Reading Reflection: Zarrillo, Chapter 7


Zarrillo takes his readers through a very sequential and logical way of looking at inquiry and critical thinking. He begins by overviewing inquiry, talking about how it “is a process that begins when a problem is identified either by students or by the teacher” (page 168). He moves into providing a few options for how to teach inquiry. Much like the scientific method process, the structures provided include defining the problem, gathering and analyzing information, and reaching a conclusion. Zarrillo names a few different variations on this method and mentions different possible sources for information. He talks about how to make this a useful strategy for group work, going into detail about Suchman’s Inquiry Model. Having established strategies for inquiry based teaching, Zarrillo lays the foundation for critical thinking, paralleling its concepts to those found in Bloom’s Taxonomy. He gives an overview of three methods for teaching critical thinking skills, one of which attempts to integrate content with skills instruction. Each method is similar and seemingly simple to follow, but still requires quite a bit of work on the teacher’s end to allow students to actually develop critical thinking skills. Zarrillo ends with a reminder and five principles help make sure all students, even ELL and disabled students, are able to participate in higher level thinking.

Helpful Ideas and Examples

  • I liked how Zarrillo outlined clearly how there were different methods for how to implement inquiry learning and how to teach critical thinking skills. I have a feeling, based on what I know about diversity of learning capabilities within students, I will be needing to utilize at least the strategies outlined by Zarrillo, if not more strategies from my own (future) research.
  • “Dead Air” is ok! This will be a skill I really need to practice, especially since I’m still “new” to teaching.


Thoughtful and Authentic Question

Suchman’s Inquiry Model is interesting, but I’m not exactly sure what I think about it yet. I can see how it would be really helpful in focusing on specific elements of inquiry learning (as opposed to trying it all, all at once). I’m still not sure what the point of asking yes/no questions is – is there something I’m missing?


As an education major with focuses in reading and language arts, I thought I knew what critical thinking meant. Zarrillo showed me that critical thinking is so much more than I originally thought. Not only will this expanded understanding help me teach social studies better, but it will also help me with my student I’m tutoring this semester at The Potters House who struggles with reading comprehension (mainly inference and critical thinking skills). I’ve been working with him to target text-based comprehension and we’ve been getting into inference a little bit, but knowing more about critical thinking will help me know how to further develop those skills in my little person.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods

Class Notes

Chapter 7 Discussion

  • Take note of the different forms of assessment in this video
    • “Hooks” students with song and poem – asks students to infer what they think they’ll be learning about
    • Pre Assessment: asking questions to entire class
      • Students hold up “smiley face” or “sad face” if they agree or disagree
      • Teacher’s assistant records responses for later observation
    • Drawing pictures about weather
      • Informal
      • Self Assessment worksheet to evaluate weather pictures
    • Post Assessment: asks same questions from the beginning of class
      • Students hold up “smiley face” or “sad face” if they agree or disagree
      • Teacher’s assistant records responses for later observation again
      • Uses information from assessment to readdress concepts with students if needed
  • Share with your partner:
    • Two of the ideas to save
    • The question you asked the author

Inquiry Based lesson

  • This person changed forever what we (historians) think about the past.
    • OETZI
  • Artifact cards – body, bow/quiver, dagger, ax, belt/pouch
    • Facts
      • Body
        • Lived about 45 years
        • Suffered from whipworm infestation
        • Hair: low levels of lead; high levels of arsenic
        • Suffered from a chronic illness
        • Suffered many injuries during lifetime: rib fracture; fracture of nasal bone
    • Inferences
      • Based on symbol of axe, and the fact that they found numerous bodily injuries, he could have either been a tribal leader or warrior.
      • Could have been an ironsmith:
    • Hypothesize: how did Oetzi die?
    • Tell a story using evidence – have students become the historian

“Let’s be clear – we are failing too many of our children. We’re sending them out into a 21st century economy by sending them through the doors of 20th century schools.” Barak Obama, in a speech at the Center for American Progress

Critical Thinking

  • 3 words – generate three words that quickly come to mind; don’t overthink, just quick associations
    • HOTTS
    • Challenging
    • Brain-fart
  • 2 questions – generate two questions that quickly come to mind; surface ideas are fine.
    • Can you tell me more?
    • How do you know?
  • 1 metaphor or simile – may need the start phrase ___ is like…
    • Critical Thinking is like… learning to build a plane and fly a plane at the same time.

