The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.

St.Johns.Church.people

During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!

The 2016 Collaborative School Library Award

Yesterday I invited you to experience the “Open” stage of the award-winning GID unit developed by two librarians and a social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA. They based the unit my book, BROTHERHOOD, and posted all of their materials on this Blendspace page so that others can recreate the unit in their schools.

Set in Virginia during Reconstruction, BROTHERHOOD is the story of a white boy who joins the Klan, meets a young black teacher, and comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. The book raises all sorts of questions about identify, race, peer pressure, gangs, etc., and doesn’t provide easy answers. So it’s great for kicking off classroom conversations on a variety of topics.

During the “Immerse” stage of the GID process, in order to connect to the content of daily readings, the students at Carver wrote a tweet a day.

daily tweet.52GID blog

Historians from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society visited the school, bringing samples of items mentioned in the book, such as swatches of cloth and a copy of a page from an 1867 newspaper. The time period was beginning to come alive for the students.

During the GID stages “Explore” and “Identify,” students continued to read while researching the post-Civil War era. Then they went on a field trip to Richmond, VA, and walked the streets the characters had walked. In advance of the trip, the librarians asked me to audio-record myself reading selections from the book. I posted the audio files online, and during the trip, students stopped at key locations to listen—via QR codes—to me reading. This was an innovative way to use technology, and got the students all the more engaged. Click on this code to hear one of the recordings:

QRCode.FarmersMarket

I visited the classroom and talked about how I came to write BROTHERHOOD—a presentation that includes mention of the Noble Lost Cause ideology, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement. On another day, the school’s safety officer came and presented information about gangs. The class explored reasons why a person might join the Klan or any gang—any group vying for power, control or influence.

During the “Gather” stage, each student’s essential questions led him/her to choose a gang to research further. Students divided into small groups, and for the “Create” and “Share” stages, each group did a presentation about a gang and how they (or society) might stop the spread of that gang. In this way, they progressed through the 7th grade curriculum. For prohibition, for example, one group did a presentation about the Mafia running liquor. For World War II, another group showed how the Nazis gained support by blaming Germany’s ills on the Jews. By the time the curriculum brought them to the present day, they already knew from yet another student presentation that Al Qaida is motivated in part by a rejection of capitalism. I visited the school again, and was blown away by the high quality of the presentations, both from struggling learners and from gifted students. The GID approach excited them all.

Along the way students participated in the GID stage, “Evaluate,” asking questions such as, what surprised me today? What was clear? What was confusing? I love the fact that when you do GID, you don’t leave evaluation to the very end. GID encourages self-reflection at every stage.

This GID unit was pretty involved, and it hit me that some educators might want to add BROTHERHOOD to the curriculum and use the GID approach, but they don’t live near Virginia and can’t easily do the field trip. And that thought motivated me to design a GID-based writing workshop that can be done in any classroom, anywhere. I’ll tell you about it in my next post…

Singing a New Tune

A.B. Westrick here. I’m the author of BROTHERHOOD (Penguin Young Readers). If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing and speaking about GID, I might have said, “Huh? GID, what? Guided Inquiry Design? You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Brotherhood COVER ARTNow it’s 2016, and boy am I singing a new tune. I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. I’d especially have welcomed it in history classes, which I generally found to be dreadful. Having to memorize dates and names of dead white guys and strategies that won or lost wars? Spare me. Please.

But I’m not going to post here about history, not really. Only kind-of. I write fiction—not the first outlet that comes to mind when educators talk about GID. But as it turns out, my novel inspired two middle school librarians and a 7th grade social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA, to plan a dynamic GID unit. Next month—on June 25, 2016—during the AASL Awards session at the national ALA conference in Orlando, that team is going to receive the Collaborative School Library Award. Go, team!

So, how did it come about that fiction inspired their GID unit? Well. Read on. For today, I hope to make you curious, just as GID encourages you to do with students during the “Open” stage. Check out my book trailer (only 53 seconds long):

And if you want the full experience of the “Open” stage of the Carver Middle School unit, read chapter one of BROTHERHOOD. (Here it is at Amazon.) I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the “Immerse” stage and the rest of this GID unit, but if you’d like a sneak-peek, check out this “Blendspace” page. (I also link to the “Blendspace” page from the “Teachers” page of my website.) The Carver team posted everything there, including parental permission forms.

In my next post I’ll go into detail, and you’ll see that the unit was rather involved. The students loved it. But when it occurred to me that some schools wouldn’t have the resources to do the whole unit, I developed a scaled-down version that’s essentially a writing workshop based on GID. And history. Yes, I have to come back to history. (My book is historical fiction.)

WestrickABIn my third post, I’ll talk about the writing workshop, and you’ll see that it’s not about teaching history as much as it’s about getting students excited to ask their own questions about history. What I especially love about GID is the way it encourages students to lean how to learn. More tomorrow…

Wait a second, who is the teacher and who is the student?

