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Pick a partner or two

After planning and implementing Guided Inquiry for a few years, I’ve learned lots of things.  I almost always learn as much as the kids do when I am part of a team that teaches using GI.  Some of my reflections are below:

  • For me, implementing units goes better if there are lots of adults available to help.   Ask your counselor, teachers on other teams, sped teachers, music teachers, your principal, parents, interns, gifted teachers, ELL teachers, anyone that you think might be willing to help.  You can even ask your mom.  I asked my mom and her friend to come and help with a unit I did with 2nd graders.  We were learning about national monuments and symbols.  For the explore phase, I needed a person at lots of small stations.  With just a quick description of what our purpose and goal was, she and her friend jumped right in.  They are both retired first grade teachers and sometimes miss being with kids.  Neither of them knew one single student, but I put them in the library with me, and students rotated through our groups.  ASK ANYONE.  The worst they can do is say no.  If they say yes, your groups just got smaller.  The people that help do not have to be trained.  This is especially true with when working with non-readers.
  • When students have voice and choice in their learning, the results are incredible.  Their buy-in is increased.  Let’s be honest…  sometimes doing research with students can be a little dry.   This is not the case when teaching using GID.  Students are researching questions that they really want answered…  what is important to them.  They often get to demonstrate their learning in a way that makes the most sense to them.  While I give some options for their “create”, I often tell students to let me know that they might need another option that wasn’t presented.  If a student has another idea, I am happy to hear them out.  It is important to give students as much control over their learning as possible.
  • I’ve had to learn to be flexible.  Sometimes what you have planned takes a lot longer than you think.  Sometimes what you have planned doesn’t take as long as you think.  Sometimes using a new strategy goes really smoothly.  Sometimes it flops.  You may have to adjust your timeline or make adjustments to your plan mid-stream.  It’s a learning experience for everyone…  adults included.  I find that often the line between “identify” and “gather” is kind of blurry.  It may take some kids 2 days to come up with a question and other kids know immediately.  I let the ones that know what they want to find out get started while they are excited and ready to learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to try stuff with little kids.  With small adaptations, you can do GI with any age.  Yes, they can’t read yet but there are lots and lots of resources to help with that.  Technology is your best friend (and so is PebbleGo).
  • If this is your first time, find someone in your building that you can collaborate with and go for it.  Again, you don’t have to do GI with other people who have been to training.  While it helps, you just have to  find someone who will trust you and listen to you.  Ask how they normally teach the unit, and keep anything that is already fantastic.  Talk about it.  Talk to other people who have done GI.  Librarians in my district constantly ask each other for new ideas or ways to freshen up old ideas.

Thank you for taking the time to read my posts this week.  Leslie, thank you for asking me.  It has been fun and educational for me to really reflect on my teaching.

 

–Terri Curtis, Madison Elementary, Norman, Ok

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