Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels
Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:
- explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
- profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
- provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
- offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
- address characteristic management concerns.
The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.
“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)
Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):
- “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
- “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
- “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”
“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):
- Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
- Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
- Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
- Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
- Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.
“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)
I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.
The authors also created DVDs that support their work: