Top 5 Bloggers/posts this year!

I’ve been crunching the numbers and checking out the stats for our year on the blog.  The numbers are exciting and we have some celebrations to share!

So, I’m here today to announce and celebrate our

Top 5 Bloggers for 2016!

These top five blog posts were determined by the number of views to their posts.  Congratulations to all of you!

  1. Paige Holden with 643 views of her post Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming… | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry  On this post, Paige explained how she scaffolded her middle schoolers questioning in the Identify phase.  She expertly guided her students to expand their understanding of questions using Webb’s depth of knowledge to support and other strong scaffolds.  The post goes on to describe the actual student’s questions as a result.  She moves into the Gather and Create phases including information literacy skills embedded in the unit.
  2. Lizzie Walker aka Curious St George had nearly 400 views of her post Avoid Cheetah Reports in 8 Easy Steps! | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry where she summarizes a fourth grade science unit where she flips the traditional animal report on its head! Using the concept of “All living things and their environment are interdependent,”  the students engaged in the GID process to dig deeper and in more interesting ways into the animals they know and love, and some that they had never heard of before!
  3. Kathryn Roots Lewis takes the third place with 200 views to her post GID-Making a Difference in Teaching & Learning | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry . Kathryn brings a unique leadership perspective as she is the library leader in Norman, Oklahoma where a national model of Guided Inquiry Design is taking hold.  In this post nearly 200 people read about how the GID movement began and the far reaching effects of the practice in her district. Thanks, Kathryn, for sharing this important leadership perspective.
  4. Kelsey Barker and Dr. Buffy Edwards represented a team who was working at the district level to create a fifth grade science unit on biospheres.  In this post with 198 views, Taking Steps Back So We Can Move Forward | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry the team, in the middle of the design process, took a step back to look at what they were planning from a student’s perspective and that shed new shining light onto their work.  It was fantastic to hear about their process and how it unfolded and what resulted from this team’s work together.
  5. And the fifth most read post was by yours truly.  People had been asking me in my GID workshops about REAL student questions and what questions arose out of this Guided process.  Educators are often worried that kids questions will be so far afield of the content and need some reassurance. In this post, viewed by 198 readers, I wrote about the exemplary model from Westborough High School in Massachusetts. I shared the questions from a unit in our recently released high school book as well as some of the questions from Kathleen Stoker‘s students participating in the psychology in literature class. Once you see the real questions that students have, and the level of these questions, as well as how they are relevant to topic, and have students passions embedded within them, you just have to give GID a try! 😀

Thanks all for the wonderful descriptions of what you have been working on this year using the Guided Inquiry model to make a difference in teaching and learning for your students!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all.

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Author of the Guided Inquiry series

Professional Developer

guidedinquirydesign.com

 

Image credit https://goldsmithdolphins.com/2013/05/21/end-of-year-celebration-times-updated/

 

Living Guided Inquiry

Teresa Lansford, Lincoln Elementary, Norman OK

Since our staff started the year with the understanding that the Guided Inquiry Process was the way we were going to structure our learning through research for the entire year, there was never any turning back. For those who had not yet been through formal training there were times that we dipped into the process without developing a complete unit. Students had opportunities to get excited about a topic through Open, develop a common vocabulary through a rich immerse activity, or explore an area of interest in an inquiry circle. As these small steps were successful, there was much more interest in developing entire units to address concepts with students. They saw how much  more engaged students were under this process.

Our teachers immediately valued the ownership students had of their work. One fifth grader in particular had spent a previous unit sitting with arms crossed refusing to work. When she had the power to ask her own questions she was fully engaged.

Our fourth grade teachers implemented a wave unit. When we went to form inquiry circles it just happened that most of the special education students ended up wanting to focus on the same area. We took notes using Popplet.com. They created a web to connect their areas of interest. At the end of one session we zoomed out and a student proclaimed “We know all that?” Jaws dropped a bit as these students realized how much they had learned and came to understand that they had valuable contributions to the larger group’s understanding of waves. Seeing these students thrive who previously may have floundered would have been enough of a selling point, but we consistently saw added value across all demographics. All students were challenged to grow at some point during the process.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of our principal, by the end of the first week of school all staff had embraced the idea of guided inquiry, by mid year we were engaging students with units across all grade levels, by the end of the year we had a staff that lived and breathed Guided Inquiry.

Our practice was more than just units of study in a framework. When it comes to research and questioning, Guided Inquiry has become how we think. When our leadership team was tasked with leading professional development for our site, they looked to the Guided Inquiry framework to develop the PD. We have went beyond just using it with our students because we see its universal value. At Lincoln Elementary we give our students a voice, ensure they have choice, and live a growth mindset in order to encourage students to have one as well. Guided Inquiry has been an invaluable tool to help get us there.

