GID @ the District Level Part 3

AASL states that school library programs should employ an inquiry-based approach to “inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge” (2007). Using GID in my district as our inquiry approach is a way to tap into student’s natural curiosity, and help students develop a foundation using an inquiry process to facilitate all their academic work. GID breaks down inquiry into manageable steps, and gives students an opportunity to Immerse and Explore to better understand a research or essential question. GID is divided to provide specific scaffolds in learning the content and how they learn. GID helps students find gaps in their research and develop plans for how they can close those gaps to produce an effective product they would want to share.

I like how Leslie and I worked with the librarians in developing their sense of understanding in how to use GID. Leslie made sure we modeled the scaffolding ideas in Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School so that they can see how to use them in their own lessons. Another key element was that you didn’t always have to be a part of all the phases in GID. Most likely they would be involved in the Immerse, Explore, Identify, and Gather phases, and that was okay. We know it is ideal for us to be involved in all phases, but time is a precious commodity in schools, and if we scaffold well in the phases we are involved in, then we built the metacognition of students to be able to move through the other phases well. Overall, the librarians in my district see the value of this process and are making changes to input these phases into their lessons to help their students understand and apply what they have learned to new situations.

Lori Donovan, Instructional Specialist, Library Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Using GID at District Level Part 2

One way I have been able to use GID as the Instructional Specialist for Library Services is in training new librarians in my district. In the four years since coming into this position, we have hired over 50 new librarians. All new teachers/librarians (and teachers/librarians new to the district) have an opportunity in my district to get professional development and training before teacher work week. 

I get the new librarians for a whole day on curriculum. Part of that day is to go over the instructional models and expectations of library services in CCPS. GID is part of that day. To model blended learning, I use School Library Connection’s edWeb.net community to have new librarians view two archived webinars Leslie has given in the  past: Getting Started with Guided Inquiry and Research with Rigor: Guided Inquiry Design Reaching to the Higher Expectations of the Core . They develop a “Need to Know” list of questions they have about GID that will be answered during the actual PD day.

I love Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (https://youtu.be/u4ZoJKF_VuA) and I make sure to include the what, the how, and the why when doing training on GID (well, with all my PDs), but specifically for this training because Leslie is not there for at these trainings. After going over their “Need to Know” list, I give them some practice using a sample library lesson from AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action book and they collaborate on how  these lessons can become GID lessons using a template that Leslie designed for CCPS. Because we are using the Buck Institute for Education’s model of Project Based Learning (PBL), I incorporate PBL and Understanding by Design (UbD) to show that school library lessons need the same pedagogical look as lessons they may have done in the classroom when they were teaching.  This provides data to administrators of the instructional role librarians have in student academic achievement. As they collaborate together, they are working in the same formats as students would in their libraries, and I model the scaffolding techniques described in the GID books.

Based on feedback, the librarians have said this approach has better helped them understand the process both in theory and practice, and they are comfortable to start thinking and using GID in their library planning and instruction. I am looking forward to working on GID with my new crop of librarians when they come this August. 

Lori Donovan, Instructional Specialist, Library Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools

GID @ the District Level

In 2012, I became the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, a school district just outside Richmond, VA. Since no one had been in this position for three years, my Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the time said to create a program that I felt would best benefits librarians and the teachers and students they served. Using the goals our district’s comprehensive plan as a guide, I looked for ways librarians/library services could enhance student learning through the use of 21st-century learning & technology skills and knowledge in all 63 of our schools.

Our district plan (http://mychesterfieldschools.com/about/design-for-excellence-2020/) puts inquiry at its forefront. Empowering Learners bases all library instruction on inquiry, so I began reviewing inquiry-based research models. We were loosely using Big6 as a model, but as I researched other inquiry-based models, I came across Guided Inquiry Design (GID) through a webinar on the edWeb.net community Library Media Connection )now School Library Connection) community. I bought the book and saw it parallels the same format and structure in Buck Institute for Education’s PBL process (bie.org), and I knew this would be the best model to use comprehensively in the district.

