Posted by: degarcia | November 24, 2008

Lesson Design


Lesson Design

An old adage states: “Tell me
and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.”

These questions are intended for teachers to pose as they interact with students engaged in inquiry processes.

  1. What does this make you think of?
  2. In what ways are these  different?
  3. In what ways are these the same?
  4. What would happen if you …
  5. What might you try instead?
  6. Tell me about your …?
  7. What can you do next time?
  8. What can you tell me about it?
  9. Tell me what happened.
  10. How are you going to do that?
  11. How did you do that?
  12. What will you do next after you finish that?
  13. Is there anything else you could do/use?
  14. How do you know?
  15. What are some different things you could try?

**Additional questions are provided in this link:

What is inquiry-based learning?

“Inquiry” is defined as “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge — seeking information by questioning.” Individuals carry on the process of inquiry from the time they are born until they die. This is true even though they might not reflect upon the process. Infants begin to make sense of the world by
inquiring. From birth, babies observe faces that come near, they grasp objects,
they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. The process of
inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses — seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Context for Inquiry

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools,
students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the
expected answers.

Effective inquiry is more than just asking questions. A complex process is involved when individuals attempt to convert information and data into useful knowledge. Useful application of inquiry learning involves several factors: a context for questions, a framework for questions, a focus for questions, and different levels of questions. Well-designed inquiry learning produces knowledge formation that can be widely applied.

Importance of Inquiry

Educators must understand that schools need to go beyond data and information accumulation and move toward the generation of useful and applicable knowledge. . . a process supported by inquiry learning. In the past, our country’s success depended on our supply of natural resources. Today, it depends upon a workforce that “works smarter.”

Through the process of inquiry, individuals construct much of their understanding of the natural and human-designed worlds. Inquiry implies a “need or want to know” premise. Inquiry is not so much seeking the right answer — because often there is none — but rather seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. For educators, inquiry implies emphasis on the development of inquiry skills and the nurturing of inquiring attitudes or habits of mind that will enable individuals to continue the quest for knowledge throughout life.

Certain attributes are necessary for both generating and effectively transmitting the fund of knowledge. The attributes that experts use to generate new knowledge are very similar to the qualities essential for the effective transmission of knowledge within the learners’ environment. These are the essential elements of effective inquiry learning:


1. Experts see patterns and meanings not apparent to novices.



2. Experts have in-depth knowledge of their fields, structured so that it is most



3. Experts’ knowledge is not just a set of facts — it is structured to be accessible,
transferable, and applicable to a variety of situations.



4. Experts can easily retrieve their knowledge and learn new information in their fields
with little effort.

How does it differ from the traditional approach?

**The difference between the traditional approach of teaching is provided in this link:

What does it have to do with my classroom?

The traditional focus of education is no longer appropriate. The world has changed: local apprenticeships are rare, and young people must master new ways of acting and thinking. Our society is becoming increasingly larger and more complexly diverse. Young people must develop an understanding for the complexities of modern life and be able to grapple with new ethical and practical issues. We must educate our young so they can participate as responsible members in contemporary society. They also need to be given the chance to grow and develop fulfilling personal identities in settings that are relatively free of risk.

Inquiry learning can turn information into useful knowledge. It stresses skill
development and nurtures the development of good habits of mind. Information, lacking a useful context, often has limited applications beyond passing a test. Learning plans and teaching materials need to include a relevant context for new information to lead to broader understandings. It is often hard for students to understand the connections between activities within a particular subject. This confusion is heightened when students struggle to understand the connections between different subjects within traditional schools.

Questions, whether self-initiated or “owned,” are at the heart of inquiry learning. While questions are also a part of the traditional classroom, the sources, purposes, and levels of questioning are quite different. In the traditional classroom, the teacher is frequently the questioner. Questions are usually intended to provoke feedback about a reading or activity assignment. In an inquiry classroom, the teacher asks questions that are more open and reflective in nature. Appropriate questioning techniques are important in an inquiry-based classroom, especially in the lower grades where they become a foundation for self-initiated questioning.

**Different types of inquiry questions are provided in this link:

What are the benefits of inquiry-based learning?

One of the important missing pieces in many modern schools is a coherent and
simplified process for increasing knowledge of a subject from lower grades to
upper grades. Students often have difficulty understanding how various
activities within a particular subject relate to each other. Much more confusion results when the learner tries to interrelate the various subjects taught at school.

Within a conceptual framework, inquiry learning and active learner involvement can lead to important outcomes in the classroom. Students who actively make observations, collect, analyze, and synthesize information, and draw conclusions are developing useful problem-solving skills. These skills can be applied to future “need to know” situations that students will encounter both at school and at work.


What does inquiry-based learning look like? Much of what is said about science and inquiry learning can be applied to all subjects. The following list
describes some of what inquiry learning looks like in practice.

**Students’ role during inquiry learning is provided in this link:


Ultimately, the importance of inquiry learning is that students learn how to continue learning. This is something they can take with them throughout life — beyond parental help and security, beyond a textbook, beyond the time of a master teacher, beyond school — to a time when they will often be alone in their

 **Teacher’s role during inquiry learning is provided in this link:

How do I get started using inquiry-based learning?

