The aim of all preschools is to provide children with a learning experience during their early years. However, the kind of learning experience and focus differ between schools. In this article we will share with you a comprehensive guide to inquiry-based learning preschool lessons
Today, most preschools are moving away from traditional learning and leaning towards child-centred learning. With this, learning methods that encourage children to think, explore and wonder have gained popularity – and these are based on inquiry-based learning.
But what exactly do learning methods that use elements of inquiry-based learning entail, and does your child’s preschool practise this method?
In order to find out, we had a chat with Ms Janice Lim, Deputy Director of Curriculum & Training (Early Childhood) at MindChamps PreSchool for her professional view on inquiry-based learning and to better understand the Enquiry Teaching & Learning™ approach used at MindChamps.
Traditional Approach Vs Inquiry-Based Learning Approach in Preschools in Singapore
With a traditional approach of teaching and learning, children are made to memorise and learn by heart. The approach is teacher-centred as the teacher dispenses information while the child passively receives knowledge. Most times, there is only one right answer to the questions raised.
On the other hand, the elements of the inquiry learning approach that is applied increasingly in preschools in Singapore such as MindChamps PreSchool focuses on the child. Instead of being made to listen and absorb information one-way, the child is actively involved in the process, which helps them to develop information processing and problem-solving skills. The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator and director, allowing children to question and explore the many possibilities to one question.
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Is there a difference between ‘Inquiry-Based Learning’ and ‘Enquiry Teaching and Learning™’?
The term ‘Inquiry-Based Learning’ is used by many preschools and childcare centres in Singapore. The word ‘inquire’ is usually reserved for the definition of making a formal investigation, whereas the word ‘enquiry’ refers to general asking.
‘Enquiry Teaching and Learning™’ is a unique approach that MindChamps PreSchool has developed to emphasise the focus on getting children to be curious about subject topics and ask questions that lead to an enquiry exploration.
How are lessons that use Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ conducted?
The process of lessons conducted using the Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ approach that is unique to MindChamps PreSchool take on this fashion:
- The teachers ask questions and listen for questions from children in order to lead them into an enquiry teaching and learning process.
- Afterwards, the teachers observe the children to find out their interests.
- The teachers plan provocations to develop the children’s thinking skills, inventiveness and reflectiveness after the children explore the ideas in the lessons. Provocations can be materials, objects, books, photos, drawings, nature specimens, questions that develop a sense of curiosity in children and stimulate ideas, imagination and initiative.
- Then, the teachers conduct a brainstorming session to find out what children already know as well as what they want to know.
- Next, the teachers plan activities for the children’s integrated enquiry teaching and learning experiences that are integrated with the sensory, motor, intellectual, linguistic, emotional and social elements for holistic learning and development.
More on lessons conducted using the Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ Approach
Ms Lim shares more on how teachers at MindChamps PreSchool plan the learning activities for children.
“Our teachers plan the learning activities to be carried out on a weekly basis. They will see that the planned activities that include the S.M.I.L.E.S.™ elements (Sensory, Motor, Intellectual, Linguistic, Emotional and Social) meet the interests and learning needs of different children. These activities will involve hands-on experiential and experimental exploration for children to investigate and discover”.
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Examples of lessons conducted in MindChamps PreSchool that use the Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ Approach:
- Sensorial Play: exploring with paints, playdough, sensory bin, colour squeezy bag, texture exploration with rice, coloured sand, etc.
- Fine-motor Activities: feather tip salt tray writing, letter formation using shaving foam, etc.
- Exploration of a science concept: balloon race cars, discovery bottles, mixing colours, cornstarch slime, etc.
- Hands-on Math Activities: counting bears, sorting jelly beans, shape wheel, graphing transportation, estimating with water, dice and number game, sorting number stickers, etc.
- Language and Literacy Activities: letter hunt, alphabet rocks, recycled scrabble play, word families with a ping-pong ball, mini alphabet sensory bins, crocodile circle, show-and-tell, etc.
- Art & Craft Activities: exploration using different art mediums and techniques
- Social-Emotional Activities: feelings identification, Emoji feeling faces, emotion matching game, puppet play, social skills building games, etc.
How Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ results in continuous learning
At the end of the experience, teachers will lead a class discussion and reflection based on the children’s interest, curiosity and questions posed as well as what they have discovered. They discuss the investigation process, share findings and make comparisons from previous knowledge and theories. A comparison is made to reflect the information known before and after investigation.
Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ lessons are conducted in small groups which means that teachers can address the questions that result from learning. These questions can then be further investigated and even led to another process. In addition, as children are given the opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced along the way as well as how they resolved them, the importance of problem-solving and collaboration will become second nature to them.
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What are the benefits of attending a childcare centre or preschool in Singapore that uses Enquiry Teaching and Learning™?
Enquiry Teaching and Learning™ is an active learning approach where children are responsible for their own learning. The approach promotes collaborative learning and takes into account the perspective of others, teaching them to be mindful of their peers while learning and discovering at their own pace.
Ms Lim adds that “Learning is fun and meaningful. It encourages lifelong learning and equips children with the skills to ask purposeful questions and problem solve using various strategies.”
Written by Jamie Koh
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