Teach Out Loud

This past week, as I was searching for new innovative ideas to bring to my classroom, I came across the sayings, “Shut the door and teach!” and “Open the door and teach!”  While I get the point of the first, I wholeheartedly advocate for the second. Teaching should not be an isolated event. We need to come together to improve learning for students. In addition, if you are doing amazing things things in your classroom, share it.

Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to share GID with passionate educators at an Edcamp event I helped facilitate. If you’ve never heard of Edcamp, it’s an event that is driven by participant interest. Participants post questions and topics of interest at the beginning the event, and then sessions are determined based on those topics. One of the topics happened to be inquiry based learning, so I was thrilled to have another opportunity to share ideas. Not only was I able to share my GID unit on Earth’s Systems, but I was able to pick up ideas as well. One idea was using the website Thrively to administer a survey to gather students interest. One teacher shared how she learned that a lot of her students were interested in biology, so she replaced a prior unit she had planned with one based on their interest. What a powerful way to give students a voice and choice in the classroom. If I had never searched out other educators to collaborate with, I would likely have not heard about this powerful tool. I encourage you to build your personal learning network and grow. Twitter is a great way to connect with passionate educators from around the world. When we teach out loud and link arms with passionate educators, we have the potential to transform learning for our students.

Writing this blog and sharing a little bit about what happens in my classroom has been a pleasure. It has allowed me to reflect on my practice, as well as given me the drive and commitment to finish the year strong. Thank you Leslie Maniotes, for providing educators this space to share their experiences with implementing GID in their classrooms.

Rebecca Wilkin

Selma Unified

@beccalmorris83

Immersed in Learning

In my current GID unit, my 5th grade students are exploring the world around them. Over this unit, students will gain knowledge  of Earth’s four spheres: hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmospheres. The goal in this Next Generation Science Standards inquiry based unit is to lead students to an inquiry project about human’s impact on the environment.

Currently, we are in the Immerse phase of GID. This phase is all about building background knowledge, connecting students to content, and guiding students toward those inquiry based questions. Throughout this unit, I have specifically selected technology tools and resources that are highly engaging, fosters critical thinking skills and promotes communication with peers and experts. 

The beginning of a student ThingLink Inquiry Journal

Throughout this inquiry based unit, students are keeping digital inquiry journal. This will be a place where they will record their ideas about what they are learning and their questions that will guide research later on.  There are many options for student digital inquiry journals. I work at a Google Apps for Education district, so a majority of my students’ work is housed in Google Docs and Google slides. For this GID unit, I wanted to introduce a new web tool. I decided to use ThingLink. I love this website! Students were able to take this image of the four geospheres and create an interactive image. Within the website, students can add images, videos, and audio to images and videos. Through this activity, students they are learning how to organize ideas, synthesize information, and create. In addition, they can take this with them as they move to ahead in their education, where they will develop even deeper knowledge of our world. That is way more powerful than a notebook that most students will throw away at the end of the year.  

The most powerful technology tool that I have used, thus far, has been Skype for Education. A few weeks ago, my class was able to Skype with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. He spent a half hour talking to my students about the geology and wildlife of Yellowstone. While being in Yellowstone would have been an amazing experience for my students, facilitating a field trip for thirty-two 5th graders Wyoming would be nearly impossible. Just because we can’t bring our students to the experts, doesn’t mean we can’t bring them to our students. Skype for Education is completely free for educators, and there are experts in just about every field who want to share their passion with students.  This was the second Skype we did this year. The first was with author, Christina Farley, who spoke with us for almost an hour about the writing process. The process is so easy. Each time, I received a response in a matter of days. All you need is computer with a camera and microphone and a free Skype for Education account. It’s that simple. 

My students may not remember every lesson I carefully planned, but I know they will remember the day we talked with a real Yellowstone National Park Ranger. They were completely glued to every word he said and had a ton of questions at the end of his presentation. Immersed in learning…I think so.

 

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified
@msmorris2013

Greetings!

As the guest blogger this week, I will share how technology is infused with Guided Inquiry Design to enhance the learning experience for all of my students. In addition, I will share FREE technology tools to really hook students during the Open and Immerse phases of GID.

For most of my teaching career, I have taught in the 5th and 6th grades. Some may say I’m crazy, but I love teaching students this age! They are really starting to develop critical thinking skills, independence, ideas, and opinions about the world around them. Guided Inquiry Design is an excellent way to hook these preteens into the learning process, especially when they are typically more concerned with playing video games and Snapchat.

The “sit and get” method of teaching rarely inspires students, but Guided Inquiry does! I often hear kids talk about how fast their day went when engaged in GID. Little do they know, it’s because I’ve purposely and strategically designed a learning experience that will foster student engagement.

I was first introduced to GID last year. I have never considered myself a “textbook” teacher, and have always loved developing lessons and units of study. So when I received the invitation to attend a workshop that designed learning experiences for all students using inquiry based learning, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. While I’ve used inquiry based projects in the past, I’ve been able to revamp these lessons with GID and provide my students with the support they need to go further.

I’m super excited to share how I have use GID in my classroom. My next post will be on how to break down the four walls of your classroom and bring experts in all subjects to your students, even when they are thousands of miles away.