A Culture of GId

Teresa Lansford, Lincoln Elementary, Norman OK

Before I had even had a chance to do much with my staff in regards to Guided Inquiry, our principal planning experiences to introduce them to the process. Norman Public Schools does an excellent job in helping teachers get the professional development they need to be great practitioners. Our principal, Olivia Dean, goes above and beyond to not only provide quality professional development, but model her expectations as well. A few years ago, she came to me with her ideas on how to introduce GId to the staff, and we collaborated in introducing the stages of the process. While I helped with some of the nuts and bolts, the ideas were all her own. Her strategy was to introduce Guided Inquiry to the staff as they developed their own growth plans. She created experiences for Open and Immerse that allowed them to start questioning their practices and what information they would need to grow. I pulled resources from our professional development collection for them to explore.  They then identified a focus area for their growth plans, gathered information, and created a presentation for the end of the year to share what they had learned and how they had grown with the staff, taking questions for self evaluation.

Along the way she would introduce the phases and with my help debrief on what that would look like for students. This gave us a shared vocabulary for inquiry even before our teachers were officially trained. When it came time to collaborate on lessons with me, I didn’t have to sell them on the process. They hit the plan time running, immediately asking things like “What should we do for Open?” I have never in my career had such an easy time implementing new strategies. Inquiry circles, letting students develop their own questions, and evaluate their own sources did not require a sell because the teaching staff had experienced the benefit first hand.

Additionally, by serving as a resource through the process of developing growth plans in the Guided Inquiry model I was able to heighten my profile as a teacher leader in my building. I feel like I have always been valued in my building but for those librarians who struggle to prove their worth, partnering with your principal to provide PD is a great way to raise awareness of your value as well as being able to share your philosophy and agenda for student learning with an entire staff. There are only wins when you team up with a willing administrator. Wins for you, your library, your staff, and your students.

Our administrator had established a solid foundation that strongly supported my program and student learning. In my next post I will share the impact this culture of Guided Inquiry had on our students.

Lincoln Elementary Does GId

Welcome fellow designers! I am Teresa Lansford, teacher-librarian at Lincoln Elementary School in Norman, OK. I am about to embark on my 6th year as a school librarian and my 14th year in education. I am a National Board Certified Teacher: Early Childhood Generalist, and received my Masters from the University of Oklahoma. I am a data driven, passionate practitioner, ever on the quest to bring my best to students so I am sure you all can understand how excited I was to learn about Guided Inquiry and what it does for kids.

Our school has adopted GId and ran with it in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. This week I will be sharing how we came to be a school with nearly an entire staff trained in GId, who all think in terms of GId, and who have utilized the process with both student and adult learners. I will share examples of how all grade levels have learned through GId, and how we have enhanced our use of technology through GId.

Lincoln Elementary is a Title 1 school of under 300 students. We have an autism program as well as a DD program. We serve grades PK-5 with two teachers per grade level. Our school is highly collaborative which I believed has helped to promote and support Guided Inquiry. None of use work in a bubble. We have a shared vision of elevating learning to foster creative, innovative members of a community. This has led to us becoming an Oklahoma A+ school for the arts, and winning an OETT grant that allowed us, along with a district bond issue initiative, to be nearly 1-1 in iPads for grades PK-1 and MacBooks for grades 2-5. We are constantly striving to push our students and help them grow beyond the test. Guided Inquiry gave us the tools to transform how we look at research and think about questioning in our building. I am excited to spend this week sharing with you all that we do!

Student Research Gets Personal @ BCPS

I’m excited to tell you about a high school course that we’ve been offering in BCPS since 2012, the Independent Research Seminar. This is an elective course which sophomores, juniors or seniors can take for a semester or a full year at the Standard, Honors or GT/Advanced Academics level. The Independent Research Seminar offers students a unique opportunity to do in-depth original research on a topic of their own choice. For the last five years, we’ve had students researching a wide variety of topics in virtually every discipline. Students learn a rigorous research process that includes a literature review and subject-specific research methodologies characteristic of college level research. They use an Online Research Framework to work both independently and under the guidance of content area teachers and the school library media specialist, who provides information literacy instruction for each step in the process. Students also consult with outside experts, and may have an opportunity to conduct research at an off-campus site. For example, we’ve had students work with scientists at a Johns Hopkins University scientific research lab, at area museums and historical societies, at local companies like Lockheed Martin, and at government agencies like the NSA, to name just a few. For several students, this course has led to an Internship and even employment. Students present their research to an audience of their peers, parents, mentors, school administrators and teachers at our annual Student Research Symposium.  This course is a great alternative to the AP Capstone course, which is not necessarily appropriate or appealing to all students. We have had diverse students take this course over the last 5 years, including English Language Learners, a student on the Autism spectrum, and a few reluctant learners who were otherwise not fully engaged in high school.


At the 2017 Common Ground Conference in May, I gave a presentation about this course with my colleague Joquetta Johnson, the Library Media Specialist at Randallstown High School who has been teaching the course for four years. For a good introduction to what the course is all about, view our Conference presentation  Student Research Gets Personal: The Independent Research Seminar, which includes student artifacts and videos.

