The school year is well underway and students are at the point where they are still excited to be learning and have grown comfortable with their teachers and classes. My seniors in Honors Imaginative Process are learning about the creative process by reading nonfiction texts by authors such as Stephen King and Elizabeth Gilbert. They’re also writing daily and working with each other to provide feedback and do mini-presentations on aspects of creativity. Because this is our first unit, students began by developing essential and guiding questions together as well as practicing the same standards as their peers. They were excited about the possibilities, but as an experienced inquiry teacher, I knew what was coming next: the point where they’ve laid all the groundwork for the unit and they ask, Now what?

When it comes to designing activities as part of the ILP process, the biggest struggle for many kids isn’t always the work itself, but knowing how to get started. Unfortunately, many students, even, and maybe especially, at the honors level, don’t want to ask for help and end up staring at a screen or paper, silently struggling alongside their peers. Students know how to ask their teachers questions for sure, but it’s often to ask for clarification or have something repeated. When tasked with designing their own learning, students are not even sure what to ask. This is why it’s important to allow time for kids to be confused and frustrated; I make sure to share Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process to help them understand that their reactions are totally normal! They need time to talk to each other about their questions and plans for their activities. Understanding that everyone’s a little uncomfortable not only helps them calm down but also helps them realize they’re part of a community where everyone is learning together.

This is also the time where I have to make sure the kids know I am there for them 100%; I’m gonna ask questions and celebrate even the smallest of victories because we’ve gotta build that trust! I want my kids this year to master skills and answer questions, but more than anything, I want them to develop as learners and individuals, which means they have to experience ups and downs and build skills of resilience. Comments like the one below let me know that what we’re doing with the ILP and inquiry is working!

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