Pam Wenger – EDES 542 – Assignment 4 – Due: Aug 11, 2010
Inquiry Unit Plan Report
Grade 5 Social Studies: Contemporary Canadian People
The unit of study I’ve created an inquiry plan for is grade 5 Social Studies:
Contemporary Canadian People. I am teaching Social Studies in a grade 4/5 class this
year and I feel it would be a great opportunity for inquiry. Figure 1.0 shows the
objectives listed in the Saskatchewan Curriculum for this unit, which would be the focus
of study prior to this inquiry project.
Figure 1.0 Saskatchewan Curriculum Objectives
• Identity, multiculturalism , point of view, Canadian heroes
Students will know:
- that multiculturalism is part of Canada's identity.
- that our heroes reflect Canada's diversity.
- conduct a survey and tabulate the results.
- identify various points of view.
- access, organize and share information about various Canadians including
- appreciate and value the country's diversity.
Citizen Action Objectives
- conduct a survey.
- nominate, assess and induct heroes into a local Hall of Fame.
SOURCE: Government of Saskatchewan (2010)
Describe the project
I have created a letter to the parents describing the project and suggesting ways
that they could be supportive from home. “We want parents to be our allies and to
support their children’s inquiries at home…” (Parker, 2007, p.93-94). The following
letter in Figure 1.1 has been adapted from Parker’s letter in Planning for Inquiry (2007).
Figure 1.1 – Letter to Families regarding Inquiry Project
Our Saskatchewan curriculum supports inquiry-based learning.
We teach the required indicators and outcomes at each grade level
and encourage the students to ask questions along the way. We help
students make connections to what they know, we assist in exploring
their curiosity, and guide them in finding what they need to know. It
is our goal to make their learning personal, interactive and interesting,
in hopes that they will become independent learners and life-long
We are currently working on a social studies unit about Canada
with a focus on contemporary Canadian heroes. Within this unit, the
students have been learning about multiculturalism, identity, heroes,
and points of view. As a culminating project, the students are going to
be working on an inquiry project. It is my duty to support your child as
an inquirer through the following steps.
1) Each student will have an opportunity to select a Canadian
hero that they feel has had an impact on them, that is interesting to
them, or that has sparked some curiosity within them. Their
selections will not be teacher-driven, rather open to their personal
choice. They will be guided through this entire process with myself
(the teacher-librarian), their classroom teacher and other teaching
staff in the school.
2) Students will come up with a list of questions that they would
have for their selected Canadian. This could include questions about
family, early life, career, history, health, passions, interests, etc.
3) Once their questions have been created, they will begin to
use various resources to help discover the answers. They may use
internet, books, magazines, video interviews, etc.
4) Exploring the information and analyzing the resources may be
a difficult task for students at this level. The teachers involved will
work with the students to be critical thinkers and use information best
suited to answer their questions. We will also guide them through the
process of organizing the information that is found.
5) After all of the information is processed, students will have
an opportunity to create a presentation for their findings. They will
have several options for presentation, including: poster, written essay,
written interview, voice recorded interview, digital video recording or
any other format they prefer. Once the product is finished, they will
present their “creation” to an audience.
The students will be assessed during the entire process using a
variety of assessment tools created by the teachers and some created
by the teachers and students collaboratively. Teachers will be
monitoring their progress and making suggestions along the way. This
project is based on student interest, but will be somewhat structured
for appropriate learning to take place.
So what can parents do to support their child in this process?
Parents play a vital role in allowing their children to be curious.
→ Allow them to come to you with questions
→ Ask your child questions
→ Learn alongside your child
→ Be a listener
→ Help access resources such as library books, computers, time,
We look forward to working together on this inquiry-based
project. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate
Thanks for your continued support!
Mrs. P Wenger & (classroom teacher)
SOURCE: Based on Parker’s (2007) letter to parents
I have also created a handout for students with information about the Inquiry
Project for Contemporary Canadian Heroes. I plan to discuss this handout with them and
allow them to ask questions about the project itself. It is important to outline the project
with the students so they can see how each step comes together to form a “bigger picture”
of the learning process.
Figure 1.2 – Information for Students regarding Inquiry Project
Contemporary Canadian Heroes
Have you ever had a question that you’ve struggled to answer on your own?
This project will help teach you how to create questions and use the world’s
information to help you answer them!
Here’s what we’re going to do:
1) You get to pick a Canadian Hero that you want to learn more about.
2) You will come up with a list of questions you’d like to ask that hero.