Our High School library media specialists use this brochure to promote the Independent Research Seminar course to their students at registration time each year.  Students enrolled in the course use this Online Research Framework to access resources throughout the research process. Course instructors use Units and Lessons that correspond to each step in the Framework to facilitate instruction; these lessons are housed in our BCPS One Learning Management System (so unfortunately I am unable to share those Lessons with you). We will be revising the Lessons and Online Research Framework this summer (please excuse broken links).  We plan to incorporate GID strategies and tools, including some from the latest GID in Action: High School book.

 

The BCPS Student Researchers Wiki features Research Symposium video highlights, news articles, and digital copies of Symposium event programs for the last five years. You can read students’ research abstracts in these programs to get an idea of the wide range of topics they have chosen to research. Students are given secure folders on the wiki for uploading and organizing their work, and they can also use it as a collaborative workspace.

Although this course was written in 2011 (before our introduction to Guided Inquiry Design), I think you’ll agree that the model we developed bears many similarities to GID. For example, students keep a reflection journal throughout the research process, and they often engage in small group collaboration (e.g. Inquiry Circles).  Students sometimes choose topics that interested them in one of their other courses, or which relate to their college and career aspirations. In recent years, many students have chosen to explore issues related to diversity, equity and social justice. These are issues that are extremely relevant to students’ own personal lives and experiences. They would not have had the opportunity to explore these personally meaningful topics in depth, if not for the Independent Research Seminar course. This course is unique in providing that level of learning choice and voice, while empowering students with information literacy skills, not only for college and career readiness, but for citizenship and for life.

It’s been my pleasure to share some of our work around GID and student research at BCPS with you this week.  I hope you find some inspiration and ideas that you can apply to your own practice.  Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Kelly Ray, BCPS

GID Transforming Student Research @ BCPS

In my last post, I referenced a few examples of our BCPS Online Research Models (ORMs) for extended, in-depth research, which our Office of Digital Learning Library Media team has been designing using the eight phases of the GID model since 2012. I’d like to share in a little more detail how one of our ORMs was completely transformed at last summer’s 2016 Curriculum Workshop using the GID model. In 2001, our BCPS Office of Music requested a research model on Native American music for the Grade 8 American Music curriculum. As a library media specialist on the ORM curriculum writing team that summer, I co-designed an ORM titled First Music, First Nations—it was the first research model I ever designed. Courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, I can show you the Webpages for the original 2001 version of the “First Music, First Nations” ORM — even though I’m extremely embarrassed to do so!


As you can see, we were using our own research process steps at the time: Scenario, Task & Product, Assessment, Question, Gather, Organize and Conclude. This ORM has a nice poem at the top (but no connection to the poem is made anywhere in the process), and lots of “cutesy” clip art of Native Americans, drums, etc. The Scenario and Task & Product were NOT authentic or engaging —how many 8th graders would seriously be excited at the prospect of being a museum curator for the Smithsonian Institute? Students were asked to select from 5 research topics about traditional Native American music (Instruments, Pow-wows, Dances, Songs, or Ceremonies), take notes using resources including targeted Websites, and create a “display” of some sort; usually students made a diorama or something like that. Believe it or not, this ORM remained virtually unchanged (except for updating broken resource links) until summer 2016. THEN, with some new leadership in the Office of Music and new state learning standards for Music education, our team was asked to do a much-needed revision last summer.

The result was the new ORM, Native Dreams: Contemporary Native American Music. This research model benefitted in SO many ways from our use of the GID model. First and foremost was our consideration of “Third Space” to make real-world connections to the content for students. We focused on contemporary Native American music artists and framed the research around the overarching Inquiry Question: How is contemporary Native American music both an expression of traditional culture and a powerful force for change? The musicians we featured have fused traditional Native American sounds, instruments, etc. with contemporary genres that are familiar to our students – hip-hop, rap, pop, EDM, heavy metal, etc. These music artists are also passionate about social justice and the issues facing Native Americans; these are issues that many of our students and their families/communities are facing themselves. We found articles, music videos, and songs online for students to read, view, and listen to as they did their research. As we always do now, we included many GID tools for students to use throughout the process—Inquiry Journals, Inquiry Logs, Inquiry Circles, etc. We also included student choice of topic selection in the Explore phase, and choice of presentation formats in the Create phase. In the Share phase, students are asked to apply their learning from their own research and from each other’s presentations in a culminating activity, by responding to a quote from one of the musicians featured in the research model (in their Inquiry Journals and then in a discussion with Inquiry Circles and the whole Inquiry Community):

In the Rebel Music: Native America video episode you saw in the Immerse phase of this research, Native American rapper Frank Waln said: “The music is my shield and my weapon.”

  • What do you think he means? How does this statement relate to music as both an expression of traditional culture and a force for positive change?
  • How is this statement true for the other contemporary Native American musicians that you and your classmates researched?

