This is the 4th and last entry about the architecture of the conceptual framework in IB Spanish By Concept. My first entry focused on my the features that define the Spanish By Concept experience; the second entry focused on defining the relationship between grammar and the Key Concept (KC), Related Concepts (RC) and Global Contexts (GC); and, finally, the third entry described the path I followed during each chapter’s design and planning process. Thus, this last entry focused on unpacking the Statement of Inquiry (SoI), and the role of inquiry questions as one moves towards the summative tasks for each criterion.
For the purpose of this entry, I will focus on a phase 5 example, and will use the following conceptual elements to construct a SoI (not included in the book):
The statement of inquiry is the big idea that emerges from combining the essence of the KC, RC and GC. Thus, it is important to note that statements of inquiry become the driving force of the unit, the ground where ideas are rooted; the soil where understandings grow and are harvested; and the source of all adventured in the learning journey. Likewise, it is important for us, language teachers, to linguistically squeeze the statement’s spirit in order to generate a learning journey in which both teachers and students are stimulated to think, feel, explore, discover, connect, co-construct, and create. Not only are we interested in looking at all linguistic items and concepts associated with this big idea, but also of the opportunities it offers to test our convictions.
This is a tool I have found useful to look at the ‘living organs’ of a SoI.
The outcomes of brainstorming as the SoI is dismantled can lead to analyze the inquiry questions and use them to pave the way towards the goal of the unit. First, I find it important to think:
- What do I want students to understand at the end of this unit?
- How do I want students to talk about the ideas in this unit at the end?
Once we’re happy with the answer to these questions, it is important to look at the inquiry questions planned and align them in a way that they serve as a sequence that helps me integrate vocabulary, structures and ideas; and as a system that offers opportunities to explore a variety of approaches to learning. In the book, the inquiry questions served to generate umbrella topics for the 3 themes in each chapter. Each of these umbrella themes, hence, welcomes a series of ‘Inquiry points’ in which the inquiry questions either serve as a lead in for a series of activities, or in which they help us wrap up a didactic sequence.
Thus, if you want to be creative, look at how a potential alignment of inquiry questions can help you map the chapter/unit’s inquiry, move form easy to difficult, recycle past ideas and merge them with new ones in order to elevate the depth and complexity of work from the beginning to the end of the unit. Have you ever looked at the inquiry questions and wondered:
- To what extent does each inquiry question represent a task?
- What grammatical structures and/or vocabulary do question allow me to explore (explicitly or implicitly)?
- How do inquiry questions help to scaffold learning?
- How do inquiry questions help to design the path of summative assessments?
- How can working with inquiry questions help us visualize and address all components of summative tasks? And
- How do inquiry questions and the work we d through them help us to establish the relationship between summative tasks and statement of inquiry?
Reflecting on these 6 questions has helped me to evaluate the quality of your inquiry in the unit/chapter, as well as the richness and force of the relationship between the SoI and summative assessments.
The design process of a unit always gets me excited; always makes me become aware of the vast amount of possibilities for teaching and learning, but most importantly, always helps me find the identify those grains of stardust that have been missing in the understanding of certain ideas. At the end of the process, I normally feel that my understanding of the big idea I want to share with students is thicker, more solid, and ready to challenge other ‘young conceptions’ I might still have to rework.
Understanding the power of inquiry also includes embracing the need to constantly be in the search for learning and self-improvement. Inquiry can be messy, can take us on a winding-road journey, and will always make us want to look around, reach out to everything we can learn, sense and savour with our senses, and then create something new that wasn’t there before. Inquiry is our ticket to being part of these ever-changing times, and to see the extent to which we have taken advantage of the learning opportunities our present has given us.