This page strives to highlights standards-aligned classroom inquiries that have been taught in Illinois educators' classrooms.
Shonda Ronen, a first-grade teacher and Teach Plus Illinois Teaching Policy Fellow at Beckemeyer Elementary School in Hillsboro, IL was kind enough to share an inquiry her first graders engaged in earlier last school year. Ronen has been implementing inquiry in the social sciences after serving as the elementary team leader for the Illinois Task Force to Revise the Social Science Standards and promoting the implementation of the new standards across the state.
In this unit, students had the opportunity to learn about Ruby Bridges as part of an inquiry to apply the Illinois Social Science Learning Standard that asks them to “Describe individuals and groups who have shaped a significant historical change” (SS.H.2.1) while engaging in all the Inquiry Skills standards for K-2.
Given her students' ages and experience with inquiry Shonda chose to have her students brainstorm all their questions about a slightly edited version of Norman Rockwell's print The Problem We All Live With (Ronen opted to crop the image to remove the racial slur before showing her first graders). All questions generated by the students to be investigated during this unit were recorded on chart paper by Ronen. In order to facilitate a discussion about what determines source quality, Ronen also asked her students to brainstorm a list of potential sources they could use to answer their questions. She was intentional with this inquiry about letting her students explore all sources brainstormed and answer all questions, they did not narrow the focus down to an essential question.
As students progressed through the inquiry, Shonda noticed that her plan for students to communicate their learning and take informed action was not the only way students wanted to apply what they'd learned. Shonda had envisioned students presenting what they learned about Ruby Bridges to the other first grade classrooms in her building. Her students began asking if they could write letters to Ruby Bridges herself. Ronen opted to be flexible and include both outcomes in her planning. Students culminated their learning by writing letters to Ruby Bridges that were mailed off to Ms. Bridges (and they received a response!) as well as presenting about Ruby to the other first graders.
Through this inquiry students not only were able to practice all the inquiry skills standards at the first-grade level but they also worked on many of the literacy standards as well. This inquiry made a big impression on Ronen's first graders as they began to see how their questions can drive learning in the classroom in addition to the understanding of how a young girl can make a big impact.
Thank you for sharing Shonda!
**Inclusion of an inquiry in the spotlight DOES NOT indicate an endorsement of curriculum by the State of Illinois**
Classroom Inquiry Ideas
Tried a great inquiry in your classroom? Use the button below to submit information about your inquiry to be included in the spotlight. Inquiries do not need to have gone perfectly to be included, there is value in learning what you'd do differently next time!