This culminating activity allows all students to apply and synthesize their learning from each other, to build a response together to the overarching question posed at the beginning of the inquiry. In the Evaluate phase, we included a suggestion for students to extend their learning by researching a social issue that is personally relevant and important to them, and to create their own music or other form of artistic expression about the issue.

Thanks to the GID process, our students in 8th grade American Music classes at 27 Middle Schools across the district now have an inquiry-based learning opportunity that is both engaging and rigorous. Feedback from the music teachers who implemented this model during the 2016-17 school year has been really positive, and they report that this was a MUCH more rich and meaningful learning experience for their students than the previous ORM was.

I welcome your feedback about this research model!  NOTE: Please excuse any broken links in this ORM; I did make a few updates since my last blog post before sharing with you here today, and any remaining broken links will be updated during our Summer Curriculum workshop beginning next week. We are looking forward to designing more ORMs like this one this summer!

Kelly Ray, BCPS

BCPS Shines with GID

Greetings fellow Guided Inquiry Design fans!

I’m Kelly Ray, a Library Media Resource Teacher with the Office of Digital Learning at the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). It’s my pleasure to share again this year about how GID is transforming student research and inquiry-based learning in BCPS, the 25th largest school system in the U.S. and 3rd largest in Maryland. Please visit my June 5, 2016 post on this blog, GIDesign @ BCPS: Our Journey Begins, where I shared how BCPS first began using GID in 2012 after attending the CISSL Summer Institute at Rutgers. In that post, I described how BCPS has been using the GID model to structure our Online Research Models (ORMs) for extended, in-depth research across the curriculum; we have also been trying to incorporate some elements of GID (such as Third Space) into our Slam Dunk models for brief, focused research (a model from Dr. Jamie McKenzie that we adopted in 2004).

BCPS Online Research Models & Slam Dunks portal screenshot

 

We will continue to use GID this month at our annual BCPS Summer Curriculum Workshops, where a team of our library media specialists will collaborate with content curriculum writers to design new Online Research Models and Slam Dunks aligned to various content curriculum units. Have a look at the first ORM we designed using GID in 2012, An American Student in China (High School World Languages), which is used by students who visit China to complete the required research component for our BCPS Chinese Cultural Exchange program. See also an Elementary example, Act Now, Supplies Limited! (Grade 5 Library Media/Science) and a Middle School example, Native Dreams: Contemporary Native American Music (Grade 8 American Music) which was created in Summer 2016. Our BCPS ORMs and Slam Dunks were showcased at last week’s 2017 ISTE Conference at the Librarians’ Network Playground: Information Fluency, Creativity and Innovation.

Photo-BCPS ORMs & Slam Dunks station at 2017 ISTE Conference Librarians' Network Playground Tweet advertising BCPS Online Research Models & Slam Dunks at 2017 ISTE Conference Librarians' Network Playground

 

As you may have heard, BCPS was named the 2017 National School Library Program of the Year by AASL! Our system-wide use of Guided Inquiry Design was an important part of the body of evidence that earned us the NSLPY award. As our Superintendent said in the Award announcement, “… through collaborating with other educators or working directly with students, our school librarians help students gain in-demand 21st-century skills including constructing meaning through research, problem solving, creativity, and communicating new knowledge.” Accepting the Award at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference on June 24, our Coordinator Fran Glick explains in this Knowledge Quest blog post how our school library programs continue to evolve along with BCPS’s multi-year transformation of teaching and learning known as STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow). As a student-centered inquiry model, Guided Inquiry Design has been a natural fit with our school system’s broad instructional transformation.

 

We are fortunate to have a certified library media specialist at every elementary, middle and high school in our large school system. In addition to implementing the Online Research Models in collaboration with their teachers, our school librarians have received professional development on GID and are encouraged to co-design their own projects. At the beginning of our GID journey in 2012, we purchased a copy of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry at Your School for every school library. Our 160+ K-12 school librarians engaged in a year-long book study, sharing ideas and strategies for using GID at our quarterly professional development sessions. Recently our office has purchased the Guided Inquiry Design in Action books for both Middle School and High School; both books are a treasure trove of GID lessons and implementation ideas! We will be using resources from these great books as we design new Online Research Models and revise existing ORMs at this year’s Summer Curriculum Workshops; we are particularly interested in incorporating some of the excellent tools and strategies for student collaboration, reflection, conferencing, and assessment found there. We also plan to use lessons and resources from these books at our 2017-18 quarterly professional development sessions for secondary school library media specialists, as they work to refine their practices for planning and facilitating learner-centered instruction aligned to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. We are anxiously anticipating the release of the revised AASL Standards at the 2017 National Conference in November, and confident that there will be many points of alignment between the new Standards and GID.

Guided Inquiry Design book covers

 

In my next post, I will share more examples of how GID continues to transform teaching and learning in BCPS.