Mary Keeling, Supervisor for Libraries in Newport News, VA had been working with Leslie Maniotes providing PD for her district and she helped with an introduction to Leslie.  After devising a plan with Leslie, we began training the librarians in GID the fall of 2013. The 3 year plan began with a book study of both Guided Inquiry and Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework in Your School, practiced the steps in small lessons and culminated in a full-blown Guided Inquiry Unit. Leslie had come for three, all day PD focusing on theory, practice, assessment, & engagement with GID. As more librarians became trained, the more Guided Inquiry made sense to them, their collaborative teachers, and most importantly, the students.

My district is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) division, & has deployed a 1:1 Chromebook initiative with all its secondary students. We use these apps to create and share GID plans. We also use LibGuides as our instructional platform to model GID. The district page houses all our common resources/access points, & school pages drive instruction by developing online pathfinders/resource pages for students, teachers, & parents.

We are moving into our fourth year with GID, and are still refining resources and trainings around the resources provided both in print and electronic format to keep current on how we can incorporate GID into more and more collaborative lessons. I am hoping to continue to create a repository of our GID projects so that we have plenty of ideas to share and use in our district to create life-long learners of our students.

Lori Donovan, Instructional Specialist, Library Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools

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Rutgers University the Birthplace of Guided Inquiry Design

It is going to be a very exciting, challenging and transforming week for Guided Inquiry. This week, the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CiSSL) will host the 4th Fourth Residential 
CiSSL Summer Institute: “Guided Inquiry for Student Learning” to take place on the Rutgers Campus from Tuesday evening 19th July to Friday 22nd July.

CiSSL Anticipation

It is exciting for several reasons. First, Rutgers University is the birth-place of Guided Inquiry! Rutgers Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau’s groundbreaking research over several decades generated the highly cited and acclaimed “Information Search Process” model. This model has shaped a considerable number of research agendas around the world, and is the research-validated basis for “Guided Inquiry Design”, the constructivist approach to empowering and enabling students to engage with information in all its forms and formats, to develop their own deep knowledge and understanding, to think critically, creatively and reflectively, and to be innovative thinkers that empower global, social and cultural wellbeing and change.

Second, Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau, together with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, who are co-authors and developers of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century and Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in your School will be the Institute leaders! Participating teams will have a wonderful opportunity to engage directly with the experts! Get right to the source, so to speak. It simply does not get better than that!

Third, the Guided Inquiry Institute will be design in action. Participating teams will engage in active, design-based thinking, sharing and critiquing ideas together, reflecting and reporting, shaping and reshaping, building and rebuilding. Having attended previous Institutes through CiSSL, this will be a thrilling and empowering process. I know. Participants will engage directly with the design process as they develop an inquiry unit for their schools. The professional development cycle, for each participating team, will be directly experiencing the process in a richly personalized, attentive and collaborative way.

Fourth, participating teams in this year’s Guided Inquiry Institute will be part of history making at Rutgers University. This year, Rutgers University is celebrating its 250th anniversary, and its theme is “Rutgers. Revolutionary for 250 Years.” On November 10th, 1766, William Franklin, the last colonial Governor of New Jersey, signed the charter establishing Queen’s College, the predecessor of Rutgers University, and New Brunswick was chosen as the place. The first classes were held in a tavern in the city! The first graduation was held in 1774, and the title of the graduation address, given by Rusten Hardenbergh, was titled “The advantages of education”. It wasn’t until 1825 that Queens College was renamed Rutgers University, in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers a Revolutionary War hero.

This is probably a long winded way to say that Rutgers’ tradition of revolutionary teaching, research, and service has endured for nearly 250 years. Guided Inquiry is up there with the best of Rutgers has offered for 250 years. You are experiencing the best.

Fifth, participants will experience a game-changing pedagogical process. One of the great and unforgettable experiences for me during this Rutgers year of celebration was to be part of the university’s graduation where President Barak Obama was the graduation speaker. For me, it was a truly remarkable day. I have to say I was excited to be there to hear him in person, and to cheer on as he was awarded a Doctor of Laws honoris causa. Regardless of his (and your) politics, his words from his Rutgers address are the spirit of inquiry: “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is”. (Full speech is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ9jJm_q5Jo).

Guided Inquiry is revolutionary. It is visionary. It is a powerful approach to learning for breaking down intellectual walls, opening windows and doors to the world of ideas, and making a very real contribution to the development of a thinking nation. Be part of this journey. It will be game-changing.

