A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
A few weeks ago, we were allowed to choose from professional development books in my Special Methods for Teaching English Class and I chose Engaging Readers & Writers with Inquiry by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. I finally made time to read it today and I’m not entirely sure I agree with his approach.
First off, he uses the term “guiding questions” a lot. Like a lot a lot. And it bothers me. I am uncomfortable with the idea of standing in front of my class and handing out Romeo and Juliet and then asking them about what makes relationships work and then finding examples in the text. While, yes, this does relate this information back to my students and to their personal lives, I find it very canned. It’s canned inquiry. I ask a question, albeit more relevant than most, and most all of my students will come up with the same responses. I’d be that teacher that thought I was ‘tricking’ my students into learning and none of my students would fall for it. Students don’t even come up with their own questions (which would be the invention part of this model) until way later, after they have the skills of the expert. Wilhelm makes this sound as though it doesn’t take much time and perhaps it doesn’t, but I am skeptical.
Sometimes it’s really hard to keep an open mind.
I want students that can develop their own questions about the text, not some trite connection I’ve come up with that links books and material to their own personal lives. I really want to know how to teach students to create that connection on their own. I feel like ‘guiding questions’ may be something that I just do at the very beginning of the year and that they begin to do on their own before Christmas. I don’t want to feed them questions; I want them to be able to question on their own.
Maybe I’ll just write Santa a letter asking for my students to be able to come up with their own guiding questions.
I’m not very far into this book, but I’m not sure about how much I want to use from it. I’ll give it a chance though, perhaps I have been too quick to judge. After all, this book does have a subheading that reads “Let’s Not Let Scientists Have All the Fun.” A book for English teachers that has science references can’t be that bad.
I’m not a cynic yet, because I still have hope for this book.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)