Kelly Ray

 

Problem Finders

B.C.’s new curriculum, as I discussed in my last post, has meant some radical changes to subject content in every grade, but perhaps none so much as in Grade 6 Social Studies. Socials used to be: Japan and Peru. I remember studying Japan and Peru when I was in Grade 6… and I’m no spring chicken!

The new curriculum for Grade 6 Social Studies has a focus on global issues, social justice, media studies, and governance systems… which sounds awesome, until you actually start looking at the content “suggestions”. Here is just a small sample of the recommended topics:

International cooperation and responses to global issues

    • environmental issues
    • human trafficking
    • child labour
    • epidemic/pandemic response
    • fisheries management
    • resource use and misuse
    • drug trafficking
    • food distribution and famine

Regional and international conflict

  • Sample topics:

    • war

    • genocide

    • child soldiers

    • boundary disputes

    • religious and ethnic violence

    • Terrorism

That is only from two subtopics! I didn’t even get into media, migration of people, or systems of government! Altogether there must be about 50 individual suggested topics just in Social Studies alone. That’s a lot for 12 year-olds to handle.

Lucky for us, our Grade 6 Social Studies teacher was excited to dig into the new material. James Weber, who used to be my office-mate and the school’s inquiry teacher before he went to teach in Dubai for two years, returned to Vancouver and joined the team at the last minute due to a sudden vacancy. Even the redoubtable James, however, was daunted by the number of learning outcomes and the lack of direction in how to teach them provided by the Ministry of Education.

Luckily, after learning about Guided Inquiry from me, we realized that following the eight phases would lead to a rich learning experience for the boys. With such a vast array of material to “cover,” GID seemed like a natural approach: expose the boys to many different ideas in the Open, Immerse and Explore phases, and then let them identify a question of interest to investigate on their own. Thus the Problem Finders Project was born.

The Open phase was a simple gallery walk in the classroom: James posted about 20 photos around the room, each one related to at least one topic in the curriculum. Without prompting or frontloading the boys observed each photo and jotted down ideas or questions it inspired.

As the instructional team was planning the project, however, we realized that the Immerse phase might be a challenge to execute. With so many possible topics, how could we possibly provide an Immerse experience that could touch on all these ideas at once? Since James and I used to work together in the library, we had a brainwave. What about a giant Human Library session where we invited as many possible guests in who had some experience with any of these topics, and boys could rotate around and ask questions?

And that’s exactly what happened. The Grade 6 team put out feelers to parents, friends and community members, and many people happily volunteered. We had dozens of Human Library guests, with expertise in health, politics, environment, indigenous rights and many of the other topics suggested by the Ministry. A list was provided on the boards so boys could select topics of interest, and they rotated around for 10 minutes of discussion with the guests. This provided the students with an opportunity to put out feelers on these disparate topics, and start to formulate ideas of their own.

Following the Human Library Immerse session, the boys went on to Explore using our library databases, as well as meeting in inquiry circles with faculty members to continue to talk through all the ideas they had encountered, and to begin to identify a question to research further.

The Problem Finders Project thus continued through the phases of Guided Inquiry, and when it came time to decide how to Share their learning, we planned another Human Library event – but this time, the students were the experts!

Each boy wrote his inquiry question on a sign that he hung around his neck and held a portfolio of his work throughout the project – this included a magazine article, a slam poem, a letter to a stakeholder, as well as his notes from various stages of the project. The rooms of the Grade 6 neighborhood were dedicated to the different curricular topics, and the guests – parents, teachers, and other students – selected topics to rotate around and discuss with the Grade 6 experts.

A list of all the Grade 6 boys and their topics was provided for guests.

Rooms for Human Library appointments were arranged thematically.

To say the day was a success is an understatement. The level of knowledge the boys displayed was incredible – and they were able to delve into difficult topics with admirable maturity and insight. Parents and teachers were astounded at how well the boys were able to discuss their topics. Even the P.E. teacher, who sort of reluctantly wandered up at one point, told me he had never seen boys so engaged in an activity like that! Designing the Share session as a Human Library event made it very low-key for everyone. The boys did not feel like they had to spend extra time preparing – since they knew their topics inside-out – and there was no pressure to perform for the visitors.

This student is explaining his research on human trafficking to Senior School boys!

Small groups of parents and other students met with the Human Library experts.

Remember how the Ministry list of recommended topics seemed so vast and daunting? Here is just a sample of some of the questions the boys identified for their research:

How can Canada and B.C. ensure that we are getting more electric cars? What are we doing?

How has human trafficking developed and changed in China?

Why are all the bees dying?

How has the relationship between the Canadian government and the First Nations changed over the years and what will it look like in the future?

What are the emotional effects of human trafficking and child labour?
How and why did the Mexican drug war start?

Why has society become increasingly racist towards aboriginal group?  What have the aboriginals have done about this and how does it relate to African American Racism?

If the Grade 6 team had approached this as a typical unit – with textbooks, quizzes, class discussions – so much of the rich learning would be missed.

