In My Opinion…

In the high school English classroom–and even middle school! Why not??–I think the most important tool to use is inquiry.

Asking questions helps to broaden the scope through which our students look at a concept, a word, a work. These questions help students bridge gaps between text and reality; cultivates discussion and the bouncing around of ideas across the room, from one student to another.

Today, I was observed for the first official time, and could not have asked for a better lesson for my supervisor to evaluate me on. My 4th period seniors, the ones “infected” with


were asked today to read the second chapter of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. They of course read the first chapter yesterday, so we reviewed, and they nailed it.

I split the class into three groups, each group reading a section of the chapter that was only 2-3 pages long.
(They’re seniors, so I know they won’t read a whole chapter, even if I bribed them to.)
Within each of these sections, the students were asked to individually react to the text with questions, comments, immediate responses, etc., and the questions could either be personal/individual or could be a collective group question.

After so many minutes, they discussed briefly each section within their groups and volunteered at least one person to come up to the front of the room and explain so we all had knowledge of each portion of the entire chapter.

They decided to tag-team while at the front of the room. It was kind of awesome.

Then came the discussion and questions.

We began a discussion about

The discussion stirred up a lot of questions and realizations for the students, ultimately bringing up topics of gender norms, individuality and independence, racism, class-ism, pre-schooling and parenting…they did a beautiful job exploring a very important central theme to the text.

Of course, as my supervisor and I had discussed afterward, I should have been less inquiry-based in my leading of the discussion, and could have had even richer discussion around socialization and what it means–what it does for society, but hind-sight is 20/20, as they say!

Basically, it is discussions and moments like this that really support my philosophy that an English classroom runs on discovery and exploration, both of which cannot survive without inquiry and discussion.