Teaching and Learning the “whole game”

I have recently undertaken to learn more about the inquiryprocess because, as I have discovered, one never truly feels like they have ever conquered the inquiry mountain completely. Just when you think you’ve reached the summit, something steers you off your intended path and you end up taking a different route to the top, if you every get to the top at all. It sort of feels like the summit keeps changing position and that I may never truly get to the top.

This different “route to the summit” is how I see inquiry (right now! It will change!).  I had my second Professional Growth Plan meeting yesterday with my principal, Carolyn Cameron, and we were discussing why the Alberta government has decided that students need to learn about democracy in grade 6 when it is such a challenging topic for most adults to understand or find a passion for. Like many adults I know, I do not have a passion for politics. My passions in Social Studies are more focused around historical thinking and the historical stories. My school, Greystone Centennial Middle School, has adopted the Inquiry-based model and assessment rubric of the Galileo Network to guide our work in the inquiry process.

When I first arrived at GCMS, I felt (and still sometimes do) that I am to be doing everything in my classroom the way that my teammates (the four teachers in grade 6 are a team and we collaborate on the work that we do with our students) do however, I have struggled with this from the beginning as I, although this is my 5th year of teaching grade 6, am always looking for new ways to engage the students or to bring the learning alive and I never truly teach something the exact same way every year. My students are the ones that guide my teaching and they are the reason that I am always looking for new ways to do things.

This leads me to the book study that I am participating in (or lurking around as I am not quite brave enough to post my thoughts to the rest of the world on the book study’s blog). The book that we are reading is called “Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education”. The seven principles of learning by wholes that David Perkins identifies are:

1. Play the whole game.
2. Make the game worth playing.
3. Work on the hard parts.
4. Play out of town.
5. Uncover the hidden game.
6. Learn from the team…and the other teams.
7. Learn the game of learning.

Now I have only found time (and energy) to read the Introduction and half of the first chapter however, a few things have resonated with me thus far: 

1.Technology can bring to students whole games to which they would otherwise not have access.
2. Learning by wholes treats learners as aware and active and capable of becoming more so.
3. The principle of learning from the team and other teams…concerns not just activities that naturally have a group character, but also about learning from others engaged in the same pursuit.
4. What we learn for today is not for today but for the day after tomorrow.

So what, you might be asking. Well, at the end of the school day today, a colleague and I were discussing what we would like to do with the remainder of the year and how we see things playing out especially since we collaborate and plan Language Arts and Social Studies together. We began discussing how we can tie together the big ideas in the Sky Science and Air, Aerodynamics and Flight units into a read aloud novel study of Galileo: Truth on Trial and newspaper article writing. This led us into a discussion about what inquiry means because she is the inquiry expert on our team and I am the curriculum expert. I was sharing with her how I was stumbling on how to bring all of the big ideas into an inquiry project so that we are not just “skating along the surface” as David Perkins says but rather so that we are helping the students to experience the “whole game”. She explained to me that I was also good at inquiry without even realizing I was doing it simply in the way that I am constantly questioning the students about why they think a particular way or how they solved a particular problem. (This drives the students nuts!!! They are tired of Mrs. Krefting saying “But how do you know?”) WOW! What a revelation! I didn’t realize that I had already been making the intitial steps into the inquiry world!!! My colleague explained to me that we don’t need to bring everything into an inquiry project however, she would like to sit down and figure out how to engage the students in our last few topics and how we can tie it all together and then ultimately tie it into our overarching question for the year “How is an individual’s voice heard?”.

I feel that we have been working on principle #1 & #3 this year but now we need to continue working on the hard parts(#3) and move into principles #2, #4 and #5. Thus, my journey into learning inquiry has already begun but can you see now why the summit of the inquiry mountain seems to be continually moving on me?


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