The student feedback was overwhelmingly positive:

  • We could chose what to study
  • Having interesting conversations
  • The amount i learned about my topic, being an expert
  • I liked listening to the others
  • I liked how much time you gave use to complete the project and how you kept us relaxed
  • Doing the slam poem
  • That you could choose from lots of topics
  • How it was split into assignments
  • Having lots of little projects inside of one big one was really fun
  • I liked the presentation, we got to share our knowledge and experiences with other people
  • How it is covered in 2 subjects [Socials and Language Arts]
  • Seeing people interested in the topic we researched
  • Meeting new people
  • Seeing different projects
  • I love that we are actually sending letters
  • Answering other people’s questions
  • Fun!

Using the Human Library model in our Guided Inquiry Units this year has been a very successful endeavour, and one I would encourage other schools to try out! Take advantage of the expertise amongst your parents, friends and larger community, and you will be amazed at the connections and learning that will take place.

I’ve had a great time guest blogging here this week! Thank you so much for reading, and do get in touch with any questions or comments.

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver Canada

@curiousstgeorge

Fourth Grade, Five Senses

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, British Columbia has recently introduced a brand new curriculum, which my school started to roll out in the 2015-2016 school year with some pilot units. By the 2016-2017 year, we were expected to be fully teaching the new curriculum.

The new curriculum, which can be found here , is quite a bold endeavour. Instead of focusing purely on content, students are instead expected to develop “curricular competencies” across all subjects, with a set of overarching “core competencies” – personal traits such as critical thinking, creativity and social responsibility – that are self-assessed.

Each subject has a set of between four and six Big Ideas – the broad understandings that students should gain. Below the Big Ideas are Content – what is being taught – and Curricular Competencies – the skills and attitudes students need to be able to demonstrate.

Analysing and discussing our new curriculum could be a whole blog in itself, so suffice it to say that it has caused a lot of reflection, planning and imagination at schools across the province. Overall, I really like it. I think it lends itself beautifully to Guided Inquiry Design, cross-curricular learning, and individual interests. There are, however, an awful lot of learning outcomes to be addressed, and much of the wording is vague.

Despite the fact that there is less emphasis on content, there have nonetheless been massive changes in the content taught in different subjects. I will get into this more in my next post about our Grade 6 project, but in almost every core subject, our teachers have had to introduce different content to align with the provincial standards. In Grade 4, one new addition to the science curriculum was the Big Idea “All living things sense and respond to their environment” with the content expectations surrounding the five senses.

The Grade 4 teachers, Vickie Lau and Guy McAuliffe,  met with me and our inquiry based learning teacher, Graeme Webber, to brainstorm some ideas for an interesting unit on the senses – not just in humans, but in other animals as well. As it turned out, we didn’t know a whole lot about how other animals use their senses… how could we make an engaging project so the boys could ask questions, build their knowledge, and showcase their learning in a unique way? The five senses are an interesting topic to think about teaching, because kids know what they are – but how much do they truly understand about the sensory systems of other animals? What organs and structures in animals and humans are responsible for sensing stimuli? What seemed like a pretty straightforward topic actually had many interesting avenues we could take!

Initially we played with the idea of a full Guided Inquiry unit which would allow each student to explore the senses according to his interests, but we determined that this might be challenging given the timeline, our own teaching schedules, and student abilities. Eventually we came up with the idea of having a weekly mini unit comprised of an Immerse/Explore session for each sense based on our library’s very successful Human Library program. We would invite a guest expert in each week to talk about one particular sense, then give the boys time to journal, ask questions, and later explore a LibGuide about animal senses that I would create.

Based on past Human Library events, we had a wonderful supply of guest speakers we could call on. We invited a dog trainer who specializes in scent detection work, our school’s contract vision and hearing consultant, and a marine biologist in to give presentations on smell, sight, hearing and touch respectively. But what about taste? We debated for some time and decided that we could do that ourselves. We set up stations in the library with a salty, sweet and bitter taste tests, and had the boys determine where on their tongues they could identify each flavour.

As has come to be expected with any GI unit we do, student engagement was very high. Ann, the dog trainer (and a retired elementary school teacher) set up some experiments to test the boys’ sense of smell compared to that of her dogs. Linda, the hearing and vision expert, demonstrated how technology can help people with vision and hearing deficits, and Melanie, the marine biologist, enchanted the students with how creatures of the deep oceans are able to use touch to find prey. (We teachers also ran a pretty fun taste test!) Questions came fast and furiously; the boys recorded lots of ideas from both the presenters and their LibGuide explorations. The depth of understanding went far beyond our expectations.

 

Ann sets up a test of human scenting abilities!

Melanie explains the different zones of the ocean.

Boys could not wait to ask Melanie more about marine animals.

