Using inquiry methods for teaching K-3 reading encourages teachers to move away from exclusive use of textbooks, toward helping children to make more connections to the world beyond the classroom. The major component of the inquiry process includes observing, inferring, predicting, classifying, and communicating. These components includes decision-making and involve standards that expect students to investigate their world by using scientific thinking to identify issues and to solve problems that lead to workable solutions. The inquiry method expects teachers to engage learners in higher-order thinking activities; expand their deep knowledge about reading and comprehension; and create activities that help learners make connections to the world beyond the classroom. The tools to teach inquiry discussed in this article will be Story path Method, Reader’s Theatre, and a place for spatial dynamics in the classroom and Web Quests. Using these tools will assist teachers in engaging students in reenactments, inquiry, problem solving, higher level thinking, and decision making.
Story path by McGuire (1999) is a dynamic inquiry method. It engages students in reenactment, inquiry, problem solving, higher-level thinking, and decision making. Story path uses the basic components of setting, characters, and plot to organize the reading curriculum into meaningful and superb learning. It integrates language and reading. The story structure enables students to become active participants in problem-based situations. This tool guides students through deep knowledge and involves them in a critical examination of the reading concepts. Schema is the background knowledge and experience readers bring to the text. Good readers draw on prior knowledge and experience to connections. Struggling readers often move directly through a text without stopping to consider whether the text makes sense based on their own background knowledge, or whether their knowledge can be used to help them understand confusing or challenging materials. By teaching students to connect to text, they are able to better understand what they are reading (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Accessing prior knowledge and experiences, opinions, and emotions that they can draw upon.
The next method deals with a place of spatial dynamics in the classroom. The use of spatial dynamics that actively involves students in creating physical examples of places can be used with Story path. Teachers guide students in replicating the concrete details of an historical place or event by laying the model out on the classroom floor. This allows students the opportunity to become a part of the story. Using the spatial dynamics in the classroom helps the readers understand how characters feel and the motivation behind their actions. The reader’s become more engaged in the story by creating the scenery from a story. It forces readers to become actively involved, and remember what they have read and ask questions about the text. In using the spatial dynamics as a tool for inquiry, the students must be allowed to ask questions. Students will work in teams in order to discuss and confer about the best way to create their scenery.
Another method of using inquiry is Web Quests. This method allows students to tie technology into their inquiry. Web Quests are electronic inquiry lessons and units that focus on visits to virtual museums and historical sites featuring noted places, people and events found on the Internet. Bernie Dodge and Tom March are the authors of Web Quests. They define this process in the following manner. A Web Quest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the web. Web Quests are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners’ thinking at the level of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Retrieved June 24, 2005 from http:/webquest.sdsu.edu/overview.htm. There are hundreds of Web Quests posted on the Internet. Many of the Web Quests include an introduction, the task, and the process, a list of resources, a treasure hunt, an evaluation and a conclusion. The inclusion of a treasure hunt and the use of higher level questions, encourage group participation among students. The introduction of Web Quests includes a focus statement that will motivate the students to participate in the inquiry project. A statement of importance about how the learner will benefit from the experience, and an expected outcome of the Web Quests experience. The purpose of Web Quests, to assist students in their inquiry of reading, and the world around them.
Readers Theatre is a method that introduces the element of drama into literacy learning and magically transforms the classroom into a stage. During Readers Theatre time, the reader is at center stage. Totally absorbed in the reading experience. The reader is the star. Readers Theatre is a highly motivational strategy that connects oral reading, literature, and drama in the classroom. The element of drama enables students to realize reading is an activity that permits experimentation. They can try reading words in different ways to produce different meanings. Using volume, pitch, stress, and intonation, readers delve into Readers Theatre text, making printed words come alive and having their character come to life. As they practice their roles, readers are also given the opportunity to reflect on the text and to evaluate and revise how they interact with it. (Carrick, 2000). Reader’s Theatre was popular first in colleges and universities, Readers Theatre has now moved to earlier education, where it is seen as a key tool for creating interest and skill in reading. Repeated readings bring fluency, and if a script is based on an available book, kids want to read that too. Readers Theatre scripts can be purchased through publishers, book vendors, or script services. However, many scripts suitable for a variety of grade and reading levels and representing a rage of genres and content matter are available at sites on the World Wide Web. These scripts are free and can be easily downloaded, printed, and duplicated for classroom use. Readers Theatre promotes oral reading fluency (Millin, 1996) and enhances students’ ability to understand and transform text.
Inquiry based learning has shown numerous benefits for students, schools, and the communities in which they live and for reading itself as a subject. First, children of most age levels can be taught to use basic research methodology through inquiry. They can be taught to ask questions about the world around them, to collect information to answer their questions, to interpret the information found, and to form conclusions about their findings. Second, well-organized inquiry-based reading involves more than a classroom full of students and their teacher. Third, when students are engaged in inquiry projects, such as those suggested above, they are encouraged to showcase their findings. Students can use Web Quests that requires them to search for information online. They can prepare use of spatial dynamics by creating a scene from a story read. They can prepare age appropriate exhibits, such as Readers Theatre. Children are taught to use the results of their inquiry based research from reading, to become more fluent and comprehensive readers. Invite parents, classmates and other instructors to view this display of inquiry learning. This is a time for students and parents to feel very proud of research outcomes that offer findings that highlight attributes of fluent readers.
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