June 19, 2017

Chew on This: Student Inquiry with Dr. Larry Chew



Bonus round has begun!!  As I have shared, I'm on a quest to discover more and more about student-led Learning!  Today was an excellent discovery and it was FREE!  Awhile back my district had sign-ups for a free summer institute in science!  I jumped right in and I was accepted for the class!  Little did I know it would align perfectly with my goals for the year and that I would get to hear a great speaker too-Dr. Larry Chew!  

Dr. Chew's background was an aerospace professor who now presents nation wide!  How does an aerospace professor go from teaching college students complex engineering principles to reaching the hearts of teachers-it started with fear!  Fear that he was unable to prepare his own children for real life.  He was a great professor who's tests scores just didn't line up to prove that.  Instead of staying at "Oh well!" he went on the path to discover why!  Through this, he discovered that background knowledge and exploration were missing in his classroom!  So, he worked to develop an answer, and discovered inquiry based discussions that put the student in the role of discussion guider and questioner!  

This method is brilliant!  Purely brilliant!  It builds both background knowledge through exploration and student based discussions, allowing students to figure it out!  Let's face it, he's right when he shares that 2/3 of the student in our classrooms can't tell us the why.  But the reality is, no one is out there teaching us how to get them to be able to do it!  Chew points to the fact that it is up to us, the teachers, to get out of the way and allow the kids to do it, with a carefully planned classroom environment and the training needed to ask the questions themselves.  And, it's super easy!

I say "super easy" right now.  He explains that it will take lots of time and practice, and MANIPULATION!  That's right, he says that we must become master manipulators-to teach students how to go in the right direction with questioning and how to get them to "discover" the answer for themselves.  So, let's dive in!

First, it starts with the benchmarks.  If you don't know the benchmarks, you are dead in the water!  Plus, you do have to know the science or concept you are going to present.  He can, literally, in minutes provide a basic lesson idea.  He did it, multiple times, with multiple subjects!  From the benchmark, you develop a content statement-the thing kids are to take away, to remember, to LEARN from the whole lesson!  Next, find a quick activity that will take all of 5-7 minutes of time!  And, you are ready!  

Next, you present your students with the benchmark or whatever else you are required to do in less than 5 minutes.  DO NOT share the content statement!  Complete the activity and, then, have them write on a whiteboard (one per table in teams of 3) whatever your learning goal might bring.  The experiment we did is we wrote words to describe what we saw in the experiment.  Then he asked us to divide them into two columns.  Easy right.  What we DIDN'T see is Dr. Chew checking white boards for a key word-physical!  This is where the manipulation on the teacher's part is taking place. He is targeting 2 or 3 table groups (never students-tables!) to call on who have the right words and ideas as the start of the conversation!  And, what a conversation!  

Here's how it works! The process is called Add, Ask, and Challenge/Comment!  Dr. Chew modeled this over and over.  He asks the first question and chooses one of those 2-3 students who had the right concept, your concept statement goal, on their white board!  Simple right.  Here's where it gets good!  Dr. Chew then only calls on student names.  The student called on MUST ask a question of the TABLE (once someone talks, it goes to the next table member).  Once that is answered, the next student called on MUST CHALLENGE or  COMMENT  on what was said.  And it keeps going like this.  If a table doesn't know, it is up to the tables around them to help out and keep the conversation going.  You do this for about 10 minutes, without teacher input.  You can plant questions and you can thank someone who is misdirecting a comment, but you don't fix anything, even misconceptions.  But you listen carefully and take note of what you do need to fix when time is up!  Yep, and it is all kid based. Sounds too easy right!  Even Dr. Chew says we are working to hard at that perfect classroom.  If it messes up, refocus and try again.  If a table isn't involved, maybe tomorrow they will be!  It just takes time and practice!  

So, what happens when it is over?  Then it is teaching time. You present what you need to present, fix misconceptions, and focus them completely on the content statement!  You have manipulated them into believing they figured it out on their own!  BRILLIANT!  

There is also the closing activities-practice the content statement 3 times silently and then tell your team member-each taking a turn!  And that's IT!  Simple, easy, and BRILLIANT!  Check out more over at TommyC.org, Dr. Chew's homepage!  Be sure to check out the handouts and more!  

Personally, I can't wait to try out this method in my classroom.  It allows students more control, it allows me to teach with the students in mind, it provides more hands on in Science (but it can be used in any subject), and fit perfectly with my philosophy and where I'm headed!  

Let me know what you think in the comments section!  Can't wait to hear what you have to say!  



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