Based on the BC curriculum, the boys certainly demonstrated the following curricular competencies through this unit:

  • Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world

  • Observe objects and events in familiar contexts

  • Identify questions about familiar objects and events that can be investigated scientifically

  • Make predictions based on prior knowledge

  • Make observations about living and non-living things in the local environment

  • Collect simple data

 

But then an important question came about: how can the students share their new knowledge about the senses? Because we structured this unit as a series of Immerse sessions, each student received the same experience and heard the same information. They all read the same resources on my LibGuide. We did not move beyond the Explore stage into identifying individual inquiry questions, so preparing oral reports or posters would be rather tiresome with each student giving the same information.

Guy, who teaches Language Arts, had a brilliant idea to add a cross-curricular piece to this unit. One new L.A. curricular competency is oral storytelling:

Create an original story or finding an existing story (with permission), sharing the story from memory with others, using vocal expression to clarify the meaning of the text, using non-verbal communication expressively to clarify the meaning, attending to stage presence, differentiating the storyteller’s natural voice from the characters’ voices, presenting the story efficiently, keeping the listener’s interest throughout.

This was, so far, not something Guy had been able to cover in his classes, and he had not had any ideas of how to teach it. What if the boys synthesized their understanding of the five senses and turned it into an oral story about an animal they learned about during our sessions? And what if, rather than performing his story live (thereby experiencing potential performance anxiety and squirrelly audiences), each boy videoed himself so that everyone could have a chance to listen and watch?

This turned out to be very successful – Guy provided examples and instruction in oral storytelling during L.A. classes and gave the boys time to prepare and practice their stories. Using their school laptops, each boy filmed his story and saved it. We then hosted a celebratory Share session in the library: each boy brought his laptop, and we spread them out around the space with headphones and evaluation sheets. We gave everyone time to listen to as many of their classmates’ stories as possible. It was a wonderful celebration of their learning and a really unique way to evaluate each others’ understanding of the five senses. For the Evaluate phase, Guy made a peer evaluation form that was left at each laptop, so students could leave feedback on their classmates’ stories. 

Both classes rotated around the library to listen to the stories

Boys listen to each others’ oral stories and leave feedback

 

My next and final post will be a look at our Grade 6 Guided Inquiry project – also based on new curriculum, and also leveraging the power of the Human Library!

 

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver, Canada

@curiousstgeorge

Cut and Paste

Hello everyone!

I’m back on the blog this week! Last year I wrote about some of the projects I helped to implement at my all-boys school in Vancouver, B.C.  This school year has gone by incredibly fast. I mean, they all do, but 2016-2017 seemed particularly speedy. One of the reasons is that British Columbia has an all-new curriculum and everyone at St. George’s has been working hard to adapt, imagine and plan. Later this week I will go into detail about how harnessing Guided Inquiry Design has helped our faculty to make sense of these new learning outcomes and content, which in many grades is vastly different from years past. But for today’s post, I thought I would share about how *not* following the Guided Inquiry framework religiously can also be of great benefit to your students!

As the go-to Guided Inquiry guru in my school, as well as the librarian (or The Oracle, as I prefer to be addressed), teachers are accustomed to approaching me for books and advice, so I have been able to help my colleagues develop and implement Guided Inquiry projects across the subjects and grades.

This is how I like to imagine myself at work.
Image credit: http://www.messagetoeagle.com

 

Sometimes, planning and carrying out an entire GI unit is neither time- nor energy- efficient. In other words, the haggard-looking teacher who has come to ask me to pull books on a certain topic gets a glazed look on their face as I start evangelizing and verbally re-organizing  their whole project into an amazing cross-curricular GI unit. Sometimes, people just want a little help, and some books. And that’s okay.

One of the best features of Guided Inquiry is that adopting and adapting the Open-Immerse-Expore phases into a more traditional research project is simple and very effective. If you have colleagues who are a little resistant to implementing a full Guided Inquiry project, or you’re short on time, think about using some of the phases to help increase student engagement and boost attainment.

An example of doing just this came about last year when the aforementioned haggard-looking Grade 2 teacher came to ask me to pull books on animals for the students to do a simple research project. In years past, I just looked for a variety of grade-appropriate animal books from the non-fiction collection, making sure I got a range of different species, packed them into a book tub and sent them off to the classroom. However, this time around, I decided to change things up, and with only minutes to spare, I did some guerilla Guided Inquiry!

After consulting with the teacher, I decided to inject some GI flavour into this project by giving the boys an Explore session before choosing their animal. Instead of pulling books about single species, I selected books that gave information on a variety of different animals thematically. For example, we have a series of books from QEB called “Animal Opposites”, with titles like “Fastest and Slowest” and “Smartest and Silliest”. A big hit was “A Little Book of Slime,” which describes snails, slugs, and their ilk. “Unusual Creatures” was also really popular.

I also made a quick worksheet made up of four boxes with space to write the name of the book, the page number, the name of the animal, and to draw a sketch. When the Grade 2s came to the library, instead of being told to think of an animal they wanted to research – which can be hard, when you’re 8! – we instead set up the thematic books at different tables, and told the students to spend some time browsing the different titles. When they found a really cool animal they might want to learn more about, they were to write down its name, the book and page number, and do a quick sketch of it. Later on, they were told, they could think about the most interesting animal they found, go find the book, and read more about it. This was simply a period to poke around in some interesting books and get an idea of what information was available.