Dr Ross J Todd

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Library and Information Science

Director, Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL)

School of Communication & Information

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

From a summer lake in Finland to a research study on GID

As you read in our last post, educators from far and wide are leaving their summer places behind and headed to Rutgers University today. Here’s Dr. Heinstrom’s story.

Summer in Finland

Summer in Finland

July 13, 2016. I am sitting by the lake with a book in my hands that I cannot put down.

It is not the first time I read this book, and it will not be the last, but this time the reading has a special meaning. The book is Guided Inquiry Design by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes and Ann K. Caspari and I am preparing for next week when I will be attending the CISSL Summer Institute on Guided Inquiry Design (http://cissl.rutgers.edu/summer-institute-2016).

Guided Inquiry Design is an important book for me in many ways. GID is a solid research-based method on how to guide students’ learning in today’s information world. The foundation of the method lies in the highly regarded work of Professor II Emerita Carol C. Kuhlthau. Carol’s research on the Information Search Process (ISP) is a multiple award-winning scholarly work which has been confirmed and established within Information Studies. Carol’s work has, however, not only inspired research and teaching, it is also widely applied by professionals. This work has culminated in Guided Inquiry, where the ideas of the ISP is combined with Dr. Maniotes’ insights from educational research on the importance of Third Space, and Educational Specialist Caspari’s expertise on informal learning with use of museums and community resources to link together classroom learning with students’ experiences outside of school.

This summer I am reading Guided Inquiry Design from a research perspective. Next Spring,
I will be conducting an explorative case study on GID in a US high school with several years of experience in implementing the Guided Inquiry framework. The study is part of the ARONI (Argumentative online inquiry in building students’ knowledge work competences) research project.

ARONI, funded by the Academy of Finland for four years (2015-2019), is a collaborative project between research teams from three partner universities: University of Tampere, University of Jyväskylä and Helsinki University. The aim of the project is to develop an instructional model for online inquiry competence for upper secondary schools in Finland. The project strives to build a deeper theoretical understanding of students’ online inquiry and clarify how their competence can be enhanced in upper secondary education. In Finland, a new national curriculum, developed by the National Board of Education, will be effective from this fall, 2016. The new curriculum emphasizes multi-literacies, including online inquiry competence. We, however, still need a deeper understanding of the best way to support students as they develop these competencies. We believe that our research on Guided Inquiry Design will provide insights that will be highly useful for us as we develop our instructional model.

I close my book and walk up to the house. It is time to apply GID in practice: Immerse, Explore, Identify and Gather what I need to pack for my trip.

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Jannica Heinström, PhD

Senior Researcher, University of Tampere, Finland; Associate Professor, Åbo Akademi University, Finland; Docent, University of Borås, Sweden

Link to my Research Gate page

The week of the RUTGERS CiSSL Institute has arrived!

This week is a big week for Guided Inquiry Design.  Beginning on Wednesday CiSSL is hosting on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, NJ the 3rd Guided Inquiry Design Institute.  Our bloggers this week are the leaders at CiSSL, the director of the program, the facilitator of the learning and a researcher who is joining us from Finland!  See you on the back porch!

Back Porch of the RU Conference Center

Back Porch of the RU Conference Center

Starting us off is Dr. Mary Jane McNally, (Program Director for the CiSSL Institute 2012, 2014, 2016)

The stage is set! The program has been finalized, the books have been delivered – even the nametags have been printed. We are ready for the 2016 CiSSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University! Sponsored by CiSSL, the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, this year’s institute will be the fourth one to focus on Guided Inquiry for student learning.

Guided Inquiry Design (GID) has deep roots at Rutgers, growing out of the internationally acclaimed Information Search Process research of Dr. Carol Kuhlthau and the third space work of Dr. Leslie Maniotes. It calls for a team approach involving teachers, the school library media specialist and both internal and external resources.

From the beginning, the team approach has been a key feature of the Institute structure. Teams that have been selected to attend have included a teacher, a SLMS and (whenever possible) an administrator. Some teams have come with a great deal of experience in GID and others are just beginning their GID journey. Regardless of the level of experience they started with, they left the Institute with a heightened degree of enthusiasm, motivation, and tools to employ. Many of these teams have gone on to win awards and to share their experiences in various forums. Here are some of their stories:

Sarah Scholl and Sarah Wein of Havre De Grace (MD) Middle School implemented the unit “Challenge and Change” that they designed at the 2014 Institute and won a district award for Outstanding Curriculum Enhancement for that unit. They also presented at AASL 2015.

