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/

 

My inception into GID

 

Hi all!

I’m Rahila Mukaddam, the guest blogger for this week on GID. I teach PYP4 at The International School in Karachi. Previously I’ve taught Pre-K to Grade 4 at AIS Kuwait – an IB school. Being at an IB school has driven the inner me to be more of an inquirer and a risk-taker. It has pushed me to take up courses, activities and many other things which I would not have taken up had I not been exposed to the IB way of life. I strive to live it and model it for my students. Last year I worked on my Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy and am now a COETAIL grad. It has opened up a whole new world to me. Plus now that my PLN has expanded and keeps on doing so, I have more avenues of learning new things. I love being a Learner more than being a teacher! Hence, my aim is always to give my students choice in their learning.

I came across Guided Inquiry Design through Twitter of course (my trusty PLN). I started reading up on all the resources I could find online (I still have to get my hands on the book itself). The more I read, the more connections I am making to the IB philosophy and pedagogy. GID and IB both stimulate the students thinking through a Constructivist approach. Both focus on inquiry-led learning and student agency. I have barely skimmed the surface of GID but it is intriguing and I want to dive in deeper. The most important reason for this intrigue is that it is central to student agency.

 

The other day, while looking for more information on GID, I came across this poster about the 6Cs. I think it blends all the ideals of GID and IB in concise manner. Students need to think outside the box to get the bigger ideas, they need to move from LOTS to HOTS, question, evaluate and reflect what they learn. Finally they have to collaborate and communicate outside the four walls of the classroom to gain a broader perspective. I see this happening with guided inquiry. For me it yet remains to be seen if I am successful in guiding my students in the right direction. The power of yet…

The Power of YET… – Shelia Tobias

Keep steady and Learn! That’s my motto.

Recently I tried using the GID process when my students designed their Math games for Math Night at school. As I mentioned earlier, student agency is the most important thing for me as a teacher. With this process I saw student voice and choice coming to the forth. But to read more about that, you will have to wait till the next post. Till then I would love to hear how PYP/Elementary teachers are using GID in their classrooms. Till then…

Rahila Mukaddam

The Questions that Drive Me Forward

At the end of the day, there are always more questions than answers and this is what keeps pushing forward to learn more.  Guided Inquiry and Deign Thinking were never intended to work together, but they do have interesting similarities that can be leveraged to benefit each other.  But what are the challenges that present themselves when using these models either together or individually?

The first that comes to my mind is in the process of helping students to find their Third Space.  How do we better connect students with topics that are meaningful to them?  I’ve spent significant time with students who just can’t seem to find that topic that has personal meaning within the curricular domain that we are studying.  I’ve had students who flip flop between projects as they try to find that one design problem them that they really need to solve.  Guided Inquiry certainly has some ideas that support this process through the Open, Immerse and Explore phases and these can be leveraged in or before an Empathy phase in Design Thinking but there always seems to be one or more students who are so connected to the game of school or disconnected from the subject matter that finding Third Space seems to be impossible.  They just want to be told what to do and they will go off and do it.  Give them a hoop, and they will jump through it.  What can we do for them, hopefully without devoting so much time to one or two students that we neglect the rest of the class?

Creating and Prototyping require skills.  There is a second domain of learning that is required for a student to be able to make anything.  We spend years teaching students how to write an essay.  When they are asked to write a paper on topic X, they know what to do, but what happens when we say, “OK, make whatever you want to demonstrate your learning.”  Or if we say, “Here’s the problem.  Make something that solves it.”  We need to structure the Create/Prototype phase in a way that at least helps the student take inventory of what they know how to do so that they can apply the right skills to the problem at hand.  I have had students jump into projects only to find out that they don’t have a clue how to go about what they’ve set out to do.  I’ve also had students hell-bent on presenting something in a way that demonstrates their skills in making in a particular way but is completely ineffective in demonstrating their learning of the topic.  What structures can we put in place or how do we otherwise support these students so they don’t get overwhelmed, lost, or simply default to an essay or powerpoint because that’s the only thing they know how to do?

Finally, where does an inquiry unit really end?  The dream is that a student will become so connected with a topic that there are more questions that come from their research or the product that they build is simply version 1 of a long line of constantly improving versions.  Our assignments turn into their life’s work.  But we don’t have time for that.  We need to move to the next chapter in the textbook or next unit in the curriculum.  How do we support the students when they do get it right in a transformative way?  What can we do to build that next unit so there are opportunities to reflect on their work in different ways and continue to follow their passion?  I know that this is highly situationally dependent and one jurisdiction will be more tightly prescribed in how they move through the content of the course than the next, but isn’t this the Holy Grail of teaching?  Isn’t this what it’s all about?  Once the student does make that meaningful connection, how do we continue to support them to follow their interests as far as they can take them?

I’ve enjoyed sharing my thinking here on the 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry blog.  I know that I have clarified my thinking in some areas through the act of writing them down for you, and I truly hope that at least one person has got something out of it.  I’d be curious to know what you thought of any or all of the last three posts and would love to continue the conversation here in the comments, via Twitter (@marc_crompton) or even through email (mcrompton@stgeorges.bc.ca).  And if you’re ever in Vancouver, come by the school and we can show you what we’re up to!