3-2-1 Bridge

  • Steps:
    • Set up
    • Initial Response
      • 3 words – generate three words that quickly come to mind; don’t overthink, just quick associations
      • 2 questions – generate two questions that quickly come to mind; surface ideas are fine.
      • 1 metaphor or simile – may need the start phrase ___ is like…
    • Provide an instructional period
    • Repeat the 3 -2- 1
    • Bridge – Have students share with partners, discuss what they are noticing about how their thinking has shifted from their initial responses
  • Thinking routine for introducing and exploring ideas
  • Purpose: activating prior knowledge
  • Reminder – don’t forget to do the Bridge portion; it’s important for students to recognize and name their own learning and development

Making the Case               

  • Beliefs determine practice
  • Directions:
    • In your group, come up with a short 1 minute argument using the method you were given to convince someone to use critical thinking strategies more often in their classroom. Add your argument to the point below.
      • Data – feel free to create data points out of thin air
      • Fear
      • Follow the group:
      • Emotional: heart for our students – want the best for them
      • Anecdotal
    • Practice determine beliefs
      • Eric Jenson: Teaching with the Brain in Mind
      • Karin Morrison: Making Thinking Visible

Brain Research

  • Challenge
    • Problem Solving
    • Critical Thinking
    • Relevant Projects
    • Complex Activities
  • Feedback
    • Specific
    • Multi-Modal
    • Timely
    • Learner Controlled
  • Contributing Factors to Meaning-Making:
    • Emotion – IMPORTANT‼‼
    • Context and Patterns – STUDENTS MUST BE TAUGHT PATTERNS
  • Briefly describe your past experience in social studies classrooms to a partner using negative examples of the points above. Any positive examples? As a result of your discussions add your thoughts/ideas for how to incorporate each of the above in your future practice.

Getting Started – Developing an Idea

  • Standards
    • English/Language Arts – Compare works that express a universal theme and provide evidence to support the ideas expressed in each work.
      • Students read various short stories from different cultures, all focused on “leaving home,” then use excerpts in podcasts they create to express their own thoughts, feelings and advise on the theme.
  • Current Global issues
    • Website designers meeting the needs of clients
    • Elected officials deciding public policy
  • Community Issues – Service Learning
    • Traffic volume
      • Students measure the volume of traffic and analyze delays on key roadways, then present findings and make recommendations.
  • Relevant and interesting to your students
    • Immigration and workers ‘rights
      • Students research policy past and present, national and international, write a policy recommendation.

Writing a driving/essential question

  • Localize – relate to their own life
  • Charge – give students a charge to do something
  • Intentionally flows through the unit/lessons
  • Types:
    • Abstract/conceptual
      • Can one person really make a difference?
      • What unifies us?
    • More Concrete
      • How did early explorers change the world?
      • What makes a place worth visiting?
      • What effect does population growth have on our society?
    • Problem Solving
      • How can we decrease the amount of pollutants in the water?
      • How can we decrease the amount of conflict in our school?
    • Design Challenge
      • How would we design a museum exhibit about the Civil War so that it appeals to diverse groups in our community?

