Turning Fiascos into Fiestas: Building Successful, Technology-Rich Inquiry Experiences

cowboyLet's integrate Internet resources into the classroom through the development of meaningful, standards-based, technology-rich materials and resources.


Evidence of Understanding

From books to websites, students are exposed to many sources of information. However are learners really comprehending the content? Let's investigate three popular uses for the Internet. How will you ensure student understanding with online reading, viewing, and interactives?

Online Reading

Select one of the following online readings. How can you get the most from the use of these science-based reading assignments? How can you be certain that students understand the concepts presented in these stories? Design a print resource in Word that students can use to take notes and share their understandings.

Read the stories. Then, use the Teacher's Guide as a resource for identifying activities.

Reading About Science (2-5)

Online Viewing

Select one of the following online viewing activities. How can you get the most from the use of this resource? How can you be certain that students understand the concepts presented and they aren't just passively watching the screen?

  • United Streaming (enter your username and password for access)
  • Professor Garfield Kids (Choose a Grade Level K-6)

Online Interactives

Select one of the following interactive websites. What off-computer activities could collect information about student learning? Design activities that ask student to explore, then express their understandings.

All levels

k through 2

grades 3-6


Keys to Success

Asking Meaningful Questions

  • Brainstorming. Rather than providing students with a list of questions to answer, get students involved in generating ideas. Increase the relevance of projects by allowing students to lead discussions and select the questions of most interest. Use brainstorming techniques to get students thinking. For example, what are student questions about migratory birds and International Migratory Bird Day? What birds live in Indiana? Why?
  • Deep Thinking. Discuss the difference between low level questions and high level questions. Ask them to think about the questions they ask. Help them extend their exploration by asking “how” and “why” type questions. For example, we've created a list of Indiana birds. But, why do some of the birds fly south in the winter and while others stay in Indiana year round?
  • Prompts. Provide prompts to facilitate questioning. Jamie McKenzie suggests the use of a Questioning Toolkit to promote different types of question such as essential, subsidiary, hypothetical, telling, planning, organizing, etc.
  • Linkages. Use questioning throughout the activity, not just at the beginning. Help students identify questions that lead to other questions. Encourage the use of evidence as the basis for further questioning and linking information. For example, we know that some birds carry disease. How might migration patterns spread disease such as bird flu?

Organizing and Recording Thoughts

  • Journals. From spiral notebooks to blogs, there are many tools to help students record their thoughts and work out solutions. For some journaling activities, the commenting functions available in blogs are useful in allowing peers and teachers to make suggestions and provide prompts.
  • Organizers. Concept maps, post-it notes, timelines, and flip chart paper can all be used to help students manage ideas and resources. Flexible tools such as post-it notes and software such as Inspiration allow students to try out different ways of organizing information and seek out patterns in the data. By providing starters and templates, teachers can guide learners who need help with classifying information. As educators monitor student progress, educators can provide strategies to help students develop their organizational skills.

Use the ReadWriteThink Interactives to help students organize, record, and share understandings. Design activities that make use of metacognitive tools.
Create and print an example.
Identify a specific standard and topic.
Create directions in Word or PowerPoint.
Create a link in Word or PowerPoint.

Broadening Perspectives

  • Expand Resources. As students weigh the evidence, be sure that they're using a variety of resources. Many students find comfort in particular resources such as the encyclopedia or Google. Ask students to compare the information gained from electronic databases, websites, books, and other sources. Help them develop strategies for selecting resources to meet particular needs. For example, eNature's ZipGuides provides a way to search for local wildlife anywhere in the United States. All About Birds provides tools for bird identification. Pennsylvania Audubon Society is specific to local birds.
  • Share. From online forums to classroom jigsaw discussions, students need opportunities to bounce around their ideas and generate new ways of thinking. Rather than seeing these sharing opportunities as a culminating activity, build them in throughout the process. At each phase of your project, provide opportunities for student to share their findings, reflect on their progress, try out ideas, and enhance their questions.
  • Participation. Joining a large scale project provides learners with relevant experiences beyond the class. For instance there are many national and international birding projects (i.e., Journey North, eBird, Birdhouse Network) that could be used as a way to involve students in broader understanding of ornithology.
  • Online Interviews. Ask students to go beyond the general information found in reference materials and seek out specific information relevant to their interests. Why not interview the state ornithologist by email? What local birds could be incorporated into the exhibit? What’s unique about the bird migration through our state?

Read an article based on this presentation called Turning Fiascos into Fiestas: Building Successful Inquiry Experiences by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson.

Plan a Fiesta!

Let's put it all together.

As students are learning about the inquiry process and specific information skills, it's helpful to provide Inquiry Guides that help students through a specific task. Right-click and Save Target As the fossils.ppt project starter. Try this starter. Then, create one yourself.

Plan an inquiry-based project based on the idea that much of science involves processes, procedures, and cycles. Or, plan a mystery based on an objects.

Explore and compare different cycles. For example, you might explore An Organic Egg Farm. Do other farming operations follow a similar procedure? How do foods go from farm to dinner table? Focus on meaningful questions, tools for organizing information and thoughts, and broadening perspectives.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Farm to Table
  • Animal/Plant to Fossil
  • Photosynthesis
  • Mitosis
  • Life cycle
  • Rock cycle
  • Lunar cycle
  • Water cycle
  • Cicada cycle
  • Growing cycle
  • Star cycle
  • Boomtown to Ghosttown
  • Migration

Do a MarcoPolo search for your topic of interest or the world "cycle".

If you need ideas to get started. Try the following visuals:

| Eduscapes | Home | Sharing | Nature | Literacies | Fiestas |
Developed by Annette Lamb, 7/06.