Thanks for reading,

Marc Crompton

Musings on GID vs DT

Last post, I talked briefly about the relationship between Design Thinking and GID.  Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that relationship and look at how these two models can complement each other.  As we will see, each model has its strengths that can support the other assuming that the context is right.  One thing to keep in mind through this discussion is that the origins of each model are significantly different and so the emphasis is different in each.  Guided Inquiry came out of the recognition that student research projects were ineffective and often caused students a range of unintended emotions.  Carol Kuhlthau’s research looked at identifying how (or if) students were engaged at various points of the research process and looked at ways of increasing that engagement.  Almost exclusively, the typical medium for demonstrating one’s knowledge was the research essay.  The Design Thinking model came from an attempt to understand how folks who make new things work.  This looked at trying to codify the often messy process that someone building anything from a car engine, to a lemon juicer, to a prosthetic might use.  While these are very different processes – and one might argue that the way one person operates within a research or design process might be very different from another carrying out the same task – there are enough parallels to make the discussion fruitful.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  After all, it is a very good place to start!  Both Design Thinking and Guided Inquiry begin with open collection of information.  This begins with a broad spark from some experience that kicks the process into gear (Open in Guided Inquiry, the design brief in Design Thinking).  Guided Inquiry breaks this process into three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – and allows students a period of loosely guided wallowing in the topic in order to build genuine connections and interest.  We recognize that the topic is likely brought down from on high by the teacher, but every attempt is made to ensure that the student sees a real connection with their own life.  Likewise, Design Thinking uses an Empathy phase.  This is a very human-centred process that builds understanding of the needs of the users of whatever is being designed.  This will include interviews and other forms of research that simply build an understanding of the problem.  While this phase is typically human-centred, I find that there is also an element of research here as well.  To understand other’s needs and to truly understand the problem, there is likely some straight-up book or web research that digs into the concepts behind the issues.  For example, if one is building a prosthetic hand for someone else, one needs to understand how the hand is going to be used (an office worker might have different needs than a rock climber), how materials affect the way the hand can be used, and perhaps what other designs may have been used in the past to address similar issues.  Of course, an understanding of the bone and muscle structure of a normally functioning hand would be immensely useful!

Next, comes the definition of the problem.  In GID, this comes in the phrasing of the ultimate question being addressed and may look like a driving question, a research question, a thesis statement or any number of carefully wordsmithed structures.  In Design Thinking, this is the definition statement and can come in the form of a question that starts with, “How might we…” or it can look more like a statement that reads “User X needs Y because of Z.”  In both models, we spend time building broader understanding in order to come to a point where defining the problem is effective.  There are plenty of stories of designers who, after an effective empathy phase, define the problem in a way that the end user had never thought of, but on reflection, addresses the true nature of the problem better than the use ever could have.  The solution is something far different than was originally expected.  Likewise, a teacher might have an idea of what directions a student might take a GID unit, but until the personal connections with the topic are made, the ultimate direction of the projects can be surprisingly different!

Once we have our definition, the paths of the two models diverge a little.  In Guided Inquiry, this is where we get down to the work of gathering and digesting information for our research.  In Design Thinking, we can think of the Ideation phase as a process of gathering as many possible solutions to the defined problem as possible.  In GID, the ideas come from others; in Design Thinking, the ideas come from ourselves.  You might think of Gathering as focusing your thinking while Ideation as a process of widening your thinking, although that would only be partly true.  The purpose of Ideation is to consider all possible solutions and then pick the “best” one for the next phase.  While the process is somewhat different, it points in the same direction.

The fun begins in the Create/Prototype phase.  Both of these are where the learning manifests itself into some creation, whether that be a written paper or physical product.  Both involve the playing with ideas that are a result of the previous phases and articulating thinking in a way that will ultimately be shared with others.  It should be pointed out that in both models, the apparent linear sequence is somewhat of a fallacy and I would say, no more a fallacy than between the gathering of ideas and the articulation of them.  An essay writer will find that there are remaining questions that need to be answered and will go back and gather more information as much as an engineer might get to a certain point with a prototype and realizes that the idea simply won’t work and needs to go back to the ideation phase.

Finally, the work needs to be shared and reflected on.  In GID these are the Share and Evaluate phases.  In Design Thinking, we test the prototype and that process, in all likelihood, involves testing against the users’ needs and sharing it with those users.  GID promotes the idea that this sharing should not be the private handing in of an essay to the teacher but sharing learning back to the community of learners in order to extend and deepen everyone’s learning.  In Design Thinking, that sharing is more dependent on the situation.  If the design problem has been presented by a single person, then maybe the sharing is back to that individual.  Usually, there is a larger user group that the prototype is tested with.  The essential point in this is that the purpose of sharing is different.  GID shares to deepen community understanding while Design Thinking shares in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

It strikes me, as I write this, that GID is might be typically good for thinking about concepts while Design Thinking might be good for thinking about things.  I’m sure that this is a drastic over-simplification, but there is some truth in it.  GID can be used to solve problems by building something, but the nature of the research is primarily conceptual.  You might be trying to understand people’s perspectives or the reasons behind something.  The results of that conceptual research might be manifest in writing, physical objects or virtual simulations, but the concepts are at the focus.  In Design Thinking, the thinking is more about how we make something to solve a problem.  It can be a subtle distinction, but the emphasis is important.  The kinds of things one thinks about when building a solution to a problem might be what materials are best to use, how we connect those materials, what function our object needs to perform and how the design serves the function.  Clearly, there are concepts underlying all of this, but the concepts serve the process where in GID the concepts are the process.  Again, this is likely a drastic generalization and many examples can likely be brought forward that show the weakness of this argument, but I think that there is some use in at least exploring this comparison.