Entry Event         

  • Start with a bang – sparks interest and ignites curiosity
  • Ideas:
    • Give students a piece of correspondence (real or fictitious) presenting a challenge
    • Have a discussion about an issue of interest or a news event
    • Review a website
    • Invite a guest speaker
    • Go on a field trip
    • Conduct a demonstration or activity
    • Show a video or scenes from a film
    • Read something provocative
    • Present a startling set of statistics or a puzzling problem
    • Display photographs or works of art or play a song

Authentic Assessments

  • Students learn about endangered species in their region and take action to protect them, including a public awareness campaign, habitat restoration fieldwork, and communication with local government officials.
  • Students design and create a calendar with pictures and information about endangered species, which they sell at a pre-winter break community event and donate the money to an environmental organization.
  • Students play the role of scientists who need to make recommendations to an environmental organization about how to protect endangered species in various ecosystems around the world.
  • Define and give examples of an assessment that is “Not Authentic”
    • Criteria for Authentic Assessments
      • Students doing something in the field they’re studying or to help the field they’re studying
      • Open ended
      • Interaction
      • REAL – meets a real need – relevant

Authentic Assessments

  • It meets a real need in the world beyond the classroom or the products students create are used by real people.
  • It focuses on a problem or an issue or topic that is relevant to students’ lives— the more directly, the better—or on a problem or issue that is actually being faced by adults in the world students will soon enter.
  • It sets up a scenario or simulation that is realistic, even if it is fictitious.
  • It involves tools, tasks, or processes used by adults in real settings and by professionals in the workplace. These criteria for authenticity could apply to any of the above examples of projects.

Remodel a Lesson

  • Typical 1st Grade lesson on U.S. Holidays
    • The standard: 1 – H2.0.6 Identify the events or people celebrated during United States national holidays and why we celebrate them (e.g., Independence Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents’ Day).
    • Typical lesson includes: coloring pages, food, stories, etc.
    • Remodel
      • Focus on one holiday: Independence Day
      • What is/could be the underlying Big Idea or Essential Question?
        • Big Idea: Independence Day
        • Essential Question: Why do you have independence?
        • Essential Question: What does Independence look like?
      • Why do students need to know or understand this?
        • Value the lives and events that occurred to bring them freedom.
      • What would be an authentic assessment? – What does it mean to you?
        • Build an American flag with a War Veteran
          • Use construction paper
        • After flag is built, allow 1st grader to interview the War Vet
          • The 1st grader will write the War Vet’s answers in the white space on the flag.
        • Questions to Ask:
          • Why do you serve your country?
          • What does the flag mean to you?
          • What was your duty in the war?
          • Where did you serve?
          • How did you help other people from other countries during the war?
          • Last white line: Student response: reflect on what the War Vet talked about: What does it mean to you?

Unit Planning

  • Completed PRIOR to instruction
  • Take time to collaborate
  • Plan ahead and be prepared
    • Resources at different levels for each lesson
    • Everything ready
    • 75% of classroom management
  • Reflect as you go – sticky notes


What new information did you learn?

  • Oetzi was new to me, and I really liked the strategy you used to teach us about him. I will definitely be using that in the future!
  • Overall, today wasn’t quite as mind-blowingly exciting as last class was, but I still made many connections. It is always helpful to collaborate with others when coming up with Big Ideas and Essential Questions, especially since it takes a lot of work for me to come up with those things on my own.

How has the material/experience affected you?

The Unit planning section was very helpful. Most of my education professors talk about lesson planning, and a few talk about unit planning, but so far, you’re the only one has given us tips and reasons for how to be successful at it. Your tip about always having the entire Unit planned and prepared ahead of time was a new realization – not that I didn’t know to plan ahead and have the unit plan mapped out, but I wouldn’t have thought to have the entire unit prepared ahead of time – that’s something I would have had to learn the hard way – now, hopefully I won’t have to!

Has it challenged your thinking?

As I stated earlier, writing Big Ideas and Essential Questions does not come naturally or quickly for me. I understand the process, but it just takes so long for my brain to process and come up with what I need. I think my main challenge in this is that I want it my stuff to always be authentic, so I’m always questioning myself to make sure it’s authentic and interesting. That’s why I like collaboration so much – it helps me get outside of my head so I can focus easier and be more efficient with my time. Knowing this, I want to work on becoming more efficient in the way that I write Big Ideas and Essential Questions.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods


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