Creating a Culture of Inquisitiveness in the Classroom

Chapter Three of Barell’s book, asks the reader to pause and ponder —

My responses are below but I’d love to hear others thoughts and suggestions.

How do you go about creating a culture within a classroom, and within a school, that fosters inquiry?

  • listen to questions – use active listening techniques
  • encourage students to listen to each other’s questions and responses and to ask each other questions before they ask the teacher. I want them to view each other as possible human resources not just adults.
  • set expectations that no questions are to be rubbished as ‘dumb questions’.
  • invite thoughtfulness – stop and think or write/think, envision

What have you done to enable students to feel comfortable posing questions?

I’m not in a classroom, I’m in the library and I feel that libraries are the ultimate classroom of inquiry So I :

  • try to be to be curious myself. If a child talks to me about a topic (eg. sharks lose 200 teeth each year) I like to say “I wonder why that is? I wonder how …. I guess I wonder out loud a lot
  • admit I don’t know things and then wonder out loud where the best place might be to look (in fact I often ‘don’t know’ even when I do know). I want to encourage them to think about the resources and which might be most useful for the question at hand.
  • encourage them to report back and fill me in on anything I don’t know about that they find the answer to — then I can give them some positive feedback about their search efforts.
  • began to place non-fiction books in the picture book display racks. Little kids can get a lot out of the pictures even if they can’t read the words and these are popular item for prep boys to take out. They would never go looking on the stacks for them at first. Now they will come in and ask if we have more on trucks, motorbikes, dinosaurs, volcanoes, tornadoes …. they venture into the non-fiction a lot more now.
  • purchase and leave out odd facts books like Guiness World Book of Records, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Wacky but True magazines etc.
  • teach them how to use the catalogue to search for resources as young as possible.


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