Once we understand the strengths of each model and how they relate, we can use that knowledge to build even more powerful units in particular areas.  Of course, there will be situations where one model stands on its own brilliantly and would likely be made weaker by forcing ideas of the other into it.  But there are situations where the combination is even more powerful.  The research ideas behind Open, Immerse, Explore and even Gather can underpin the Empathize piece for those Design Thinking processes that require more academic underpinnings.  Likewise, the ideas behind Empathize can support more socially based GID units.  Of course, given that Design Thinking is often about building a solution to a problem, some of the prototyping ideas can help similar Create phases of GID.

Next post, I’ll look at some questions and issues that I’m having with both models.  It seems that the more that I explore, the more questions I have!

 

Marc Crompton

Introducing: Marc Crompton

Well… reintroducing, really!  I’m a Teacher Librarian at St George’s School in Vancouver, BC.  That’s right, the same school as the divine Curious St George!  While she’s at our Jr School (grades 1-7), I see the boys when they come up the street to our Sr School.  Yes, I used the word “boys” purposely as we are a single-gender (boys) school.  You might be interested in my posts (1,2,3) from last year where I talked about work with a grade 10 Social Studies Class and how I look at other tools as they work in conjunction with GID, such as NSRF’s protocols.

To put things in context, I’ve been at St George’s School for 25 years.  I was likely hired, in part, because I’d played rugby in high school, but I was brought on as a music teacher and have yet to spend a day on the rugby pitch.  In 2009, some different opportunities opened up at the school that I thought that I’d try my hand at.  I started leading an educational technology cohort of teachers and took on a very “part-time and temporary” role as our school librarian.  Since then, I’ve completed my MLIS at San Jose State and am permanent and very full time…  In the past year, I’ve also taken on the creation and administration of a grade 10 STEM program.  Through this time, I’ve written a number of articles for Teacher Librarian magazine, co-authored a book on Collection Development with Dr David Loertscher and, most recently and pertinently, have contributed chapters to Leslie’s High School edition of the GID book series.  I also have a personal blog that I’m recently not contributing much to, but if you’re more interested in the kinds of things that I think about, you could head over to Adventures in Libraryland.
My journey in GID started in a meaningful way, when Leslie was kind enough to organize a trip to Boston for myself, Curious St George and two of our Sr School Social Studies teachers to check out two schools who were deeply embeded in the ways of GID.  The teachers and librarians at Lexington and Westborough High Schools were amazing hosts and we had a chance to talk in depth with students and teachers about their experiences with GID in conjunction with some great chats with Leslie to help put it all in perspective.  From there, we came back to Vancouver and started implementing the model and spreading the gospel.  Since then, I’ve worked with teachers at our Sr School in Social Studies, English, Computer Science, and Languages to design and implement GID units.  Some were successful and some were less so, but all engaged students in meaningful ways and made research relevant.

In my own teaching, I’ve been looking at instructional design models that focus around building or making physical manifestations of student learning.  My current STEM cohort works most overtly with a Design Thinking model that has come out of Stanford’s dSchool.  This is not to say that I’ve abandoned GID however.  My experience and knowledge of the GID model has informed everything that I do within the Design Thinking model.  I actually see a strong correlation between the two models and I think that aspects of GID truly make Design Thinking, when used as instructional design, much more effective.

In a nutshell, the emphasis in Design Thinking is in the creating a solution to a problem.  In many ways, it is akin to Problem Based Learning.  What GID brings to the process is the stronger research structure and documentation of thinking.  While every one of my students thinks in terms of the Design Thinking model and are adept at adapting that model to a variety of situations, they are also using the tools of GID in their Inquiry Journals (blogs), and how they approach their Immerse and Explore phases.

My next posts will look at this relationship between GID and my students’ use of Design Thinking.  Likely, my last post will look at our current process and investigate how explicit use of GID concepts will allow us to improve the work that they are doing in a few key ways.  I hope that you’ll enjoy reading and I encourage you to push back and challenge me as we go.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I likely have even fewer than I think I do!

 

Marc Crompton

 

Inquiring Minds want to Know: Taking our GID Journey on the Road

Last month, I did something completely out of my comfort zone: I presented GID at a state conference. Let me just mention that presenting to a group of like-minded peers on a large stage has been one of my greatest fears. What if I mess up? What if people do not like what they hear? What if I forget what to say? Yes, I know- these fears are all highly illogical, but nevertheless, these questions are what prevented me from stepping up in the past.

But now, I feel a responsibility, and as a type A overachiever, I never shy away from fulfilling my duties. After attending the Rutgers institute and spending the year working as hard as we have on redesigning our units using GID, I feel that it is now my duty to share with others in the state more about this model.

The Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association (WEMTA) is a state organization comprised of Wisconsin’s leading library media and technology specialists. Each spring, the state conference attracts leaders who volunteer to share the latest and greatest innovations in education. This year, I felt that it was my time to step up and share what I have learned. In my opinion, what we are doing with GID in De Pere is special, and I want the rest of the educators in Wisconsin to know more about how GID can change the culture of learning.  Besides, there isn’t a better model out there that supports the role of the library media specialist as the expert on information literacy.

