Weekly Reflection: Who exactly needs to be tuning in?

Tropical fish are found in my school- image by author

We are inquiring into sharing the planet, rain forests.

It’s ‘time’ to tune in.

But who exactly is tuning in?

Often we think it is the teachers job to set out photos and displays, find videos to watch to lure students into finding out more about the central idea. We have to preload them so that they can find out the content we’ve decided they need to know.  It’s the start of the unit and I’m already feeling frustrated that the content is obscuring concepts and context.

We live in Singapore – the rainforest is right there. We shouldn’t be watching videos inside the bubble of our classroom! Lets step outside.

I tell the kids to leave with a simple instruction – take notice of the living things in our school environment and record any questions or wonderings.

The students quickly find the plants and our pond teeming with tropical fish.

But then a dropped fork quickly leads us to a trail of ants.

As we walk through the grounds,  the students tell me that construction from neighbouring property resulted in monkeys in the school grounds last year. Already the students are demonstrating that they understand that human actions have an impact on other living things in our environment.

An exposed concrete drain pipe is walked past until someone drops their pencil and the students quickly discover that it is a host to moss and algae.

Is water a living thing?

It’s got molecules and I have molecules.

A dead branch is ignored I pick it up and the kids notice that it has mushrooms growing out of it. The large tree growing out of the kindergarten playground plays host to different plants.

What is a living thing?

What ingredients sustain life?

We think our students come into our units as blank slates yet if we stop to really listen, even the youngest learners bring with them their own life experiences and knowledge that can add depth to an inquiry.

Perhaps instead of planning elaborate activities to tune the students into our central idea teachers should take a walk and quietly tuning in to conversations that happen along the way.

4 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Who exactly needs to be tuning in?

Add yours

  1. We’ve had the same conversation recently, Steph. My belief is that Tuning IN is more for the teacher to gage interest, understandings, mis-conceptions… this information proves very useful for the beginnings of an inquiry.


  2. Very well said and well written. Tuning in is another of those educational phrases that began with the best intentions, was laminated a million times and has ended up meaning something far less powerful. When combined with my leat favorite expression, the Orwellian “front loading”, tuning in becomes little more than fishing for interest.


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