Monday, December 21, 2009


It is so nice to have extra time on a long winter break to catch up on some professional learning. I had received a copy of INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ELEMENTARY CLASSROOMS. This is a DVD companion to the book INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ACTION by Steph Harvey and Smokey Daniels. I am so glad that I made time to watch this DVD today!

I read the book, INQUIRY CIRCLES, when it first came out but I read it rather quickly. I revisited it recently because so many librarians are talking about the implications of this book for libraries. I am still hoping to take part in the Teacher Librarian Ning booktalk on the book. This book is definitely one that has implications for classroom teachers, librarians, related arts teachers, resources specialists, coaches, etc. I think anyone who works in schools can benefit from the work of Harvey and Daniels. I have been reading so much about 21st Century Literacy and Learning but I think sometimes, we forget that the key to all of the good thinking people are doing about learning is anchored in students' curiosities. And without inquiry, creativity and student ownership of learning students really can't have the learning experiences we hope for them. This book and DVD series reminds us of that and brings us into classrooms where inquiry around curriculum is happening.

For me, I love professional reading. I learn so much from this. But I also like to see and hear the way kids and teachers talk when involved in the kinds of things I read about. So, this was great for me. The DVD is about an hour in length. The first half of the DVD takes us into a first grade classroom where students are learning about African Animals. The independence and brilliance of these 6 and 7 year olds is interesting to watch--they are learning not only about African Animals but about research, information, and collaboration. In the intermediate section of the DVD, a 4th graders are exploring Ancient Egypt. Again, it is inspiring to see such independent thinkers who are so committed to their learning. It also helped me to see the teacher talking to students about her own research notebook and to see her work in small groups. The key for me was the decision-making on the part of the student. It was clear in every part of the study.

To me, Inquiry Circles, as shared by Harvey and Daniels makes sense for classrooms and libraries. It seems the perfect vehicle to help kids truly become information literate and to support their learning of 21st Century skills. This book and DVD helped me rethink some ways to expand the options for kids in the library.

And what about technology? It was interesting to me that in both the book and the DVD, tools of technology were mentioned but they were mentioned along with many other tools for learning. Technology was definitely a part of student learning throughout research and as they shared their learning but Inquiry Circles certainly don't rely on technology. For example, when students were asked to share their new learning publicly, they brainstormed ideas for doing this. Some built models, others performed, used art, etc. Such a great reminder that giving kids lots of options to research and share learning is key to 21st Century Learning.

(There is a second DVD to this set--It is called INQUIRY CIRCLES IN MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOMS. I didn't have a chance to watch it but hope to do so soon. It looks to be just as good as the elementary DVD. From the Table of Contents, it looks like the next DVD focuses on a 6th grade inquiry on Civil Rights and high school Literature Circles. Even though they are geared toward older kid, it looks like I will learn lots that I can apply to elementary.


  1. Thanks for reviewing the DVD for us! I'm going to add a link on the Teacher Librarian Ning to your post so others can see! - Kristin F

  2. I have got to pick up a copy of Staphanie and Smokey's book. I have been working hard to create an inquiry based classroom. It has been a growing process so far. Ever been to Waloon Institute? That was one of the best professional experiences I've ever had. Met Smokey and Stephanie there.

  3. Steph and Smokey are great. How could we expect anything less. I am anxious to see the DVD. Thanks for reviewing it.


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