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified School District
@beccalmorris83
Find me on Instagram! @beccawilkin

The pride in my heart

Students discussing their research and filling out evaluations for each “presentation”

I am immensely proud of my students’ work during this Guided Inquiry Unit. For my final post, I wanted to share a few things that warmed my teacher heart.

My goals for this Unit have always been to increase student engagement and scientific discussion in my classroom. This Guided Inquiry unit hit the nail on the head.

As students began their research, they were constantly running up to my desk or stopping me as I meandered about the classroom with a “OMG Mrs. J did you know…?”. One student brought to my attention (long before I found it on my own) the article of an astronaut whose DNA is now different from his identical twin because of space travel.

One of my student’s project – their question was “How could genetic engineering be used to help bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction?”

Since we knew that the research my students would be attempting would be very high level, we made sure students were looking at other resources for information, such as: videos, literature, podcasts, and artwork. One of my students cited A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in her research as an insight to what could go wrong if we slip into   genetic modifications. I was blown away by this!

Originally “powerpoint” was not on my list of approved projects, however, this student did a TED Talk style presentation and I just could not say no to that!!

Our Share phase was probably the day I was most proud of. To present our research, I decided to approach it as a gallery walk. What I enjoyed the most were the exchanges I saw between students when they visited with each other. Students had debates about the ethics of GMOs, giving each other praise and being genuinely curious about what others learned. I heard such great conversations as I walked around, but I didn’t stop since I knew they wouldn’t talk if I stood there. Hearing them speak with knowledge and confidence put a huge smile on my face and sent me skipping down the hallway.

I loved watching my students grow during this process and become excited about research. They all recognized that it is difficult but extremely gratifying when they find what they needed.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Oklahoma House of Representatives hoping and praying our schools get funded so I can get back to the students I miss and the job I love.

Thank you for letting me share my GID experience with you!!

Fight On Tigers!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

Questions? Questions? Anyone have any questions??

We introduced Guided inquiry to our biology students using the DNA unit. DNA was the perfect choice because it offered different avenues to explore: from DNA analysis to the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

Since Guided Inquiry motivates students to develop their interest into a research topic, it only made sense that we start with teaching students how to write upper level questions.

First, we watched a video on how to write Level 1, 2, and 3 questions. Then we practiced bringing level 1 questions up to level 3 questions in groups of three using carousel writing style. For example, a student may write the level 1  question: “What is the function of DNA?”. The next person changes it to the level 2 question: “How is the function of DNA similar or different to the function RNA?”. The next person has the most difficult task, changing the question to level 3: “How would exposure to radiation (UV, gamma, x-rays) affect the way DNA function?”  We did this twice on separate days to get them used to the different types of questions and to learn how to increase the rigor of their question.

Second, to get them ready for the Identify phase, I had students practice taking level 3 questions and breaking them down into level 2 and level 1 questions. I gave each group a large piece of paper with a thinking web containing a level 3 question in the center. I then asked the groups to think about questions that would help answer the level 3 question. Students took a moment to think, but began to branch off simpler questions (“What is DNA?”) and questions that could be answered by looking in their notes or simple web searches (“How do DNA mutations affect proteins?”). By breaking down their question into simpler questions, they had formed a starting point for their research.

Third, once students had identified their research question, I set up a “question verification process”. In this verification process students needed to receive four signatures and comments: 2 signatures from other students, 1 signature from a different teacher, and 1 signature from me. After each signature, students reviewed the comments and made edits to their question. Why did I love this process?? Well for one thing it got students talking to each other and practicing identification of level 3 questions. Also, it cut down on edits that I would have needed to make on each student’s question. By having them review their comments and make edits, all I had to check for was the subject content.

DNA analysis and Genetic Engineering can be difficult topics for adults to undertake, so it was important that we did not make it too hard for our students to understand. Since this was our first Guided Inquiry Unit and they are not used to writing questions (many of them explained to me how much harder that was compared to just answering questions), I knew that structure and scaffolding would be key to their success!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

A Year of Firsts!

Hello everyone! My name is Rachelle Johnson and I am the guest blogger this week. I am a Secondary Science Teacher in Norman, Oklahoma. I teach Biology and Zoology at Norman High School (GO TIGERS!). Not only is it my first year doing a Guided Inquiry unit; it is also my first year at NHS and my first year in Oklahoma, needless to say this is turning out to be a very fruitful year!

In the past I have struggled with student engagement and am constantly met with the “why is this important?” question. So I love finding new ways to engage my students in meaningful scientific discussions. Guided Inquiry sounded like the solution to all my problems. It offered an opportunity for my students to discover why the things we learn in Biology are important to them as  individuals.

I first learned about Guided Inquiry through our Librarians during a professional development day in the Fall. Not really understanding what it was and just hearing the word “research” I instantly thought: Not for my Freshmen. That was definitely closed-minded thinking on my part. Luckily my district values student lead learning and sent me along with other colleagues to training early this spring.

The first thing I learned is that any student can do this. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach or whether you have English language learners or you have a group of special education students integrated in with your general ed kids. Everyone is capable. The second thing I learned was that I was already doing some of the stages in Guided Inquiry! Minor changes to my tried-and-true lessons and they fit right in.

And here it is the cherry on top of an already irresistible sundae — it helps students delve into ideas they are interested in, things that we wouldn’t normally have time to cover in class.

I am definitely sold on the effectiveness of Guided Inquiry. I love it. I can’t wait to share how our unit went!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School