To start using inquiry, teachers must first be familiar with the conceptual frameworks that structure the subjects they teach and the “ground rules”.

Questions, whether self-initiated or posed by others, are at the heart of learning by inquiry. While questions are a part of the traditional classroom, the source,
the purpose, and the level of questions are quite different. In the traditional
classroom, the teacher is frequently the questioner, and the purpose of
questions is often to assess whether or not students have learned and absorbed
particular information.

The teacher’s role is critical in inquiry learning, but the role is different from
that for which most teachers have been prepared. The teacher becomes the leader of the learning, or the facilitator of the learning process. Modeling is
extremely important for younger learners.

How can technology be used with inquiry-based learning?

When students have questions that the teacher cannot answer or that require the gathering of multiple points of view or types of data, use of technology can be crucial. In good inquiry-learning classrooms, technology is available to help
students develop their information-processing and analysis skills. In their
work, students will often use the Internet or CD-ROM programs to find
information that they need.

Teachers focus not so much on how to use a particular technology but on the underlying skills that allow students to learn to adapt to new technologies and transfer existing skills from one type of technology to another.

**Follow this link to watch two videos on technology integration:

Key principles

Principle 1

All learning activities should focus on using information-processing skills(from observations to synthesis) and applying the discipline “ground rules” as a means to learn content set in a broad conceptual context.

Principle 2

Inquiry learning puts the learner at the center of an active learning process,
and the systemic elements (the teacher, instructional resources, technology,
and so forth) are prepared or aligned to support the learner.

Principle 3 

The role of the teacher becomes one of facilitating the learning process. The
teacher also becomes a learner by finding out more about the learner and the
process of inquiry learning.

Principle 4

What is assessed is what is valued. Therefore, more emphasis needs to be placed on assessing the development of information-processing skills, nurtured habits of mind, or “ground rules” of the discipline, and conceptual understandings rather than just the content of the field.

Designing an Inquiry  Lesson: (math book)

According to the National Research Council, the essential features of classroom inquiry are as follows:

·    Learners are engaged by scientifically oriented questions.

·    Learners give priority to evidence, which allows them to develop
and evaluate explanations that address scientifically oriented questions.

·    Learners formulate explanations from evidence to address
scientifically oriented questions/

·    Learners evaluate their explanations in light of alternative
explanations, particularly those reflecting scientific understanding.

·  Learners communicate and justify their proposed explanations.

*You can easily substitute the word scientifically
with mathematically. But, inquiry may need to be more guided than the ideal, especially if students have little experience with finding answers for themselves. Inquiries that need more guidance by the instructor are defined by the National Research Council as partial inquires, as opposed to full inquiries. This council organized a chart that outlines the variations of the preceding essential features of classroom inquiry.

Steps for Planning Inquiry Lesson:

When it comes to planning these inquiry lessons, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (1998), in their book Understanding by Design, have outlines three stages of designing a lesson through what is known as backward planning or backward designing:

·  Identify the desired results

·  Determine acceptable evidence

·  Plan learning experiences and instruction

Planning with the end result in mind means knowing where you are going and what your goals are. We need to determine how to tell when students have met goals. What evidence do we expect to see? We then need to plan the experiences that would enable students to demonstrate such evidence. When we know the desired outcome at the end of the day or the end of the unit, we can constantly monitor and assess our students to determine whether they are meeting our goals.

Planning Steps for a Math Lesson:

1. Identify the standards or focal points.

·  The focus should support the development of concepts and big ideas
over time, as well as meet state standards.

·  It is important to also consider the standards and teachings from
previous grades and topics (background knowledge).

2. Determine the big ideas, mathematical focus, and the mathematical concepts to be explored.

·  The focus should support the development of concepts and big ideas
over time, as well as meet state standards.

·  It is important to also consider the standards and teachings from
previous grades and topics (background knowledge).

3.  Plan your summary.

·  Consider what you would like your students to understand by the
end of the lesson. What you would you like them to reflect on in their math
journal? What conjectures or generalizations do you hope your students will

4. Plan your assessment question.

·  How are you going to assess the understanding you would like your
students to walk away with? What quick problem are you going to provide to
check this understanding?

·  This is often referred to as the exit slip.

5. Plan your explore.

·  Plan the task that the students will be exploring and what you
expect them to say and do as a result of the task.

·  What problem or problems can you pose that allow student to
student to discover and grapple with the desired mathematics? What strategies
might you expect from your students? What questions might you ask them to nudge from them toward bigger understandings?

6. Plan your launch. How are you going to prepare students for the task? How does previous work connect with what will be explored today? What materials might you need to prepare? How will you determine that all students know what to do?

·  Consider what activity will help prepare students to tackle the explore task. Do you want to make connections with their background knowledge or with strategies they already know? How are you going to introduce the explore task?

7. Consider you accommodations.

·  Do you have students with language, learning, or behavioral needs?

· How are you going to ensure that these students have access and
are actively engaged?


Bahr, D. & de Garcia, L. (2010). Elementary Mathematics Is Anything but Elementary. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Wolf, D. (2004). Inquiry-based Learning. Educational Broadcasting Corporation.



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