3) Then you have a chance to learn about how to find information, seek out
important facts and analyze resources.
4) Once you have information, you will learn to organize it and create a
presentation to teach others about your Canadian Hero.
5) The final step entails presenting your project!
You will have several opportunities to create assessment tools with the
teachers and students! You will be introduced to new resources such as books,
internet tools, interactive programs and much more! You will have experiences
working in the large class setting, small groups, partners and independently.
Your first question to answer is:
Inquiry Plan Document
In my plan, I have included as much information as I can gather at this point in
my planning. Depending on the inquiry experience with the students I plan to use this
with, changes will need to be made in terms of time. I have based my projections of time
on approximately 60 minutes for each class period and each week as 3 class periods. I
expect that the classroom teacher will provide students time without my presence
(perhaps for extra work periods, catching up, homework, etc), but I plan to be a part of
the classroom as much as possible.
Some of the skills and strategies have been adapted from Understanding and
assessing inquiry-based learning (2004) as well as Focus on inquiry: A teacher’s guide
to implementing inquiry-based learning (2004).
Time Skills and strategies Supporting others Assessments (A)
for students and Resources (R)
a) building Few - learn background - use unit as pre-learning (A)
background weeks to information in pairs, - provide resources (both - personal journal
knowledge a month small groups, whole print and other to gain - participation
class, and background) rubric for
independently - look through resources discussions
- being introduced to and discuss information created by teacher
new information and - ask child questions: s and students
resources Who interests you? Why?
- learn to discuss new What do you already
topics know? What do you (R)
- begin to think about want to know? - Kidspiration
interests - Horizon school
b) establishing 2 class - learn about new - introduce parents, library catalogue
topic of interest periods internet sites students and teachers to - Regina Public
and - begin to think about lists of famous Canadians Library catalogue
homewo topics - brainstorm possible - online rubric
rk - learn how to build a topics for research and checklist
concept map on paper - use concept maps, generators
or online webs, online tools - ELA lead
c) developing a 1 class - learn how to create - model good questions teacher
good question period appropriate questions - discuss how you come - parents
- assess sample up with questions
questions in partners - model examples
- learn how to use - brainstorm and discuss
KWL chart examples of good
- learn how to modify questions
questions - use KWL chart
- how to change and alter
d) identifying 1 week - look through online - show options through
information catalogs, pathfinders, computer and
sources web tools in small school/public library
- learn about call - create pathfinders
numbers and search - share a variety of
terms available resources
- introduce call numbers
and search terms
e) identifying 1 class - learn the difference - discuss the purpose of
audience and period between audiences difference presentations
sharing format - view options for for different audiences
options presentations in - determine audience
partners (small group, class,
- share possible
f) establishing 2 class - compare a variety of - determine expectations
assessment periods assessment tools in of teacher, parent and
criteria for both partners student through process
product and - work together to 6 - share possible
a) developing an 2 class - determine search - create online pathfinder (A)
information periods terms based on for resources - personal journal
retrieval plan question - guide students through - participation
- learn about best critical thinking rubric for using
places to find strategies resources created
information by teachers
- learn how to make - on task rubric
plan to begin the created by
inquiry process teachers and
b) locating and 1 week - learn how to locate - discuss possible
collecting and resources using call resources (books,
homewo numbers journals, articles, (R)
rk - visit local public websites, databases, - Horizon school
library videos, etc) library catalogue
- provide appropriate - Regina Public
print and media resources Library catalogue
- review using call - Regina Public
numbers library and
c) selecting 2 class - select appropriate - model this process with technicians
relevant periods material sample question - online rubric
information and and checklist
rk - ELA lead
d) evaluating 2 class - learn how to review - discuss research teacher
resources periods information strategies - parents
and - how to make jot notes
e) reviewing and 1 class - refer back to KWL - review how to narrow
revising the plan period - make necessary search using search terms
changes to inquiry - ask students: Are you
still focused on same
question? Any changes
needed? Are you finding
what you need?