Anita Cellucci and the team from Westborough (MA) High School have integrated Guided Inquiry Design into Physical Science for all 200 freshman, as well as a unit in humanities, language arts and a special project on empathy. Anita also presented at AASL 2015.

The Newport News (VA) Public Schools Guided Inquiry team revamped the district inquiry process to align with Guided Inquiry. Mary Keeling, Patrice Lambusta and her team presented the implementation of Guided Inquiry across K-12 at both AASL 2013 and the CiSSL Symposium.

The team from the Tamagawa School near Tokyo, Japan implemented Guided Inquiry Design into the Science program of the middle and high school that was presented by Professor Yumiko Kasai in a workshop for librarians and teachers in the Pacific Rim on Guided Inquiry Design at the 2013 IASL conference in Bali.

Past institutes have attracted participants from over a dozen states and several countries including Australia, Canada, China, and Japan; this year’s Institute has a similar distribution of participants. We are expecting teams from Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and, of course, New Jersey. In addition, we will have a team from Malmo, Sweden and a researcher from Turku, Finland.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Institute has been the opportunity to build relationships with educators from other parts of the country and the world. Fortunately, now we have the 52GID Blog and other social media outlets to keep the conversation going.

Dr. Carol Kuhlthau telling the story of the ISP - CiSSL 2014

Dr. Carol Kuhlthau telling the story of the ISP – CiSSL 2014

With all of this to look forward to, it’s no wonder that we can’t wait for this year’s institute to begin.

Mary Jane McNally, Ph.D.

Program Director of CiSSL Summer Institute
Coordinator School Library Media Field Experience
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
School of Communication and Information

What’s Next?

So what is happening now and for the coming school year…

Impact and Next Steps

In May 2016, I presented an overview of the spring GID Institutes and unit implementation along with the survey results (I shared some of those yesterday) to our principals and central office staff. At this presentation, Norman Public Schools offered to host a 2016 GID Summer Institute in June for teacher teams. We asked principals to sign their teams up using a Google form. The response was overwhelming, more than 90 teachers.  So we have completed one institute this summer and have another one at the end of July. I can’t wait to see the units these teachers create.

At the June GID Institute, we had several unique teams including a high school Algebra team, a high school special education team, a secondary family & consumer science team, various other teams from all levels.  I am looking froward to visiting them in the fall as they implement their units.

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You saw some of the statistics we collected yesterday.  I would like to share a few more stats and comments so you understand why we think GID is important enough to invest so much time and energy in:

  • 100% of participating teachers agreed that the Guided Inquiry process was beneficial to student learning
  • 81% of teachers agreed that their collaboration with the teacher librarian increased during a Guided Inquiry unit, while 77.3% agreed that their co-teaching with the teacher librarian increased. (We all know two heads are better than one!!!)
  • Percentage of teachers who agreed that the Guided Inquiry process was beneficial for these subgroups of learners:
    • ELL learners 90.5%
    • Special Needs learners 90.3%
    • Gifted learners 98.4%
    • Regular education learners 100%

So as you see the stats are great, but what about the comments from the survey?  Let’s listen to the voices  of a few of our educators:

  • When describing evidences of how learners met the standards and expectations, one teacher said: The genuine discussions after and during the units involved making real world connections. Many of those connections were very personal to the students themselves. This led to more questions that the students wanted to investigate long after the unit was complete.
  • One teacher shared: I felt as though all of my subgroups were able to benefit from the process. For gifted students, there was no limit to what they could do. For struggling students, a natural scaffold fell into place.  I believe guided inquiry is so beneficial for all students because of the individualized nature, and the fact that the impetus is on the student for decision making.
  • As we look at the data about students creating their own questions, teacher comments are promising for the future: Students found it difficult to formulate their question, but were able to express their ideas clearly. It will be exciting to see their growth in this area as they participate in more GID units.
  • One secondary principal made this comment: Guided Inquiry has given our teachers a way to build cross-curricular and more importantly, relevant lessons for our students. Pushing students deeper and empowering them to drive their learning through research is timely and is preparing them for the world we are arming them to change for the better.

