The walls of Brooke’s kindergarten classroom were filled with literacy— magazine photographs of people from many cultures, each child’s name written on the fronts and backs of laminated poster board, construction paper cutouts of 12 birthday cakes corresponding with each month of the year, 26 large alphabet cards from the districtmandated phonics program, and a wall of words generated by the children as part of their yearlong inquiry into written language.
Throughout the day, Brooke encouraged children to work harmoniously with one another. She helped children resolve differences during play; pointed out the strengths of individuals so other children might respond more positively to these children during various social and instructional activities; and modeled appropriate ways of interacting at aLEARNER-GENERATED INQUIRIES WITHIN AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER CONTEXT
This study’s theoretical frame is comprised of research on inquiry-based curricula and research on secondlanguage acquisition in school settings. Reggio Emilia’s early childhood program in Italy has documented how children explore the world through “a hundred languages,
a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, playing, of speaking”
(Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1998,
p. 3). Through this project approach, young children engage in extended in-depth investigations and use
“graphic languages” to “record and represent their memories, ideas, predictions, hypotheses, observations, feelings, and so forth in their projects”
(Edwards, Gandini, &
Forman, 1998, p. 28).
Similarly, Harste (1994) sees inquiry as an assumed “openness” to learning, in which learners are not constrained by predetermined objectives that restrict their “personal construction of meaning” (p. 1223). Nor are inquiries imposed by others— teachers, peers, or parents—but instead emerge from the learner.
When children explore those areas that most intrigue them, they become vested in learning. These inquiries, whether separate from the curriculum or discovered within broad wholeclass themes, are driven by the individual’s