The Ten Minute Teacher: Inquiry-based Lessons

One way that I have really learned to save time this year is from incorporating some inquiry-based learning and have students help generate classroom expectations. This also helps allow students to feel empowered over their own learning. I taught a series of ten minute prep lessons with an inquiry-based component at the beginning of school this year.

In 11th grade American Literature, we began the year by conducting a research unit. I taught students a kinesthetic call-and-response to help them memorize the 16 terms we would be researching. This is actually something I have been doing for years, but we just got a little louder and stood on the desks and played Ron Clark (as the kids say). You could do this with any list of terms, time periods, or system. You can have the students help decide what the call-and-response should be. Take ten minutes of prep to pick your terms and what students will say when you say the term.

I then did a quick Google Slides presentation and loaded it in Google Classroom for students to revisit later. American Lit teachers, feel free to use my Slides. You can use a textbook website, an old PowerPoint, or something off TPT to introduce your terms…or make one of you have extra time. I used an old one.

We then grouped students up by learning style. We had a discussion and made selections together. I did not spend an hour digging through data to be able to sort them. We had groups who liked writing raps, some who wanted to make posters, some who loved technology, some who wanted to do a skit, some who wanted to do arts and crafts, and some who like making videos. We came up with the ideas, made a list on the board, and sorted everyone by preference. The kids were very happy about getting to make some choices.

Next, I told students that for this project they would be selling a Time Period from American Literature to the Class. The class would then buy one of the time periods for Unit 2 as we read a novel. My example is for American Literature, but you could easily adapt this idea of selling a subject-related concept from any class. We did a warm-up activity by making an extemporaneous one minute commercial to the class selling a random object from the classroom. Students had two minutes two prep in teams of two. They were hilarious! We then discussed what made a good sales pitch. Students loved that this project had a real world business connection.

On the next day, we went over the directions for the project. Each class came up with their own rubric during a class discussion. I divided students into four groups. I asked each group to come up with ten items that should be on the rubric based on their needs as an audience and the standards. Then, we discussed them one at a time and voted on them. I used ten minutes of prep time to type the rubric after school, and we voted on it the next day. Then, they started to work. They had three days of research and prep time for their presentations. That gave me three days with no prep. I just showed up to class and spent time working with each group. Yes, really. I did use two minutes to find some judges, but that was it, and honestly I asked my mom and her friend to come see their projects. I wanted my students to get used to presenting to strangers.

On the day before the presentation we reviewed the rubric together, and I had each group do a dress rehearsal for me. I spent that block coaching them on public speaking skills. I was pretty hard on them, and kept asking them questions to make them improve their presentations.

On the day of the presentations, the class and the judges grades each student using our rubric. Grading each presentation made the students more involved in the presentations and assured good audience participation. I spent ten minutes after school that day averaging their scores and entering grades. It was well worth all of THEIR effort. As teachers, we must learn to focus on being present with our students every day, and making them do the hard work of learning. I enjoyed this unit because I was able to coach, facilitate, and engage.


Do you have ten minutes to make an inquiry-based lesson?



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