Sunday, January 07, 2007

Units of Inquiry . . .

Tomorrow I start my new job. (Hooray!) As a 4th grade teacher (if you can believe that). It's just a temporary position (3 months - the classroom teacher is on sick leave) but it should prove very interesting.

This isn't a "normal" school with a "normal" curriculum. That would be too easy (normal). This is an international school on the outskirts of Lisbon that follows an IB (International Baccalaureate)program. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) fosters a student-centered, inquiry based learning community. The school year consists of 3 terms. During each term the students cover 2 separate "Units of Inquiry". The students don't have "proper" books but are encouraged to explore an array of books (either in the classroom or in the library) on each "unit of inquiry". The teacher functions as a facilitator as students are put in a position to be "responsible" for their own learning.

Although I only begin my post tomorrow, I was invited by the classroom teacher to spend the day with the class before Christmas break (to help prepare the class for upcoming change) and was struck by how respectful and well-behaved these kids are. They are by no means "Stepford" kids but they are respectful of each other and thoughtful. If one of them displays any antisocial behavior (eg, saying something careless), the class comes to a screeching halt. Only after the ill-gotten behavior is brought to the attention of the guilty party and apologies have been given and received does the class continue. It's the most amazing behavior. It's like it should be.

While the kids will be studying "forces and structures" as their unit of inquiry, I shall be experiencing a "Unit of Inquiry" of my own in this new environment.

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