- refer back to KWL
f) reflecting on 1 class - reflect on useful - discuss retrieval
the process period resources strategies
- share resources with - discuss useful resources
others in small group
a) establishing a 1 class - refer back to KWL - refer back to KWL (A)
focus for inquiry period - reflect/confirm - personal journal
inquiry question - jot notes rubric
b) choosing 2 class - select information to - review note taking teachers
pertinent periods answer questions strategies - KWL
information and - record information - share strategies for - graphic
homewo - learn how to make reading charts, graphs, organizers created
rk jot notes tables, photos, and by teachers
looking for key words - on task
c) recording 1 week - learn how to read for - provide graphic checklists created
information and important facts organizers for recording by teachers and
homewo information students
rk - discuss the graphic
d) making 1 class - make connections to - allow time for students (R)
connections and period background to share their findings - Horizon school
inferences knowledge - refer back to KWL library catalogue
- refer back to KWL - question the students: - Regina Public
what does this remind Library catalogue
you of? How does this - online rubric
connect to your previous and checklist
learning? New learning? generators
e) locating more 1 class - use various resources - allow time for more - ELA lead
information periods for information using research teacher
and call numbers and - parents
homewo refine search terms
f) reviewing and 1 class - reflect on inquiry - question the students:
revising the plan period question and new what is working? What
for inquiry information hasn’t worked? What’s
independently, in missing? What is found?
small groups and as
g) reflecting on 1 class - refer back to inquiry - question the students:
the process period question Based on findings, where
do you go from here?
What is the plan for
a) organizing Few - learn how to sort out - provide time, space, (A)
information class new information in a tools - on task rubric
periods way that makes sense - refer back to graphic created by
and - add and omit organizers teachers and
homewo information - model organization students
rk accordingly based on sample inquiry - personal journal
independently and - continue to ask them - Participation
with peers questions rubric created by
b) creating a 1 week - plan out final - show examples of - KWL
product (creating and product previous student work - listening
new knowledge) homewo - reflect on how you - introduce them to web checklist created
rk want to present and 2.0 tools by teachers and
how to best share new - brainstorm ideas based students
knowledge on topics
- reinforce how to make
presentation personal (R)
c) thinking about 1 class - practice presentation - confirm audience - iMovie
the audience period in small groups - discuss: What would - PowerPoint
audience appreciate? - Animoto
How will they best - ToonDo
understand? - online rubric
- discuss creativity, and checklist
d) revising and 1 class - use revise/edit - discuss editing, revising - Horizon school
editing (remixing period strategies library catalogue
and reworking) and - share work with - model revise/edit - ELA lead
homewo others and offer strategies teacher
rk suggestions in small - allow time to share - parents
groups work with others and
- write and discuss offer suggestions
- create multiple drafts
e) reviewing and 1 class - make changes based - ask student questions:
revising the plan period on peer and teacher Will this product provide
for inquiry suggestions an appropriate learning
- reflect on creativity opportunity for audience?
and personality Is it creative and
f) reflecting on 1 class - reflect back on - ask student questions:
the process period inquiry question and Have you begun to
KWL answer original inquiry?
- review plan to Are you knowledgeable
present information enough to present to
a) communicating 1 class - practice presentation - model presentation (A)
with the audience periods with partners or behaviours: voice, eye - presentation
and parents contact, volume, etc rubric created by
homewo - present new learning teachers and
rk to audience students
b) presenting new 2 class - share knowledge in a - provide opportunities to - audience
understandings periods variety of ways share new learning checklists created
- make presentation by teachers and
fun & educational students
c) demonstrating Few - participate as an - allow audience to ask - peer assessment
appropriate class audience member questions created by
audience periods - reflect on teachers and
behavior engagement students
- discuss new learning - self assessment
with whole class created by
(R) - online rubric
a) evaluating the 1 class - refer to assessment - discuss assignment (A)
process period criteria tools thus far - participation
- complete self rubric for
assessment and peer reflecting on
assessments process created by
b) evaluating the 1 class - reflect on KWL - ask the students teachers
inquiry process period - refer to personal questions: What did you - personal journal
and inquiry plan journal and discuss like? What did you
strengths and learn? What surprised (R)
weaknesses with you? What was easy? - online rubric
whole class Difficult? and checklist
- reflect on personal generators
interactions with peers
c) reviewing and I class - reflect on what - begin discussions
revising personal period implications this regarding future learning
inquiry model process has for future - ask the students
learning questions: what did you
- go back and examine discover about your own
focus development style of learning? What
- discuss how inquiry will you change for next
changed and time?
developed over time
d) transferring 1 class - make connections to - discuss the
learning to new period old and new opportunities for future
situations/ knowledge learning
beyond school - ask the students
questions: how will this
process affect new
learning? Why is it
important to have
for learning? How does
your new knowledge
affect your ability to
Supporting the Students and Teacher
The inquiry project will be a constant process of supporting the teacher and
students. It will be my personal responsibility to guide the students and teachers through
a new learning experience. Although my time is limited with the classroom, I will have
constant connection with the teacher via email, phone and face-to-face conversation. At
the end of each class period, I will discuss the next step in the process with the students.