After applying to present and receiving acceptance, my team- Peggy Rohan, Literacy Coach, Cara Krebsbach, Science/Social Studies Teacher, and Betty Hartman, Principal- and I shared our story on an early Sunday afternoon. Our goal was to not only expose others to each step in the GID model, but to also share our unique examples and strategies. In essence, our presentation was about our journey and what we have learned through engaging our students and teachers in the GID process. As a result, our session attendees left with practical, ready-to-use tools that they could immediately incorporate into their own classrooms. Isn’t this what all educators are looking for when they attend professional development sessions?

While I still consider myself an introvert, this experience opened me up to the importance of sharing with others in the profession as much as possible. While I am by no means a GID expert, I realize that I am helping others simply by sharing my experience. Education is a hard profession, and the only way to survive is by supporting and sharing professionally with one another. I constantly rely on others who share. It is only fair that I give back as well.

With that, here is our WEMTA presentation.  You will find examples of our units, student products, and our handouts. We welcome your thoughts and feedback and hope that you will share your examples with us as well.

Finally, Twitter is a great way to share all of the good and exciting work that we continue to do with GID. I vow to share frequently and widely. In this day and age, it is especially important that we positively promote the good happening in public education. Please follow me on Twitter @donnalynnyoung to see the good happening at De Pere Middle School. I would love to follow you back and see GID in action at your school as well!

I look forward to continuing to learn more about GID and how to best meet our students’ needs from you. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

Shifting the Learning Culture: Triumphs and Challenges in GID Implementation

As mentioned in my previous post, DPMS has transformed learning in all of our content area classes through GID by providing students with an engaging, 21st century, research-based learning model. While we are by no means experts on GID, we have spent extensive time this year learning more about the model, rewriting old content area units, and testing out new techniques and technologies. In this post, I will share with you some tips that we have learned along the way from our own successes and mistakes.

First, we always begin our unit planning by outlining every step of the process using a template provided to us at the Rutgers institute. Outlining each step and the essential learning goals prior to beginning a unit is essential for success. The planning process is a team effort consisting of me, Literacy Coach, Peggy Rohan, the content area teacher(s), and other extended team members such as our Technology Training Specialist and administrators. It is important for us to identify not only the essential questions and learning goals, but also the necessary resources and documents that are needed during a unit to ensure that each team member clearly understands his or her role and the learning activities during each stage. To aid in visualizing our planning process, view our plan for an upcoming eighth-grade social studies slavery unit

Teaching with GID has been a shift for the teachers, and Peggy and I continue to work with them on letting go of the idea that mastering facts and focusing on content is essential to learning in the 21st century. We continue to reassure teachers that what students really need is exposure to the topic and just enough background information to get them thinking about a research topic of interest; students will continue to learn from one another as they share their research at the end of the process. Moving from a “fact-based” curriculum to one that immerses students in inquiry learning doesn’t happen overnight, and through GID we are working to change the culture of learning so that students become critical, analytical consumers of information and effective problem solvers.

Exposing students to content information during the Immerse phase is easy when you consider the many different modern technologies and websites that we have available at our fingertips. When unit planning, I always consider the various tech tools available, and I try to weave in as many real-world experiences as possible. For example, while planning our Africa unit I learned about this awesome new website called Belouga. Belouga provides a platform for connecting students asynchronously with other classrooms from around the world after students answer a series of profile questions on culture, history, cuisine, school, environment, family, and interests. Once teachers request a classroom connection, and once students answer at least 25 profile questions, students are matched with a partner from the connected school, and they have access to their partner’s answers of the same profile questions. Reading profile responses from students in Kenya and Ghana was an eye-opening experience for our students as they were able to read first-person accounts of life on an entirely different and diverse continent. These connections also provided opportunities for rich classroom discussions and ignited student interest in further investigating issues presented by the African students.

Virtual reality is another great way to immerse students in real-world learning. During our Ancient China unit, students took a trip to the Great Wall of China through Google Expeditions. Google Expeditions offers thousands of free, narrated VR tours. In addition, Nearpod is another great source for finding pre-made VR lessons. Even without VR headsets, students still can be immersed in meaningful VR experiences by simply viewing tours on their smartphones or on iPads.

Another important pedagogical shift that we have made involves effectively teaching students how to ask meaningful inquiry questions. In the traditional research model, teachers assign a topic and send students off to try and find basic, often regurgitated facts that answer questions assigned by the teacher (think traditional “country report” where the student spits back facts such as the population, government, sports, etc.). In the GID model, students are responsible for coming up with their own research questions based on a topic of interest. We continue to work with our teachers on the best way to teach student questioning and push them to let go of assigning “criteria” that all students must answer in their final products. In teaching questioning, we have found the QFT model to be a successful way to get students thinking about the difference between open and closed questions. We encourage students to focus on writing “how” or “why” questions to ensure that they are asking only open questions. Once students have brainstormed their questions, it is essential for teachers to confer with students to help them modify and narrow their questions if necessary. Questioning is likely to be a very new skill for students, and many of them will need help with writing a question that is not too broad or too narrow. One final tip: don’t rush the Identify stage. Students need good research questions in order to effectively navigate the process and create a product that leads to new and transformative learning. When we design our units, we estimate that on average we need at least three full class periods to complete the Identify phase with fidelity.

Finally, I want to mention some thoughts about the Gather stage. This is also a stage that must not be rushed. As was often the case in the previously mentioned phases, Peggy and I had to work with teachers to ensure that students were learning the necessary- and correct- research skills that they needed to effectively navigate the research process. Many teachers have the misconception that students already “know” how to research when in reality they have never received instruction on skills such as searching in library databases, choosing effective keywords, ethically using others’ images and music, citing sources properly, or evaluating websites. I will specifically build these lessons into our GID units and either directly teach the lessons myself or provide screencast review tutorials for students. In many cases, the teachers themselves are not aware of 21st-century research tools and techniques, and during our GID trainings, I highlighted the importance of relying on the Library Media Specialist for support and student instruction especially during this phase.

