The spark for this inquiry project was the document entitled ‘Ancient-Greek-Olympics’ which I found in the Resources section of this website. I sent it to the Head of Classics here at The Grange School asking if they do a scheme of work on the Ancient Olympics and, if so, was there any scope to do an inquiry in the library based on this resource. The Head of Classics replied that they did not but he was interested in the concept. In the end, the project that we created bore little resemblance to the Ancient Olympics resource, but it was vital in securing his interest – I believe the way this resource is presented made it very easy for him to, at a glance, see the value of the project and begin imagining how it would work in practice.
Choosing a question
The Head of Classics suggested that we could do something on the Topic of ‘Slavery in Ancient Rome’. After some thought and initial investigation, I came up with the question: ‘Should we, the Roman people, abolish slavery’ with the pretense that the students should imagine that they were citizens of Ancient Rome preparing a report for the Senate. I chose this question because I felt that it would require the students to compare and weigh the evidence that they would find before constructing a for-and-against argument – all of which was vital to the success of the project.
Connect / Wonder
The students were introduced to the topic before they arrived in the library and they enjoyed telling me what they already knew about it. After a quick ‘What do I already know’ mind-map activity, I lead the students in a discussion of how to break the research question down into ‘lines of inquiry’ by asking them the question “What do we need to know to help us answer the question?” And tried to guide them towards suggesting (in a general sort of way) the lines of inquiry that I had already chosen, Namely:
What did slaves do in Ancient Rome / what functions did they perform?
How were slaves in Ancient Rome treated / mistreated?
What did the citizens of Ancient Roman think and feel about slavery?
I then set the students off finding information in each area and recording their sources. I let them do this with some freedom, using books and the the internet. Some of the students struggled with identifying relevant information, particularly from books, which leads me to reflect that, next time I work with a Year 7 group without prior experience of inquiry, I may provide them with evidence sets so that they can get used to selecting relevant information in a more guided way.
After this, we had a discussion as a class on the arguments they might make for or against the question: ‘Should we, the Roman people, abolish slavery’ and I asked if they had evidence from the Investigate phase that they could use to back up their arguments. I also showed them a simple example of what an evidence backed point should look like including an in-text citation. We were so pushed for time at this point that we missed this step for some classes and this showed in their final outcomes – another reflection for future projects of this sort.
The students then created their reports. Their final outcomes were uneven in quality. Again, I think this is as a result of me giving them too much freedom for their level of experience and skill. In future, I intend to provide a worksheet with boxes that they have to fill in, rather than allowing them the freedom of the empty page.
Reflections and impact
I feel that, despite a number of areas for improvement, this project went well overall, and feedback from the Classics teachers involved has been very positive. The same inquiry is scheduled to be repeated with next year’s Year 7s and the Classics department are now keen to do an inquiry with their Year 8 groups as well. The Head of Classics also sent a feedback document about the project to SLT and the Assistant Head for Teaching and Learning is now keen to support doing more of this in the school.
Thanks for sharing your project with us Tom. What a really great start. I love your question as it really does put your students into the heart of their project! Your reflection is really interesting and an important part of your journey with FOSIL as much as the students and teachers. I like the way that you managed to plan it with your teacher and that this has been shared with SLT is a brilliant step forward.
Did you create an inquiry journal to go with this project? I can’t decide by reading what you have written whether you adapted the ‘Ancient Greek’ inquiry journal or not. If you did could you share it with us as I am sure it will be really useful to others.
Thank you Elizabeth and Darryl for your comments. I have attached the inquiry journal that we used. It is mainly comprised of the standard Fosil resources (thank you!), the only bit that I created are the three tables in the ‘Investigate’ phase that each focus on one of the ‘lines of inquiry’ that I selected.
In terms of a time frame, we had 4 single lessons which are about 40 minutes long, but by the time the children have arrived in the library and got themselves set up, and then packed up a few minutes early (due to Covid restrictions) it was 30 minutes at most. Most completed the final report for homework. Roughly:
Lesson 1: Introduction / Connect / Wonder
Lesson 2: Investigate
Lesson 3: Investigate / discussion around Construct
Lesson 4: Express
Although some pupils did cope, this was not enough time for the level of freedom “baked-in” to the project design considering the age and experience level of the pupils. A more tightly guided approach seems appropriate for next time.
Thanks for sharing Tom! Your reflection on this project is very important. We often think students are capable of far more than they really are. It would be fascinating to hear what happens next if you manage to run this project again with a more tightly guided approach next year.