Inquiry Teacher Guide: Grades 6-8
Inquiry gives educators an easy and effective way to utilize a project-based approach to teaching and learning in the areas of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies to develop 21st century skills and meet core curriculum standards. Instruction is delivered through a combination of whole-class discussion, teacher-led direct instruction, small group collaboration, and student self-directed tasks completed in the Inquiry project interface. Each project includes a step-by-step teacher lesson plan that helps facilitate the multiday project. Each Inquiry unit contains three items: pre-test, project, and reflection.
Pre-tests determine if students possess the technology skills necessary to successfully complete the technology-related tasks in the project.
Projects lead students through the process of researching, creating, and presenting core-area content with digital tools.
Getting Started with Inquiry
All pieces of the Inquiry unit – Pre-test, Project, and Reflection – can be assigned to students by selecting a class and clicking the “Assign Unit” button from the project unit. Items can be assigned to a whole class, small group, or individual students in the Learning.com platform.
If a teacher prefers to utilize only a portion of the project unit, such as the project and reflection, they are able to assign these individual items. The benefit to assigning the entire project unit is that the pre-test will assess students’ digital literacy skills before they start the project, and the final reflection assignment supports self-evaluation and critical thinking.
Pre-tests appear first in each Inquiry unit. Each pre-test is combination of 12 to 15 true/false and multiple-choice questions, with three questions addressing each specific technology skill. When finished, students immediately see which questions they answered correctly and incorrectly. If a student misses two or more questions per skill, corresponding EasyTech lessons automatically appear on the individual assignments list. Students must score 80% or higher on prescribed EasyTech lessons before moving to their projects in a forced class. These preparatory technology lessons refresh technology skills, but are not considered part of the student’s overall grade.
Pre-tests are an optional component. Technology skills can be covered by assigning all students the same technology lessons from the included EasyTech Supplemental Library.
After the pre-test, students are ready to begin the Inquiry project. Projects begin with an essential question that drives all learning. The essential question is introduced by the teacher with whole-class discussion along with relevant background instruction related to the core-area concepts. Students apply their learned skills in engaging project assignments with a final digital media product as an outcome. Inquiry projects are a blended learning experience, mixing teacher-led instruction with independent student work.
On the Learning.com platform, a teacher can find a detailed lesson plan with preparation and day-to-day instructions, extension and implementation strategies, accommodation tips for English Language Learners (ELL) students, a full grading rubric, and other related supports. All projects are aligned to established state and national standards for digital literacy and core curriculum. Technology Standards Alignment Guides are available in the Teacher Resources unit of each grade level Inquiry sequence.
Teacher View provides educators with a preview of the full lesson plan and the interactive tasks for students. The lesson plans are separated into parts, corresponding to one day of instruction, detailing what the teacher is expected to provide for instructional purposes and related tasks. In this view, teachers can click through and complete the tasks, but answers are not saved. This functionality allows a teacher to preview the scope and content of all projects and provide guidance to students.
Student View allows students to choose various tasks. To complete an Inquiry project, students utilize both interactive applications located within the projects – image upload tools, attachment capabilities, sorting/matching, and a drawing tool – and digital tools like word processing software, applications for online communication, and search engines. While working through the projects, all answers are automatically saved and students see checkmarks on completed subtasks and stars on finished tasks. Students are required to complete the tasks in order, but can go back to review saved work and make changes. When all tasks are complete, students press the “Turn In Project” button to send the project to the teacher for grading.
Student tools help explain projects, clicking the following icons will display these tools:
- Green checkmark gives detailed directions for every subtask.
- Yellow star displays project goals and grading rubric to help student stay on track.
- Open book contains a glossary of technology and core curriculum terms.
Speech Bubble Plus icon opens the commenting feature where students can send teacher-monitored chat message to their group, or private messages to their teacher.
Reflections provide students the opportunity to grade their own work, evaluate the work of their peers, and discuss the overall learning experience. Reflections include the same custom goals that guided student through the Inquiry project. The student selects each area of evaluation and clicks the corresponding icon representing how well they feel they did in that area. Students then write an explanation for each of the evaluation criteria. The reflection provides teachers with valuable feedback around how the project was received by their students and can be used to refine their facilitation of future projects.
How to Grade Projects
Inquiry is fully integrated with the Learning.com gradebook and class reports. Pre-tests are automatically graded. From the gradebook, teachers can see student answers on all questions in pre-test, the number of correct answers per skill, when EasyTech lessons are prescribed and completed, and the high score on the lessons.
Grade & Comment window makes evaluating projects simple. When students complete the projects, the teacher will see the Grade This! link in the gradebook. The link opens the teacher grading view with the lesson plan, student work on the project tasks including attachments, and the Grade & Comment window. From this window, teachers enter the score for each goal categories into the 4-point grader and can view the full rubric details which explains each score. Teachers can also withdraw the grade and reopen the project to send it back to the student for revision. After the teacher submits the rubric grade, the student’s percentage score automatically appears in the gradebook.
Comment functionality allows teachers to give instructions and feedback, answer questions, and communicate important updates to individual students and student groups. It is also a safe and positive tool for incorporating netiquette and online communication into instruction. Teachers can send comments to the whole class, student groups, or to individual students. Student can send comments to their group, which includes the teacher, or to teacher privately. Students cannot delete comments or send private comments to other students. All comments can be viewed and deleted by the teacher.
If the project requires small group work and the teacher wants students to use the comment feature for online communication and collaboration, we recommend creating student groups on the Learning.com platform. This will facilitate and simplify group communication about the project. More information about creating classes and groups can be found in the Learning. com Platform Setup Guide, available on the Resources page.
Look at the Teacher Resources unit of each grade level Inquiry sequence for additional guides and support materials.