Ultimately what matters at the end of the process is that students are positively impacted by learning through GID. What did our students think of the process after completing a GID unit?  I was curious, and at the end of our Africa unit, I conducted a few student interviews to find out. Please view the video below to hear a variety of student perspectives. Please note that the students in the video represent a range of learning abilities from the low to the high end of the spectrum.

While we have worked hard this year to restructure our learning culture, we realize that we still have a lot to learn. We continue to research, read, and review what we are doing as we learn more about how GID can transform student learning.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

My How a Year Changes Things!

Hello! My name is Donna Young, and I am the Library Media Specialist at De Pere Middle School in De Pere, WI- a neighbor of Green Bay. One year ago, I shared a story on this blog that looks very different when compared with the one that I will share with you this week.  Our story has evolved much in the course of a year, and it involves growth, constant learning, risk-taking, and ultimately CHANGE! Here’s a quick recap of how it began and how it progressed to where we are now.

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, seventh grade Social Studies teacher, Cara Krebsbach, wanted to try a new way of teaching her Mesopotamia unit and didn’t know where to start. With the assistance of Literacy Coach, Peggy Rohan, and myself, we helped Cara redesign Mesopotamia into an inquiry unit using Harvey’s and Daniels’ book Comprehension and Collaboration as our framework. While successful overall, we still felt that there were a few pieces missing in the process. A few months later, I received an email about an opportunity to attend the Guided Inquiry Design Institute at Rutgers to learn about Guided Inquiry Design. Peggy, Cara, and I were immediately on board about applying to the institute. This was the type of learning that we needed to incorporate more! Luckily our principal, Betty Hartman, agreed, and before we knew it we were off to Rutgers. Thus began De Pere Middle School’s transformation.

Before I tell more of this story, I want to mention that none of what we have done would have been possible without the support of a strong and open administrative team.  Betty jumped on board immediately and figured out a way to finance our trip to Rutgers. Not only did she attend herself, but so did our district Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Shelly Thomas. Our administrators have become essential members of our learning team as they are now deeply invested in finding the time for us to redesign units and train teachers on GID. They truly are leaders and partners in learning, and they are equally invested in this best practice model.

As mentioned previously, our transformation really began last July during our attendance at the institute. Once we were intensively immersed in learning more about the model, Peggy, Cara, Betty, Shelly, and I experienced an array of emotions- excitement, anticipation, wonder, and anxiety. We had a big task in front of us: not only were we to wrap our brains around understanding every step of the GID model, but we also had to write an entire GID unit surrounding the topic of “cells” prior to our departure. Of all of the units from which to choose cells was difficult since it required students to have more technical background prior to diving into independent research. Lucky for us, Leslie and her team offered the support that we needed, and we left the institute not only ready to integrate our cells unit at the beginning of the school year, but we were also inspired to consider other science and social studies units that would work well with GID.

Attending the institute was the push that we needed to get the ball rolling at De Pere Middle School. In the fall, we spent two half days training all of our science and social studies teachers on how to use the model, and this spring we did the same with our ELA teachers. In addition, all science and social studies teachers are reading Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School in professional book clubs. Peggy and I have been working diligently throughout the year to help rewrite old units into new and improved GID units. Thus far students have completed inquiry units on cells, alternative energies, Ancient China, and Africa. Upcoming units include slavery and changemakers.

While we have come so far in one year, I feel that our journey is just beginning. We still have more transformations to make as GID is not only a perfect model for the content areas, but it is also ideal for Related Arts classes such as Health, FACE, and foreign language. GID engages all students in 21st century best practice learning with a research-based, student-centered design.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

But it’s NOT WORKING!

I was struggling to decide what my theme for this, my final post, should be, and it occurred to me that I should probably write about the thing that had the most impact on my students- and on me- during this unit.  Thank, my Guided Inquiry friends, is technology.

I have strong feelings about the use of technology in the classroom.  I’m a firm believer in its power as a tool for engagement, as a tool for differentiation, and most importantly, as a tool to unlock inquiry learning for infinitely more students.  However, I’m also all too aware of the power of technology to turn even the most confident teacher into a red-faced, flustered mess.  We’ve all been there- with our perfect lesson plans, SO pleased with ourselves for incorporating technology, and then no one’s password will work.  Or all the laptops are dead.  Or the wifi is being plain old vindictive.  We should have seen it coming, but we didn’t, and now there are thirty eighth graders looking at us expectantly like, “Hello? You’re a teacher. Can’t you fix it?” And no. No, we can’t.

If that sounds personal, it is.  I just finished four weeks of doing daily battle with the wifi (hence the title of this post).  I had cords and ports and work orders and IT people galore, or so it seemed, and the wifi was still about as predictable as a moody teenager.  And believe you me, I had days where I wanted to lock it all up and throw away the key, and unearth a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica. But I couldn’t do that, and there are a couple of reasons why.

The first is that teaching students to be smart and successful in a digital world becomes more important quite literally EVERY DAY that we live. As teachers, we just love to talk about teaching the whole child and for better or worse, this is now a part of that. Our ultimate goal as educators isn’t just to turn out competent readers or mathematicians, but to develop responsible, contributing, global citizens who are equipped with the tools to be lifelong learners- and technology is now a basic fact of that existence.  So if I gave into my urge to shut it all down, I would be doing such a disservice to my students.

