Investigation Of The Week 

Inspired By Trent Culbertson

simple truth:

Developing meaningful comprehension requires a meaningful learning experience.

We know that many learners struggle with comprehension.  As educators, we are constantly looking to identify and incorporate powerful comprehension strategies within our daily teaching.  When a student finds content challenging, we must first ask ourselves an important question: "How meaningful is this information that we're presenting to the learner?"  Often times, the answer is evident; we just need to look at their disengaged face.

research tells us:

The most effective educators consistently look to create lessons that connect knowledge across the curriculum.  By incorporating cross-curricular content, students are provided opportunities to connect and build upon prior knowledge.  These higher level thinking opportunities are much more effective than rote memory, as deeper and more meaningful comprehension can take place (Willis, 2006).

Incorporating metaphors and analogies can help students go beyond rote memory and into deeper learning.  Rick Wormel, award-winning teacher and author of Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools For Teaching Any Subject, notes how using metaphors and analogies can build on student schema to solve mental puzzles.  Educator Tanny McGregor, in her popular book Comprehension Connections and Genre Connections, utilizes metaphors in class by the use of physical objects.  She brings an object into class that metaphorically represents a skill or genre.  Using physical objects can build students' frame of reference, which enhances their ability to apply these skills in future learning.

One powerful strategy that can assist us in developing meaningful cross-curriculum thinking is "The Investigation of the Week." This comprehension strategy provides students the opportunities to, throughout a week, analyze, revisit, and connect knowledge across different subjects through the use of metaphors, analogies, quotes, and physical objects.  Use The Investigation of the Week in your classroom by taking the steps noted below.

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  • Trent Culbertson
  • Elementary Instructional Coach
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Interesting Fact: I read anything and everything related to education that I can get my hands on
  • Educational Interests: Whole-child education & lifelong learning

 "We need to continue to challenge ourselves & take risks in order to change kids' lives."

-Trent Culbertson

try this:

  • Each week choose an image, metaphor, analogy, quote, puzzle, short video, or physical object that students can investigate.

  • Be sure to incorporate the investigation into other subjects or books that students are reading to apply their analysis in different contexts

  • Pose questions that encourage students to make initial deductions, which can include: "What do you notice? What questions do you have? What is happening? What does this make you think about? How does this make you feel? How does this connect with what you already know?"

  • Through writing, have students express their current thinking and incorporate some of the following prompts: "I think...because, I'm trying to figure out..., I wonder..., I'm picturing..., This reminds me of..., I want to know if..., I feel..."    

  • Revisit their initial writing analysis 2-3 times throughout the week and have students share with peers.

  • Revisiting prompts can include: "How has my thinking changed?  What is different now?  Is there anything new that I think or feel? Now I notice..., I'm starting to think..., After hearing my friends' thinking, I wonder..."

  • End the week with a collaborative class conversation where students share their analysis, what changed, and how their investigation applies to another context (subject, book, etc.)

review & share this:

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What's your thoughts on The Investigation of the Week?  Share your comments below.

For additional reading and referenced research, click here.