Add variety to your classroom activities with these ideas from Mark Paulsen, NBCT.Jun 01, 2023
Mark Paulsen, NBCT, is a longtime STEM educator and the workforce development coordinator for SciTech Institute, a part of the Arizona Technology Council. Here, he writes about three activities to encourage inquiry and engagement in your classroom.
Adding in a variety of activities in the classroom helps keep things fresh for your students. Here are three different inquiry-based approaches you can use with your current content for an upcoming lesson.
Chat stations are a way that students engage with the curriculum by actively asking questions and seeking the answers. Prior to this activity, have your students ask questions about the topic they are studying. Group those questions into themes or categories.
The next day, place those questions around the room on whiteboards or chart paper. Randomly assign your students into groups and have them record their answers to the question on the chart paper or whiteboard where it is written. Rotate until the whole class has gone through each question. As a class, visit each whiteboard and consolidate their learning through a discussion.
Halfway through a unit, put a pause on any new learning, lab, or activity and use this protocol. This idea came from speed dating — you know, you get a few minutes to interact with a person and, from that interaction, you decide if you want to go on a date with them. For this activity in the classroom, your students get 30 seconds to a minute to go over key details or an idea with a partner. This may sound frantic, and that is the idea. Students can draw, make lists, ask clarifying questions, or write experiences they have with an image, vocabulary word, or topic before rotating and sharing those artifacts with other students. The possibilities are endless.
Once you are done with the “speed dating,” have students return to their desks. Show all the images, vocabulary words, or topics they addressed on the screen. Have them go back and add anything else they want to what they have already written. Once the activity is done, collect their work, and find common themes. This also helps bring light to any misconceptions or topics that need to be discussed as a group. Conference with each of your students and ask them to tell you more about what they wrote or drew on their paper, if needed.
Resource Café is a move a teacher can make when an assessment is coming up and experts are emerging in the classroom around the topic that the teacher is teaching. The key to this activity is that students use this activity for help or reassurance on what they know or don’t know. Set up different groups around the classroom. Each group is going to have a different expert student. That expert student is going to teach those students who go to their group a skill or learning that they discovered. The expert student will guide the students around that topic and facilitate any questions that might come up. As students move from group to group getting help, the t
Three activities to get your students engaged in their learning
eacher is also running a targeted small group of students to give them help as well. At the end, a consolidation of learning, big ideas, themes, and general questions are brought up to the group around their learning for the class period.
Want to learn more about how to shift to a more inquiry-focused classroom? Check out these three other ways to add inquiry!