The other reason I can’t put it away and never get it out again is because of what that would teach my students about learning.  When students see us, as teachers, struggle, we’re essentially teaching them how to learn.  If we shut down and shy way and refuse to try when it gets hard and messy and complicated, that’s exactly what they will do. As an inquiry community, it’s especially important that we don’t do that- and I’m talking to myself too here- because inquiry learning (at least in my experience) is messy and complicated- but ultimately SO worth it.  So if I want my students to take the risks involved, I have to be willing to take risks as well, so they’ll know what that looks like.

So the encyclopedias stayed- I don’t know, wherever they are (although I did have a great selection of WWII books, courtesy of the WMS library), and we persevered.  We learned how to troubleshoot and change networks and to plain old turn it off and turn it back on again.  And the results were more than worth it.

Thank you SO much for letting talk your ear off this week, and huge thanks to Leslie for giving me another chance to hijack her blog.  I LOVE sharing and can’t wait to read the about the other great stuff you all are doing in 2017!

 

–Paige Holden

The Tyrion Lannister of Blog Posts

As you may have guessed from the title, this is like, the Tyrion Lannister of blog posts- especially in comparison with yesterday. If you are not a crazed Game of Thrones fan like me (the show, not the books- sorry!), ignore my nerdy reference and let’s move on.

So, when my team and I  went to training in 2015, we were the only ones from Whittier.  So when we came back, singing Guided Inquiry’s praises and overflowing with excitement about our plans, I really do think people thought we were crazy.  But then, there were two summer institutes, and Whittier teachers when to both of them.  Then there was a fall institute, and more people went.  Then there was a spring institute, and even MORE people when. I’m so ecstatic that this year, every single eighth grader and two-thirds of sixth graders experienced Guided Inquiry.  And seventh grade- this is even more exciting- all the seventh graders will participate in TWO guided inquiry units. It’s spreading like wildfire in our school and our district, and I want to share a little of what other teachers are doing.

SIXTH GRADE:

I loved hearing from Jan Filbeck, sixth grade social studies teacher and social studies department chair, about the cross-curricular unit taught by sixth grade social studies and Language Arts. Their unit was Ancient Cultures, focusing specifically on the Egyptians. Greeks, Incas, and Mayans. These cultures were chosen because sixth grade social studies curriculum covers the Western Hemisphere and language arts curriculum encompasses Greek and Egyptian literature. They wanted students to discover for themselves what makes a civilization great, and hoped that they would discover along the way that some civilizations create lasting literature and some don’t.

Jan also shared her frustrations about technology.  This is a common theme in conversations about research, because we have eleven hundred students and an estimated two hundred student computers available for classroom use- IF they’re all working. She said that on the days the computers were all booked, some students used their phones, but not all students have web-enabled phones.  Jan and her teammates are looking forward to next year, as the district’s 1:1 technology initiative is implemented, and all students will have their own device. She stated, “Most of our units are research based, so it will be easy to convert a new unit to guided inquiry now that I know what I am doing…I think it will work with several of our projects.”
SEVENTH GRADE:

Seventh graders at Whittier are especially fortunate this year. In addition to the Language Arts unit planned at the summer session, seventh grade science teachers are getting ready to teach a unit they planned at the most recent institute.  I spoke via email with Kim Heaton, seventh grade science teacher and science department chair.  She told me that the unit is about how technology has modified the traits of plants and animals.  I can only imagine how interesting that research will be, and I can’t wait to hear about the great things their students learn.

Christiona Reid, seventh grade Language Arts teacher, shared with me about their Civil Rights unit, which is currently coming to a close. She did such a terrific job explaining that I have included her words here:

“Students began the unit with an open gallery walk using images from past to current civil rights issues.  Next, students immersed themselves into a memoir about the Little Rock Nine.  While students read, they created discussion questions and wrote journals about what they read.

For the explore phase, students were added to a Google Classroom to explore various topics dealing with the concept, then at the end of each day completed journal responses and responded to a classmate’s journal.  The explore phase has been the most successful part of the Guided Inquiry Unit.  Google Classroom has been helpful for differentiating material and checking progress. For students who were struggling with exploring through sources, I was able to schedule a time for material and websites to be sent out to those students. This allowed them to struggle a little and then have support at the right time.

For the identify phase, students in my class did a gallery walk for questions.  Individually, students created higher level questions over various topics, then spent some time talking in groups and writing those are large sheets of paper.  At the end of the day, we had questions from every class and almost every student.  Then, the next day, students walked through the questions and wrote three that interested them.  After the identify phase, we spent another day exploring.  Students took their top three questions and searched to see if there was enough information.  They then narrowed it down to one top question they wanted to research.

For the gather phase, students spend a week research their large research question.  We reemphasized the importance of leveled questions for the gather phase.  Students had to create lower level questions that helped answer their large research question.  This phase I struggled with the most because of technology issues.  Also, students created really tough questions that were above seventh grade level, but I didn’t realize it until they started gathering or were in the middle of the process.  For example, one students created the following question: How did women in the military affect the military’s productivity?

We are about to start the create phase, where students are creating projects from a choice board.  They have to make a physical product, complete a piece of writing, and complete their gather page with sources.  When they finish, students will do a museum share out and a quick write evaluation.”