The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless.  The students have taught me so much.  As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners.  When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens.  I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood.  The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement.  They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why.  This is at the heart of lifelong learning.  The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people.  If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run?  That’s the goal for me.

When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time.  This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders.  While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments.  These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students.  As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first.  One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year.   Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations.  This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.

One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time.  To do it properly, GID takes some time.  It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation.  I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams.  At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day.  In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks.  Here is the deal, though.  It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class.  When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class.  We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit!  We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products.  There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.

Terri Curtis

It’s all about the questions

Our school has implemented two big and a couple of smaller GID units this year.  My dear friend Paige Holden has already blogged about an 8th grade research unit that our school planned and implemented as a result of attending the GID training.  I would like to talk about one component of a larger unit that I will never forget.

 

Civil Rights Movement:

 

We did a large unit with 7th grade English teachers.  In the interest of not taking credit for someone else’s work,  I feel obligated to say that the librarian at our school, Kristin Lankford, and 7th grade English teachers did most of the planning of this unit.  My role in this unit was primarily in implementation.  

 

7th grade students learned about the civil rights movement by asking difficult questions.  During the identify phase of the unit, 7th grade English classes came to the library to read articles about different events that happened during the civil rights movement.  We had between 90-105 students who rotated through 10 stations over the course of 3 days.  Each station was equipped with several copies of an article about a particular civil rights event.  Each station had a large piece of butcher paper and markers. Students read the article with their group and wrote down facts, questions, thoughts, impressions and comments about the articles.  All adults that were there (we had some teacher illness, library meetings, and various other stuff that pulled us in different directions) wandered between groups and entered discussions as needed.

 

IMG_1511 (1)
The three classes weren’t used to being mixed together, so the kids were pretty excited.  It took longer for them to settle into class than I thought it would.  The first day of the identification wasn’t quite as productive as the other two, but we as educators learned a lot and were able to make some adjustments that helped.  We erased or crossed out all of the illuminati symbols that the kids drew, looked for naughty words, and gave lectures about the appropriate use of markers (they shall not be thrown like darts at your neighbor).   The next two days were quite incredible.  The comments and questions that the students had were so mature and interesting.  My favorite question was “Who came up with racism?  Why not white people rather than colored?”.  I read it over and over and over and over.  I felt like if one kid gets it to this extent, that we had done a great job.  I continued reading and there were many great comments and questions with such depth.  

IMG_1510 (2)

 

We left the comments and questions out for all three days so all of the classes could read what other students were thinking.  Here is an example of what the papers looked like at the end of the third day. (The back is completely full, too.)

IMG_1516

As you can see, some of the comments were reporting dates, names, events, etc., but for me, I think the beauty lies in the questions.

Terri Curtis

New Kid on the Block

Hello from Norman, Oklahoma!  My name is Terri Curtis, and I am currently a library assistant at Whittier Middle School.

First and foremost, I’m a mother to three fabulous teenagers.  I know what you are thinking.  Did I actually use fabulous and teenagers in the same sentence?  Yes, I did.  I genuinely like teenagers, and I’m kind of partial to the ones with which I share a home.  This is the end of an era for my family as it is the last of 9 consecutive years with a middle schooler in my house.  In that 9 years, I’ve learned a few things.

  • There is never a dull moment.
  • It is never quiet.
  • Someone is always hungry.
  • Kids have a lot of important things to say and want to be heard…  just like adults.
  • Their feelings and emotions are very real.
  • There is no point in buying new carpet until everyone moves out.
  • They don’t all think and process things the same way.
  • Don’t ask them what they think if you aren’t prepared to listen to an honest answer.

I truly love this age of child, both as a parent and as an educator.  I get to laugh every single day, and I look forward to seeing my home kids and my school kids as often as humanly possible.  This is a picture of me with my favorite middle school student.  He also happens to be my son.

1B8012B5-4299-4C6C-BCFD-3918908C9177

In my early parenting years, I got a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  I used this degree while serving as a director of the preschool in my church.  Once my children got a little older, I decided to head back to school to get my MLIS degree.  I graduated last December, and I’m excited about the thought of having my own library in the future.

As a library assistant in a middle school in Norman, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to GID.  This past school year, our district sent many teams to GID training, and I was happy to have been included.  I’ve been involved in planning and implementing a few units at the middle school level.  I’m excited about GID and the authentic learning that happens when a team of educators collaborates to design and facilitate inquiry-based units for their students.  We truly hold the key to raising a generation of thinkers.

Terri Curtis

Create Cont.

Some of our HOT questions are:
*What in the atmosphere controls the amount of snowfall? Is there a way to manipulate it and change the snowfall?
*How can we manipulate the rock cycle to from a different type of rock? Can we classify rocks even better than 3 categories, and then their name? Are changes in the Earth and atmosphere, such as global warming affecting the formation of rocks?
*Why does blood turn red when it hits oxygen. How do blood cells compare to the typical animal cell?
*What effect does the axis of the moon have on marine life? Do the tides control how some marine life behave?
*What does fluorine, a gas, have that makes it protect teeth when it is added to water?
*Why is Mars more humid than Mercury if Mercury is the closest planet to the sun?

