fall day while they sat under a big tree watching the falling leaves, and read aloud to them Fletcher And The Falling Leaves. What a magical way to have a story truly come alive for kids. 

What fun ways do you switch up reading for your students? How else do you increase engagement in your students while reading? 

You Probably Have An ESFJ Student In Your Classroom- Here’s How To Foster Their Personality

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Dedicated, loyal, social, and personable. Does this describe a student of yours? If you have an ESFJ student, this could be a great explanation of their personalities. ESFJ students are your cheerleaders, your star football players, your student council leaders. They like to be the ones who set the stage and lead others to success.

Extroverted 
Sensing 
Feeling 
Judgment 

When you’re teaching an ESFJ student, you are teaching a future nurse, teacher, or child care worker. Their careers lead them down a path to take care of others because that’s what they do best, therefore it only makes sense that group work is where they work best. In a group work setting, they are the ones to look over everyone, making sure each person is involved and participating. 

They learn best when the material learning is systematic and organized in a manner they can visualize. Having the study material beforehand to access helps them vastly succeed. They also thrive on hearing different angles of how to accomplish what they are learning. For example, it would be very beneficial to teach them two or three different processes for long division, instead of sticking with one. This can help them fully connect the concept in their minds. 

ESFJs don’t handle criticism well and can be uncomfortable in a classroom where they have been criticized in the past. They need to feel validated and will flourish in an environment with a happy, comfortable culture.   

How can you use this information to better teach the students in your classroom? How do you teach your ENFJ students?