-Christiona Reid, Seventh Grade Language Arts                                                                                                                                                                         

I am SO thankful to those awesome teachers for sharing with me, and to Norman Public Schools for being a district that values and invests in professional development.  Because of them, the majority of students at our school were able to experience inquiry learning this year, and that will only increase as we have access to more and more technology.  But more about that tomorrow. 🙂

 

–Paige Holden

 

The Best Laid Plans

WELL. My first draft of this post was WAY too  long.  So I changed it, and talked less.  A revolutionary idea, I know.  If you told my students that, they wouldn’t believe you. Anyway, this post is about our unit.  I’m planning a mini-post later in the week about the other exciting units happening around me.  I want to share resources but I also know I can’t go on forever, so red text means links if you’re interested in seeing exactly what we used!

This is a unit that has already seen multiple iterations.  For a few years, we read The Diary of Anne Frank (the screenplay), by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Night, by Elie Wiesel. Those texts were supplemented with discussions of historical background and the use of propaganda by both sides.  However- confession time!-  I was never happy with Night. The combination of difficult language and mature content made it all but inaccessible to everyone but my most gifted students, which led to disconnect and apathy about the whole thing- the opposite of what I was hoping for. Night is, of course, a wonderful book that everyone should read, and I don’t aim to keep my students from struggling, but I wanted them to have a more connected, personal, meaningful reading experience. I struggled with ways to do that over the years, trying everything from ignoring it entirely (NOT what I would recommend) to using dystopian literature to make Holocaust connections, and finally settling on Holocaust historical fiction.  But every year, at the end of the unit, students still had so many questions that we couldn’t possibly answer them all.   For that reason,  THIS is the unit we chose to overhaul with Guided Inquiry.

OPEN:

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”   

Immediately upon coming into class the first day, students were shown this quote.  They were asked to brainstorm for five minutes about what that quote means, whether it’s true or not, and what it could mean for them, or for society. They shared their impressions with each other, and a few volunteered to share with the whole class.  I then told them that this had been translated (albeit loosely) from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and asked that they add to their original writing, telling me whether or not knowing who said this impacted their perspective and explaining their answer.

We also looked at Holocaust photos and students made observations about what they saw, then made inferences about what was happening, then shared their answers with each other and ultimately with the class. 


Last, we watched a video clip from The Sound of Music. Serendipitously, students had seen a stellar performance of it in the fall at Norman North High School, so they all recognized the song Edelweiss, and we relived intensity of the scene where Captain Von Trapp becomes too emotional to go on singing, so his family joins him, and then the whole audience does, even while the SS Guards are waiting to take him away. After listening, I asked if anyone knew what an Edelweiss was, and they were surprised to learn that it is a flower native to Austria.  We watched a second time, and then discussed why they would all be singing and having such strong feelings about a flower.  I was impressed with  how insightful they were, talking about how the flower represents Austria, and singing along is a way for the whole audience to express their dissent. In some classes this spurred conversations about how important it is to express dissent and how we have many more options for doing that in the United States.  I can only let those go on for so long, but I do love that they’re making real-world connections already.

IMMERSE: 

We hung out here for awhile.  First, we read The Diary of Anne Frank in our literature books. Before reading, we watched the first half of the terrific documentary Anne Frank Remembered. I like watching part of this first because it gives some background information about each of the inhabitants of Anne’s secret annex, and there is footage of the actual annex as well.  This helps students to have some context for what the families endured before going into hiding, as well as what they were dealing with in such a small space. As we read the play, students kept a list of questions they had in their comp books. The play ends abruptly, with the families being discovered by the Nazis.  When we finish reading, we also watch the second half of Anne Frank Remembered, because the students always need closure on what became of Anne and the other inhabitants of the annex in the concentration camps.

Next, my teammates Kasey McKinzie and Leah Esker and I had a carousel of immersion lessons.  Since our ultimate plan was for each student to develop a question about World War II, we each chose a different aspect to discuss.   We taught the same lesson for three days to our own class and to each other’s classes.  The topics were propaganda, concentration camps, and resistance efforts. Students took a note catcher to each class to keep track of information and to generate questions.

The last step was for students to be fully immersed in a WWII historical fiction novel of their choosing. I’ve written several grants over the last few years (I’m SO thankful for our Norman Public Schools Foundation- they help us to great things for our kids), I ended up with fifteen different book choices for my students (if you read my blog last year, you know that I am positively RABID about student choice) with a variety of settings and protagonists. We wanted to students to read their novels, talk about them with each other, and learn about the Holocaust from multiple perspectives, generating questions the whole time.  It wasn’t as neat and tidy as all that, but we did eventually get there. We dedicated almost two weeks of class time for reading, and they did keep a reading log that I checked everyday so I could monitor their progress,  and they completed a reading guide to help me check for understanding and critical thinking, as well as to help facilitate their discussions.

EXPLORE: 

The next phases seemed to me to pass very quickly, especially in comparison with immerse.  We spent three days in Explore, and I wish we had spent longer.  But I was happy with what we did with that time.  With the help of our librarian, we created a symbaloo filled with resources for our students to explore.  As they did so, they kept track of what they may or may not want to come back to on an inquiry log we adapted. They were able to read articles and interviews, watch videos, and more.

