Reflection on practice: Provoking inquiry into energy

One of my greatest frustrations as an inquiry teacher is the lack of opportunities to observe other inquiry teachers. The incredible amount of preparation results in having a limited amount of free time.

When I noticed the Grade Five team at KIST next door preparing centers including light bulbs, various balls, balloons, thermometers, and more, and during my preparation period, I couldn’t miss the chance to observe and document.

The first center I visited appeared to be engaging with the relationship between heat and light. I was immediately impressed with the thoughtfulness of the questions used by the facilitator to stimulate students’ analyses.

I didn’t have much opportunity to glean the full purpose of one center which involved a beaker and thermometer, but students were highly intrigued as they shared ideas from their observations.

There was also an ingenious application of the impossible dominoes phenomenon. The thought occurred to me, however, that this demonstration is worthy of investing in a purpose built set of progressively larger dominoes.

Two more centers are not pictured in this post. One involved comparing how different balls bounce, and how they bounce differently when released on top of each other. This would have been a fantastic exploration to allow students to carry out, but would need to be outside due to the risk of errant balls. The final center was the classic balloon/straw jet on a string.

What appealed the most about this experience to me was it’s cohesion. The graphic organizer provided served to connect the various engagements through a cognitive framework. It was an ideal design that I look forward to adapting to future units of inquiry in my class.

Integrating public speaking, peer assessment, and data handling

As a formative assessment task within a unit focused on advertising, my class recently completed a learning engagement which integrated persuasive writing, public speaking, peer assessment, and data gathering, organization, and analysis.

Public speaking

The first step was for students to apply what they had learned around the central idea, ‘People create and manipulate messages to target and persuade specific audiences.’, by presenting their own persuasive speeches.

One of the most powerful tools we explored were TED talks about children.

We followed a typical writing process which featured prominently rehearsal and peer feedback.

Peer assessment

By emphasizing peer evaluation, there were many opportunities for me to model sensitive and effective critique as well as coach individual students and groups to develop as assessors.

When the day of the presentations drew near, students contributed their ideas about features of a persuasive speech which I synthesized into our Persuasive speech peer assessment rubric

Every student in the class used the rubric to evaluate every other student’s speech.

Data handling

This provided an authentic data handling exercise as students used a Persuasive speech peer assessment data organizer to gain deeper insights into their peer feedback.

I believe that the authenticity and social elements designed into the activity led to every student being extremely motivated to learn the concept and application of average.


A further step that I considered including but decided against would be to teach the students how to use Excel or other spreadsheet software to organize and analyze their data. However, it didn’t seem appropriate at the time and I would prefer that the students experience this process in the old fashioned analog manner before introducing digital tools.