After each class period, I will discuss the upcoming class period plan with the teacher so
that they are prepared for what is to come.
I have created the beginnings of a Pathfinder that has been adapted from one
created by the Children’s Services Staff at the Strathcona County Library for the students
to begin their searches.
Figure 1.3 – Pathfinder for Contemporary Canadian Heroes Inquiry Project
Famous Canadian Pathfinder
Used with permission from Strathcona County Library, August 2010
Call Numbers from Juvenile Literature
J 92 – J 926.1 Biographies on people, including famous Canadians
J 970-J 971 Canada’s history, including significant people
- Canada – biography
- Canada – history
- Famous Canadians
- Great Canadians
- Heroes – Canada
Canadian Encyclopedia Online Up-to-the-minute information about our country.
Over 10,000 articles with lots of links and feature articles.
World Book Online Offers in-depth information on a variety of subjects. A good
resource especially for pictures, biographical, & historical information.
J 921 KYI
Kyi, T. (2001). Canadian girls who rocked the world. Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books.
Kyi, T. (2006). Canadian boys who rocked the world. Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books.
J 921 MAC
McLeod, E. (2006). Kids book of great Canadian women. Toronto, ON: Kids Can
J 970.00497 KAL
Kalman, B. (2004). Famous native North Americans. St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree
J 971.0099 ARA
Arato, R. (2008). Courage and compassion: 10 Canadians who made a difference.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press.
J 971.0099 MAC
McLeod, E. (2004). The best book of great Canadians. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press.
SOURCE: Adapted from www.sclibrary.ab.ca/kids/pathfinders/famouscanadians.htm
This unit plan is a starting point for me in a process that was completely
unfamiliar up until just a few weeks ago. It is the first inquiry-based unit plan that I have
created, and because of this, my planning chart is quite generic. I have spent roughly 40
hours creating this unit plan in hopes that it is transferable to any curricular topic that my
students, teachers and I are working on. According to Alvarado and Herr (2003), “one of
the greatest pitfalls of using object-based lessons is that the first lesson you plan takes a
great deal of time” (p. 21). Because time is limited for everyone and collaboration is
something difficult to achieve at this point, creating my generic plan may encourage
some teachers to become interested since the plan is well under-way.
My head is full of new wonderings, new understandings, ideas, plans and
questions. As with anything new, there is doubt and uncertainty. How will this
assignment look in a classroom setting? Am I planned out well enough? Will the
students be interested in their topics? Will I have a teacher that will be onboard? Can
parents be supportive of this process even though it is different from how they learned?
Do I have enough sense of assessment tools to be able to observe new learning with
I suppose my biggest fear at this point is that there may not be teachers that are
prepared for this type of collaboration. People in our school division are bombarded with
new programs, assessments, reflections, classroom visits by Board Office staff,
committees, etc. Why would they want to add more planning to their plate? It is
important for us to create a sense of community with our teachers, reinforcing the fact
that the teachers are guides through the process and that the community of adults
involved (teacher, teacher-librarian, other teaching staff) support one another. Chu,
Chow, Tse and Kuhlthau (2008) believe that “a collaborative approach involving three
kinds of teachers and the school librarian in equipping students with the knowledge and
skills they need to conduct inquiry-based learning projects works effectively” (p. 26). I
can see how this type of teaching can seem overwhelming and a little intimidating upon
first glance, but the long term and short term benefits should outweigh the concerns.
Parents may also seem doubtful at first since this learning is a far cry from how
they learned when they were in school. It may take time to prepare the parents and
ensure that you have their support. They may fear that they will end up completing the
projects for the student, when in fact “parents should step in only when their children are
having serious difficulties” (Chu et al., 2008, p. 17). Perhaps they may be concerned that
teacher’s accountability for covering curricular topics may be decreasing, however every
inquiry topic is curriculum-based and directly related to the units of study. We need
teachers and parents to know that our goal through inquiry-based learning is “enhancing
their knowledge and skills through close collaboration of the teaching staff and parental
support” (Chu et al., 2008, p. 16). We are a team working towards a common goal:
developing the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century which include independent
learning and thinking, technological competency, social skills, information literacy skills,
inquiry and self-confidence.
