Katie's Content Literacy Blog


Responding to Wells’ Case for Dialogic Inquiry

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarkie14 @ 4:54 AM

Reading Wells’ article in his anthology was quite refreshing.  While reflecting on what I learned from this article, I realized that it was the first article I read that explain the origin of constructivism.  Moreover, Wells acknowledges the different aspects to learning, something that I have struggled with in identifying the best ways to interact with my future students.  In an inquiry-based lesson, the teacher plays an active role and facilitates the students’ questions.  The lesson she structures must consider the skills that the students already have but what she intends for them to learn.  Moreover, the personalities and relationships between the teacher and her students must also be considered in structuring the lesson plan.  As I write this, I feel that what Wells conveyed is obvious, especially considering how I have been taught to compose my lesson plans.  However, his words really made it clear why I was taught to create a lesson plan.

This was especially poignant when understanding the need for creating and presenting a question at the beginning of the lesson.  The idea that said question does not need to be clearly formulated.  I felt at times when writing lesson plans in my first student placement, I was just forming a question out of the keywords of a lesson instead of how the skills learned in the lesson may be applied to solve real-world problems.  Even while writing this, I still struggle with the idea of how much information must be conveyed to students before presenting them with a real-world problem.  For example, when I presented my eighth-graders a lesson on how to solve inequalities using absolute values, I posed the question, “how are inequalities using absolute value solved?”  I wonder what the impact would be if I just presented them with an example of such an inequality.  Would it allow the students to investigate and learn more through discovery or trial-and-error?  While I realize that there isn’t a single method in presenting an inquiry-based lesson, I still wonder if one way is better than the other.

As an aside, I also really appreciated the author’s diagram on how to structure an inquiry-based lesson.  It illustrated simply what the building blocks of strong lesson rooted in inquiry are.  I feel like I should have it blown up and pasted inside my lesson planner or  made as the wallpaper of my laptop!



  1. Hello Katie, I too agree that Wells’ article opened my eyes to dialogue in the classroom and the details that it entails. Before getting into teaching, it never crossed my mind how important it is for teachers to know their students’ backgrounds, interests, and personalities to help set the atmosphere of the classroom and for discussions that may take place. A comment from your post has me thinking, does discovery not occur during trial-and-error?

    Comment by Whitney — 01/29/2010 @ 1:44 AM | Reply

  2. Hello Katie. I resonate a lot with your struggles on how to structure an inquiry-based lesson plan. I’m just done reading Barbara Hawkins’ piece on “Supporting Second Language Children’s Content Learning and Language Development in K-5”. Though this piece is talking specifically about how to teach content to L2 children, it also gives an example from a culinary lesson and the idea of teaching people the nature and different kinds of taste. This is done not by giving them a printout with all the tastes listed, but actually having them taste different foods and coming up with their own ways of categorizing the flavors experienced. Essentially this is how the article is suggesting that learning should be done. If students can be given an experience that will lead them into new content, they are in a better position to construct an understanding of said content in a deeper and more lasting way than if they learn via the ‘printout’ method. Posing a question that is related to this new experience will motivate learners to find a reason to inquire. It definitely is the more difficult yet creative part of lesson planning.

    Comment by jkwabi — 02/03/2010 @ 5:17 AM | Reply

  3. Hi Katie!

    I liked that you related the readings to your experience and you weren’t afraid to mention your struggles or questions along the way. I believe teaching is a profession you must consistently add into, always questioning, researching, and finding new modern ways to give students the best education. In terms of math, I can speak from a perspective of someone who has always had difficulty with the subject and I had always wished for better connections between my life and the material. I always had a negative attitude towards it as a student because I could never find a reason for why certain topics worked the way they did. I think keeping a focus on how the material can be used in real-life and posing situations where the information would be useful will significantly assist your students. The engagement and effort they will contribute from then on will be unbelievable. Additionally, as commented above the background information of students is a crucial element to making this successful because only when you understand their lives and personalities can you fully make these connections. I hope this helps!


    Comment by Kailee — 02/03/2010 @ 6:10 AM | Reply

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