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As we look at this data and, most importantly, at our students and the products of their learning, we are excited about the future of GID and its impact on teaching and learning.  We will be offering two more GID Institutes this fall.  After these institutes, approximately 25% of our staff will be trained in the process. District leaders and those teachers, gifted resource coordinators, and librarians who have experienced GID are invested in and committed to this process. As we make GID a consistent part of our learning landscape, I look forward to seeing the transformation in teaching and student learning. Keep learning!

Kathryn Lewis

 

Visiting Schools Engaged in GID

What Fun…

Last spring I had so much fun visiting the schools as the librarians, teachers and gifted resource teachers (GRCs) implemented the GID units they created in the Spring GID Training Institutes.

I saw Kindergartners delightfully engaging in Explore during a social studies unit on recycling.  The teachers modeled the activity for the students by first showing them as a group a picture book about recycling pointing out items that could be recycled.  As they flipped the pages, the teachers introduced the concept of browsing to the young learners.  Next the students worked in pairs to travel from table to table browsing books on recycling and completing their inquiry logs. The teachers’ careful planning, modeling, and practice of the the procedures helped learners understand the concepts.

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I watched middle schoolers excitedly engaging in the Immerse phase during a 6th grade Language Arts unit on Civil Rights.  The teachers skillfully guided students as they compared the musical lyrics and poetry of the Civil Rights era to the those popular today. After the comparison, learners collaboratively produced questions that were elicited by the poetry and music.

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I’ve seen high school learners immersed in the era of To Kill a Mockingbird as they explored cultural and historical events of the 1930s, 5th graders using digital and print resources to explore and generate questions about jazz musicians, 4th grade learners taking the yearly states research project to a whole new level, 10th grade leaners investigating social justice issues by exploring articles, infographics, videos, and public service announcements while working toward a research paper proposing a solution for the issue the learner is most passionate about, 3rd grade learners sharing their learning about Oklahoma history through Chatterpix and Google Slides, and so much more.  Needless to say, my district GID tour has been so rewarding.  Seeing learners engaged in deep learning that matters to them is the best!

The survey we did those teachers and librarians who participated in the units confirmed my impressions of the impact of the GID process. Here are just a few of our stats:

  • 94% of survey participants saw an increase in student engagement in GID units as compared to other research units
  • 86% saw an increase in student outcomes in GID units as compared to other research units
  • 78% of teachers agreed that the students involved in the Guided Inquiry unit met their highest expectations for the learning, while 51.8% agreed that the students exceeded their highest expectation
  • 97% reported that the guided inquiry unit met the standards for the unit of study
  • 6% of our teachers reported that compared to other research units, the questions developed by students as a result of Guided Inquiry were more open-ended and that 61.8% were at a deeper level of learning

So what is happening now and for 2016-2017, check out my post tomorrow…

GID-Making a Difference in Teaching & Learning

My name is Kathryn Roots Lewis. I have the incredible good fortune of working in Norman Public Schools (NPS) in Norman, Oklahoma as the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology.  I work with a forward-thinking and strongly committed staff who believe in keeping student needs at the forefront of all decision making around educational initiatives.  NPS serves approximately 16,000 learners grades PreK-12.  We have 1,100 certified educators, including 26 teacher librarians. The District consists of a diverse population of learners in 2 high schools, 4 middle schools, 17 elementary schools, and an alternative school. Fifteen of our schools are identified as Title I.

A few years ago the Norman community overwhelmingly passed a multi-million-dollar bond issue that included a large technology initiative focused on more devices for students. As the district looked at device implementation, we explored at how teaching and learning would and should change in a device and information rich environment.

As a district, we recognized that all students require unique skills to participate in our changing global society.  We agreed that we want to provide students with opportunities that nurture innovation, collaboration, exploration, and deep learning.  We wanted students to have learning opportunities anytime, anywhere. We knew this vision was dependent on educators who model and implement progressive, research-based instructional pedagogies.  So we began a journey to investigate what pedagogies worked best for our district. One such pedagogy, Guided Inquiry Design, affords students the tools to ask essential questions, make decisions, solve problems, create new knowledge, share information, and evaluate their learning and knowledge.

