From December 5 to 7, 2023, Great Books welcomed seven Montessori school professionals to a Montessori-focused Shared Inquiry Essentials professional development course. Over the three days, these teachers explored how Junior Great Books® materials and the Shared Inquiry™ methodology support the goals of a Montessori program. The course explored how the Shared Inquiry activities can be adapted to multi-age classrooms. For example, teachers can ask older students to help the younger students find evidence during the second reading. They can also help the younger students figure out which questions from the sharing questions activity need to be answered right away and which can wait until the discussion.

Blaine students reading to each other

We also examined how using the release of responsibility, teachers can prepare Montessori students to lead many of the activities. Finally, we considered how the Montessori classroom teacher could structure Junior Great Books materials for the entire multi-age classroom to use the same text.

Participants gained valuable insights into tailoring the Shared Inquiry activities to address students’ self-directed needs and developmental stages within a Montessori setting. This adaptive approach enhances engagement and aligns perfectly with the principles of individualized learning that Montessori education holds dear.

We also explored the empowering concept of the release of responsibility within the Montessori context. Teachers learned practical strategies to gradually transition responsibility to the students, encouraging them to take the lead in various activities. This fosters a sense of autonomy and confidence and aligns seamlessly with Montessori’s philosophy of nurturing self-directed learners.

A notable aspect of the workshop was exploring how Montessori classroom teachers can strategically structure Junior Great Books materials to create a cohesive learning experience for the entire multi-age classroom. The session provided a roadmap for integrating these materials to promote collaboration and shared exploration, fostering a sense of community among students.

In conclusion, the Montessori-focused Shared Inquiry Essentials professional development course at Great Books seamlessly utilizes innovative and effective pedagogical tools and high-quality texts. The adaptability of Shared Inquiry activities to multi-age classrooms and the strategic structuring of materials for collaborative learning are invaluable takeaways that can enrich any Montessori program.

We Can Tailor Professional Development for Your Specific Needs

The Great Books Foundation has been providing professional learning in the Shared Inquiry method since its inception in 1947. In addition to whole classroom and language arts teachers, we have taught gifted education personnel, literacy coaches, administrators, parent volunteers, librarians, and even physical education teachers how to use inquiry-based strategies to create richer learning experiences for students. And we have provided this learning in:

  • Public schools
  • Montessori schools
  • International Baccalaureate schools
  • Charter schools
  • Private schools of all kinds
  • Schools all around the world, including China, Australia, India, Ghana, and many other countries

Let us provide a custom experience for your setting! To do so, get in touch with your Great Books partnership manager.