Was this a true Guided Inquiry unit? Nope. I planned it on the fly. I was only involved in one period. There was no Open or Immerse phase before the Explore session. However, I believe there were a lot of benefits for both the students and the teachers.

Having an open-ended Explore session allowed the kids to look at an array of different creatures that they might not have known about. (Axolotls were easily the most popular choice. No surprises there; they are pretty cute.)  

Adorbs. Image credit: ARKive.org

They were also able to assess on the spot if there was enough information about their animals – and if it turned out there wasn’t, they had three other creatures of interest on their worksheets. If a certain book was too difficult for them to read or understand, we encouraged them to move on to another. They were very content to flip through pages, take simple notes, and sketch, without the pressure of having a topic in mind. They carried out basic note-taking and bibliographic skills by jotting down the title and page numbers that they were using (and in fact this was very helpful to ME, later, when I had to help the boys find the books again once the project got into full swing). They got a sense of what books were available to them, and how useful they would be.

This year, with time flying by and new curriculum to introduce, the teachers did not ask me for help on this project, and they approached it in a more traditional way: Think of an animal. Find it in a book. Write down what it eats, where it lives, etc. Now, I don’t really think there’s anything terribly wrong with this sort of “bird project” (to quote David Loertscher) but it can easily grow frustrational for kids who have chosen an animal and can’t find any information on it. Grade 2 students are, generally, not savvy enough to use the Internet to find information that’s not available in books, so unless the resources – print or otherwise – have been carefully selected in advance, there is a real possibility that some kids will come up empty-handed. Which is exactly what happened this year, when a parade of little guys were sent up to the library for help with their projects. I was able to help find books about most of their animals, but there were a few boys who had chosen creatures that, for whatever reason, we simply did not have much information on. It was a real missed opportunity, and I felt sorry for the boys who had to be told to change their topic: this could have easily been avoided with a repeat of the previous year’s impromptu Explore session.

So, if the thought of implementing a full-blown Guided Inquiry unit seems unlikely, consider stealing one of the first three phases to change things up a bit. It will increase student learning, make teachers’ and librarians’ lives a little easier, and be more fun for everyone.  Think of Guided Inquiry Design more as a recipe that you can alter as you like, not dogma that must be followed to the letter.

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver, B.C.

@curiousstgeorge

 

Individualized Reading Plans and Reflection

As my last post, I’d like to share some collaboration between myself and another English teacher, Michael Jett. Michael requires all of his English students to read at least one book per 9 week grading period and present a project to the class. So we have the usual struggles: students who want to pick a book they’re already read so they can skip the reading part; one wanted to choose Captain Underpants just to be cheeky; some genuinely have zero interest in reading anything.

We devised a system that Michael named the Individualized Reading Plan (IRP). We agreed that each of his students would come to the media center to meet with either me or Karen Hill (fortunately 2 media specialists work at my high school of 1,700!).

To begin, Michael always has his students fill out a reading survey via Google Form. He then shared those results with us. When each student came to the library, we pulled up the spreadsheet and reviewed their answers with them. We had them create some specific reading goals for the 9 weeks. We also had time to provide reader’s advisory individually and help them pick a book to read if they didn’t have one already. In short, it was every librarian’s dream! We repeated this process after the first 9 weeks grading period in order to reflect on their progress toward their goals, to make new goals, etc.

We decided halfway through the semester that recording all of this information on one Google Sheet made it difficult to read (and while I love technology, use it, and teach it, sometimes paper is just easier). Plus, we realized that not every student remembered their reading goals. So we came up with a handout that the students used to write down their goals and specific steps they would take to reach those goals. We even included space for their parents to sign the sheet and write down any comments.

Of course because of things like student absences, tests, assemblies, and life, the timing of these conferences did not always occur in a timely manner. But overall we were all pleased with the process and are looking forward to tweaking it next year. Mostly we were so happy to collaborate with a classroom teacher who put so much faith in the media specialists!

The Individualized Reading Plan process fits into the GID model by emphasizing individualized education, goal setting, and reflecting throughout the entire process. We used the concept of Third Space to connect students to reading material that would interest them, and provided scaffolding for the student who wanted to read Captain Underpants just to be sarcastic. You don’t always just happen to find your next favorite book; sometimes we all need some guidance and suggestions! This is the brilliance of the school library. There is something for everyone that they didn’t even know they were going to love. This process reminded some students that they did enjoy reading (sometimes teenagers need that little nudge!).

Self-reflection is the process that gets our students to that next level. Having them write their own goals and sign their names next to them helps them feel involved in their own education. When they start holding themselves accountable for their learning or lack thereof, we know we are doing our jobs.

Farewell from South Carolina! –Jamie Gregory   @gregorjm  Jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Michael Jett  @mrjett213  michael.jett@spart5.net