MATTER Group (we didn’t have time to post yesterday.)

After getting through the Immerse and explore stages, we moved on to our create stage in which we finalized our HOT questions. I really loved that we could find something that we wondered about and wanted to learn more about. My partner and I are working on Matter since that consists of everything in the universe. I thought, “okay, this will be easy,” but it wasn’t. I searched through tons of resources, and cites and it was difficult to focus on one thing since I wondered about everything I saw. I was feeling overwhelmed, so I asked Mrs. Reinagel if I could change my topic to space. She said I could, but that she had an idea that she thought I would love and it was a compromise. She gave me some resources that had to do with “dark matter,” and asked me to skim to see if there was an I wonder in there. While researching, I couldn’t wait to share everything I was learning! I was amazed at how interesting it was, I came up with a HOT question right away. My question is, “how does dark matter compare to matter on Earth? What does it have to do with preventing or causing the universes recollapse?” I never thought I would have so much fun on such a challenging project! Gabe

Day 4: Questioning and Research cont.

Today we are working on our H.O.T questions! We had to think really
hard and Mrs. Reinagel had to ok it. We had to research
and answer our question. My favorite part was researching. It was exciting and informative. I learned a lot of different facts that I
didn’t know, like Uranium is a Fossil Fuel.

-Logan

Hi! My name is Payten and I am on team CELLS(yeah!)with Alexandra! In today’s Guided Inquiry, we explored through stages 4-5, and to be honest, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
We had to gather up information from day 1 and then see what we were confused and questioning about, and then form it into a higher ordered thinking question, and now everyone is doing research to answer their question. And we had to do that in one sitting! (lol,lol) So, today was pretty hard, but my class is the class that takes on challenges and we can’t wait for what’s next!!:)

-Payten J.

Hello there! My name is Ayden Campbell and I am in the WEATHER group. Today we have been finishing up our HOT questions for our science guided inquiry! Most of us are finished thinking of a question and are researching, while a few are still working on a question to blow Mrs. Reinagel’s mind! But we are still working very hard! Doing this is very fun, and it is still not over yet! We have to see what tomorrow brings! But I bet it is better than today! Well, that is all for today! I hoped you enjoyed this blog! Goodbye!

-Ayden C.

Hi my name is Erica, my partner is Joelvic. Today we came up with tough questions. I picked rocks and the rock cycle and how they form. My “journey” to make a tough question was difficult because it couldn’t be an ordinary question it had to be a H.O.T question. Our teacher was picky about it. We had to get it just right (sorry Mrs. Reinagel!). It took a while because we had some question that made no sense. Also some were so easy they could be answered without research!If you were us you would be exhausted. We continue the search to find an answer to our question!Hope to see you soon!

-Erica S.\ Joelvic D.

Hi my name is Lexi, my partner is Katina we have moved on to step 4 and 5 in GID, we skimmed through sites to find something we wanted to learn more about based on our topics then we formed our hot questions.one fun thing we did was skimming threw are resources. One bad thing about making our HOT questions was coming up with one. I made connections while researching like how every planet is named after a Roman God, or how the moon has water vapor signatures on it. It’s exciting learning this way, we like it a lot. -Lexi

Hi this is Madison, Simran, and Gabby again from Mrs. Reinagel’s 5th grade class. We want to share our journey making our H.O.T questions. The things we liked about them was that we got to choose our main interest for our topic. Some things I didn’t like about it was how after you made the question, if it was not deep enough you would have to redo your question. It was kind of difficult to think of the questions, but we made it. I hope you are enjoying going through our difficult, but fun journey with us.

-Madison L.\ Simran G.\ Gabby R.

Explore and Create

Hi, my name is Katina and my partner is Lexi our topic is Space. We chose space because we want to find out what’s beyond our world. During Immersion we looked at some resources about different planets and how many moons were orbiting each one. Then we started making connections like how Jupiter looks like quartz, and how Neptune looks like an ocean.

My group(Gabby, Simran, and Madison) chose to learn more about Oceans. There is a lot to know with oceans, and we are interested in going deeper with our learning. One connection we all made was that we live about 10 min from the ocean so we should try to know all we can about it.

Hi! My name is Alexandra! I am in Mrs. Reinagel’s 5th# grade class! I am doing cells for my Guided Inquiry. I am doing this with Payten. I did cells because I LOVE cells! We first reviewed what we knew about cells. For example, did you know plant cells decay in the ground once the plant dies? Afterwards, we found new info. For example, chloroplast allows photosynthesis to occur. We can’t wait to do our H.O.T question and make a project for it!

My group is (Alexis.C, Sara.P, Jon, Ayden, Sarah G)and we are in Mrs.Reinagel’s 5th# grade class. Our topic is weather. I chose weather because it is interesting to me and I would like to know more about how storms form. Some connections we made we about lightning and how it can start fires and be dangerous.