IDENTIFY:

Up until now, students had been keeping a list of questions. I asked them to choose one and write it on a post it. We then began identify with a discussion on levels of questions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made sure to emphasize in this discussion that there’s nothing WRONG with asking level one and two questions, especially when you are unfamiliar with a topic.  Then I asked students to put their post it notes one the correct poster for what level their questions were. Here’s what that looked like when it was finished:

There are more post its on the One and Two poster, but the questions really did run the gamut, which I was pleased to see.

The next day, When students got to class, I asked them to get out everything they’d done so far.  This was their note catcher from immerse, their inquiry log from explore, and the list of questions they had been keeping in their comp books. They went through and highlighted the things on each page that were most interesting to them, and then narrowed down to their top three choices.  I asked them to rewrite those choices as questions if they hadn’t already. We then went through this adapted chart to identify together, and students examined their top three ideas closely. We then took a sample question and went through the process of developing a web together.  I did this in my last unit, and it unintentionally spurred this terrific conversation about how you HAVE to answer level one and two questions before you get to higher level questions, and I hoped to recreate that this year.  It worked well.  We completed this example together:

Then students created their own brainstorming maps.  Some of them really responded to the web example:

 

And some of them created a map all their own:

This did require trial and error for some students.  I heard quite a bit of…”Um, I don’t have any other questions to ask?” That was good, because it let me know when a student needed help either writing a higher level question OR if I needed to provided guidance that they attempt another one of their options.

Before students left, I had them write their final (for that day, anyway- we definitely had some wafflers, which was fine!) questions- here are a few of them:

  • In what different ways did Nazi propaganda affect the opinions of German people?
  • How did the medical experiments performed on some prisoners impact survivors mentally and physically?
  • How did the U.S. program of Lend-Lease affect the outcome and aftermath of WWII?
  • How did Nazi occupation of other countries affect those countries and their citizens?
  • How did the actions of those involved in resistance efforts impact the outcome of the war?
  • How were Jewish refugees treated similarly or differently to the way refugees are treated today?

GATHER:

I remember writing last year that I loved Gather because of the switch that took place in the classroom- instead of me showing them cool stuff, suddenly THEY were the ones with the inside information.  That definitely happened again this year, once we turned them loose. Before we did that, we knew we needed to talk about determining credible sources.  The reasons for that extend far beyond an eighth grade research project- in the information age, it becomes more important every day for EVERYONE to be able to determine credibility and to know bias when they see it.  So we like to start with a discussion of Wikipedia and how to use it as a starting point and not an ending point.  We actually read an article on Wikipedia about how Wikipedia isn’t intended for academic use. We also watched this video on determining website credibility, which does have some tips but is most just HILARIOUS.  We also have a great tutorial, that’s really more of a webquest. We have a handout and student find the answers.  (Just like last year, I fully credit my best friend and all-around library mastermind Kelsey Barker with developing this part of the lesson when she worked at Whittier several years ago).

In the past, we stopped there.  But this year, in our current climate, we didn’t feel like that was enough.  With students being inundated with information everyday, we wanted them to have the knowledge to sort it ALL out- not just when they’re doing research.  So we looked at this, which is originally from pigscast, but I saw it when Leslie shared it on Facebook (thanks, Leslie!):

I’ll admit, I was nervous about this.  I think it’s incredibly important to talk about ISSUES with kids, but I think it’s just as important to keep partisanship out of it.  They’re in eighth grade, and many of them haven’t developed their OWN opinions.  I want everyone to feel welcomed and loved in my class, so when we talk about issues, I frame them in the way that they relate to the curriculum.  So I really had my reservations about this, but I could NOT have been more pleased with the way my students handled it.  I issued a disclaimer right away that I didn’t care for the use of the word Garbage, and I would like us to ignore that. We used this to talk about recognizing bias in the media, and how just because something is biased doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read it, but that we should do so with the bias in mind. I really wanted my students to take two things away from this chart, and they found them both.  The first is that The more neutral a source is, the higher quality it is. The next thing I did was have students point to major news outlets on the big screen, and we put little flags by them.  When we were done, students could see that of the places people are most likely to get news, none of them fall into the neutral category. Even though I had reservations, I ended up being so proud of how mature and observant my classes were, and I think it was a really worthwhile discussion.

THEN we turned them loose, armed with all this information, to find their own sources.

CREATE: 

This one was so hard for us to decide.  Last year, we wrote an essay, so we were considering that option.  When we taught the novels in isolation, students did a great creative project about perspective, but we couldn’t figure out a good way to marry that with the research they were doing.  When we were trying to decide, I recall saying to my colleague Leah, “I’m not married to any product we’ve done before.  I’m married to the PROCESS, and I think the product we choose should be a true reflection of that.” She ultimately had the terrific idea of having students create an annotated bibliography.  I loved this idea because it allowed us to stay completed immersed in research the entire time- no one’s attention was diverted by the stress of trying to get a paper written or anything else.  The entire unit, the focus truly was on the research students were doing and the sources they were finding.  In their annotated bib, students had to summarize their source, provide two indications that it is a credible source, and explain how it helped them ultimately answer their question. Here is an example of a finished bibliography.

Okay. Whew.  I’ve done so much talking.   I will link our activities for Share and Evaluate here. For share, once students had their thoughts on paper, we did an inside/outside circle, or wagon wheel, so that they got to hear from multiple people.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our unit! I’m happy to answer any questions or give more information about everything. At the end of every unit, I can’t help but think about what I would have done differently, but I am ultimately happy with the decisions we made.  I’ll be back tomorrow to share some other great things happening around my school.  Thanks for reading!

-Paige Holden