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After reading Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School,  I sent the book to our Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.  I will never forget her call the next day, “I loved this, it’s how I wrote my dissertation.”  To which I replied, “And probably how you should buy a car.”  We proceeded with a book study with the librarians and one with the district’s curriculum coordinators. Last summer (2015) we contracted with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, one of the authors of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School, to do an overview with all district administrators. Dr. Maniotes returned to NPS last fall to conduct three 3-day institutes with teacher librarians, gifted resource coordinators, site instructional coaches and some teachers from every school in the district.  These institutes were so empowering and meaningful for teachers.  The units created collaboratively by the teams were each unique and innovative.

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We asked the teams who attended to implement the unit they developed in the training at their school before the end of the school year. We provided a Google website that included a lesson depository, pictures, resources, and a shared calendar.

Now it really gets fun – our 24 schools produced over 40 units last spring!  The shared calendar enabled district staff to visit different phases of the units.  Several central office staff members took hundreds of pictures, provided feedback and accolades to the incredible professionals who created and implemented the units with students grades PreK-12.  We also disseminated a survey to all teacher participants.

More about what I saw and learned later this week…

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Adopting and Adapting

My last post was about carrying out a Guided Inquiry unit in its entirety, from Open through to Evaluate. Even though it’s a very structured framework, one of the best aspects of Guided Inquiry is that it’s not dogmatic. It is flexible enough that many of its components, especially the first three phases, can be applied  to projects that are not Guided Inquiry projects per se.

Earlier on the blog, Leslie discussed her visit to St. George’s in the spring, when she visited our Grade 7 reimagined science fair, the Wonder Expo. Even though the Expo follows a very teacher-directed plan, we adopted the Immerse and Explore phases of GID to help our students determine a topic. In years past, the students were simply told to “pick a topic” and given very little, if any, guidance . The result was that those boys who struggled to find a good topic were instantly behind their peers in terms of carrying out their experiment, analysing the results, and putting everything together into a report and poster board.

And – Shock! Horror! – the boys would also frequently do their “background research” (a bibliography with three sources was required as part of their report) the day before the science fair! When I, affronted librarian, questioned one boy why his background research was the very last thing he was doing, and maybe he should have done it before he even began his experiment, he burst into tears! The science fair caused a lot of stress.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve begun immersing the boys in science in the fall, well before the March due date, to build background knowledge and curiosity. This year, we hosted “Wonder Wednesdays” where we invited in scientists and watched videos on interesting topics to get their scientific juices flowing. We also made an annotated bibliography an early deadline. I created a LibGuide and instructed the boys in how to use the databases, so they were able to explore sources and ideas well before deciding on their final topic. The result? No crying in the library! Adopting some of the stages of guided inquiry into current projects can really help boost student curiosity, motivation and confidence.

The Explore phase is a really great idea to inject into traditional projects, even if teachers don’t have the time or inclination to do a whole GID unit. Late in the spring, the Grade 2 teachers approached me to pull some books on animals for a mini project the students were carrying out on animals. It’s a pretty standard animal project: pick an animal you like (CHEETAHS!), find information in a book, and write about your animal.

Instead of just checking out our animal books to the teachers, I invited the classes into the library.  I made a simple sheet with four boxes and space to write the name of an animal, draw a picture, and write down the book title. I selected the more “thematic” animal books rather than books about single species. Titles like “Biggest and Smallest Animals,” “Unusual Creatures” and “The Little Book of Slime”. The boys rotated around the tables, browsing through books and noting down the name of any animals that seemed interesting to them, along with a quick sketch and the name of the book so they could find it later. Massive success! The boys didn’t feel pressure to pick a random animal, they learned about all sorts of interesting creatures and were able to determine which books had “just-right” information, and which ones might be too difficult or too scant on information. Plus, they got a taste of keeping simple citations. Having an Explore session in the early part of this project really made it successful for both the students and the teachers.

I can proudly announce that I’m a Guided Inquiry evangelist now! Guided Inquiry Design has had a profound effect on my teaching, my relationships with my colleagues and, most importantly, my students.

Elizabeth Walker

@c@curiousstgeorge