I have gained significant confidence using technology through this course and
have come to discover that for me, this new learning takes time. I’m looking forward to
seeing growth with students in terms of information literacy skills while diving into this
inquiry unit plan. Chu et al. (2008) found that “access to technology makes schools seem
more real-world, and students are able to push the boundaries of their traditional school
curriculum” (p. 12). Through inquiry, we are now allowing students to make connections
to the real world and “the continuity between the curriculum within the school and the
child’s experiences outside the school promotes sustained meaningful learning”
(Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 26). Along with the powerful learning that takes
place in that third space, the use of unique and varied technologies will help teachers and
teacher-librarians meet the diverse needs of the students in our schools.
After completing many readings on assessment, I had an “Aha!” moment that has
really resonated with me. My biggest learning from this process is that assessing learning
is completely different from assessing knowledge. When I reflect on my teaching
throughout the years, I find that I’ve been assessing their knowledge at the end of a topic,
not their learning along the way. Is it necessary that they memorize all of
Saskatchewan’s treaty locations, dates and conditions once the information has been
taught to them? Or is it more important to assess their thinking process, making
connections to present day, asking questions and reflecting through learning about the
Harada and Yoshina (2005) believe “that assessment is conducted as an ongoing
activity that provides crucial formative information about what the student is learning and
how that learning is taking place” (p. 1). I need to remember that just as inquiry is a
process, assessment is a process and if we discuss the stages of inquiry with students, we
must discuss the aspects of assessment with students. In order for the students to make
progress, they should be aware of how the assessments can benefit their learning.
I was aware of the variety of assessment tools appropriate for assessing student
learning, however, Harada and Yoshina (2005) provided me with more knowledge
around how to construct these tools and how they are used to assess information literacy.
Often times, teachers will use an assessment tool but it may not fit the criteria necessary
for assessing the learning process. We have to become more critical thinkers in terms of
what we want students to learn, how we are going to observe and record that learning and
how “teachers and library media specialists examine the results to inform their own
instruction” (Harada & Yoshina, 2005, p. 19). It’s not a matter of obtaining a “grade”
and then moving onto a different focus, but rather analyzing the assessment and giving
meaningful feedback to teachers, students and parents.
Through this planning process, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t what we are
planning to teach that is important, it’s how we plan to teach it. Regardless of the topic,
we are teaching students all of the necessary 21st century skills that will be carried along
with them for years to come. I will need to reinforce the fact that “the result of inquiry is
not only deep learning about the inquiry question, but also the development of skills for
independent learning” (Stripling, 2004, p. 1). They may not be able to recall every fact
about their famous Canadian hero 5 years down the line, but perhaps we can inspire them
to think critically in real life situations and put their knowledge of the process into
practice in future learning opportunities.
At first, inquiry seemed like something that was beyond my grasp. With all of my
new-found knowledge and reflecting on my past teaching experiences, inquiry seems a
little more within reach. With a little time, experimenting, educating and guiding, my
fears are sure to lessen and any doubts that I once had will change to confidence. I am
proud of the learning that I have done, and I’m excited to present this plan to teachers in
the near future.
Alberta Learning. (2004). Focus on inquiry: A teacher’s guide to implementing
inquiry-based learning. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Author. Retrieved from:
Alvarado, A. E., & Herr., P. R. (2003). Inquiry-based learning using everyday objects.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Branch, J. L. (2004). Understanding and assessing inquiry based learning. In S. La Marca
& M. Manning (Eds.), Reality bytes: Information literacy for independent
learning (pp. 99-113). Carlton, Victoria, Australia: School Library Association of
Children’s Services Staff. (2009) Famous Canadians Pathfinder. Strathcona County
Library: Sherwood Park, AB. Retrieved from
Chu., S., Chow, K., Tse, S., & Kuhlthau, C. (2008) Grade 4 students’s development of
research skills through inquiry-based learning projects. School Libraries
Worldwide, 14(1), 10-37. DOI: 33013499
Government of Saskatchewan. (2010). Saskatchewan curriculum: Education the future
within us. Retrieved from https://bbtest.edonline.sk.ca/webapps/moe-curriculum-
Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2005). Assessing learning: Librarians and teachers as
partners. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., Caspari, A. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning
in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Parker, D. (2007). Planning for inquiry: It’s not an oxymoron. Urbana, IL: National
Council of Teachers of English.
Stripling, B. (2004). Using inquiry to explode myths about learning and libraries. CSLA
Journal, 28(1), 15-17. DOI: 20182741