The inquiry began by the grade 5 students’ wonderings about two students in the community class after an assembly. They noticed that the students were communicating via Proloquo2go. This is a computer picture communication exchange system software that allowed the students to use images to string together sentences. The grade 5s also noticed that others in the community class could not speak at all, and were shrieking delightedly when a song came over the speaker systems. The discussion continued after the assembly and the students were asked to spend a day recording all requests that they made throughout the day. They began to observe that communication involved more than just speaking and formed “The Communication Team”. So began the inquiry.


We reviewed the inquiry process and students began by immersing themselves in the idea of communication in all forms. They looked at road signs, artwork, verbal communication, body language, etc. They refined their research and decided to look at neuro-typical communication and communication disorders, their essential-inquiry question being, “What does it mean to communicate and how do we know is there is a disorder in communication? Who decides?”


They formed expert panels who were each responsible for covering various questions, such as “who is responsible for diagnosing a communication disorder” and “what are the pathways that language travels through to get from your brain to your words?”. Together they worked to answer the questions. Products included: two paintings in the style of Mondrian and Pollock which represented neuro-typical communication and communication disorders respectively, a model of the brain, and a rap about living with dyslexia. The communication team pushed back at the idea of the word “disorder”, worked with community partners including a speech and language pathologist, and determined that communication can mean anything that involved an interaction. The students connected their work in literacy to their work in Science and were really able to flush out the big ideas listed above. They researched, read, wrote, and created products that reflected larger curricular ideas as well as their interests and wonderings.


Grade Level: 5


Strand and Topic: Understanding Life Systems: Human Organ Systems


Inquiry Focus:


What does it mean to communicate and how does one know if there is a disorder in communication? Who decides?


How does language work in the average brain? How can we tell if there will be a communication disorder?


What are some different ways that disorders can be represented and explained?


What are the different parts of the brain responsible for?


What are the stages of typical language development?


What is dyslexia and why do we call it a disorder and not just a difference or variation?


What does it mean to communicate? If someone is nonverbal, in what ways do they communicate?