My Hyper-Handy HyperDoc Inquiry Journals

Happy Friday, friends! It’s Kelsey Barker back again to wrap up our week discussing the HyperDoc inquiry journals I made with my friend and colleague Paige Littlefield.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I knew HyperDocs would be the perfect solution to keep students (and teachers!) organized through a cross-curricular GID unit last spring. I asked Paige to come over to my school and work with me to develop the doc, and I’m really proud of what we came up with:

The table of contents

The first page of the inquiry journal features of a Table of Contents. Each day links directly to the corresponding day in the HyperDoc. No matter if students are working on Open or Evaluate, they can easily navigate their journals no matter how long the document ends up being.

The second section of the inquiry journal features a Resources section, where students can easily find several resources they will use throughout the unit.

Resources Page


Below the resources in the Open section. After some trial and error, Paige and I decided it was most efficient to connect the Language Arts and Social Studies activities each day. We built in instructions for every day’s activities right into the journal so that written instructions were right in front of the students as they worked through the process.

Each phase is tabbed on the left side, which helps with navigation as well. And just to be extra type-A, we color coded each phase in the journal to match the GID phase posters I have in my library:


The GID Reflection Wall in my library


Thanks to the flexibility of the HyperDoc format, we built inquiry logs, quick write, pair-shares, and exit tickets right into the journal. This made it easy to provide students with the structures they need to be successful while keeping it seamless and easy to navigate.


Each day’s activity for each class features starter, work time, and reflection components, based on the session plan from the GID institute.



Our school uses Google Classroom, so once this inquiry journal was completed, it was assigned to students through their Language Arts class and then shared with their Social Studies teacher so that everyone could access their work.

The final inquiry journal, before students wrote in it, is around 20 pages in length. When I saw that, I knew that we had made the right choice in choosing HyperDocs for inquiry journals. Especially with multiple courses and teachers involved, HyperDocs gave students a common structure that helped them stay organized no matter if they were in Social Studies or Language Arts. Students who were absent were easily able to see what they missed by accessing their inquiry journals from home, and students couldn’t lose their journals or leave them at home accidentally. Most importantly, digital journals allowed the entire learning team the ability to check in on a student’s progress at any point during the process, leave feedback, and generally keep tabs on how students were working through the unit.

Since this unit, I have used a similar style of HyperDoc inquiry journals with other GID units, including the 6th grade unit we are currently working on. They are easy to customize for each unit, and I appreciate their functionality for all kinds of students. Right now I have to say I’m especially grateful for the “Revision History” feature in Google Docs… that has come in handy as my 6th graders accidentally delete their work!

This summer, Paige and I presented at another local conference about our joint HyperDoc endeavor, and I can tell you I’m not the only GID practitioner in our district who is excited about using HyperDoc Inquiry Journals. Between new technology, professional development, and the brain trust of my educator friends, I love to constantly grow and improve my practice… and I hope our story might be useful to growing in your own practice as well!

Thanks for following along this week. I’m sure I’ll be back to talk GID with you again soon!

Kelsey Barker

Time to Get HYPED!

Hey, GID Friends! It’s me, Paige, again!

In past blogs, I’ve described my units in detail, phase by phase, which is a terrific chance to reflect on each step. Since I made the switch to coach, however, my role in the Guided Inquiry process is just so different- I don’t necessarily have that deep insight about each phase of each unit. What I can reflect on, though, is the introduction of one to one technology into the process. I’m asked all the time  how the technology has impacted teaching and learning. There are multiple ways to answer that, but one of the most important changes is in how students do research. Before we were one to one, research was a huge event. Now, students have all the information and tools they need right at their fingertips, every single day. That shift has allowed research to become more integrated into curriculum across content areas. I’ve blogged before the one to one initiative about my struggles with technology, but even then I was of the opinion that the benefits SO far outweighed them- and that’s even more true now.

Since my experience with Guided Inquiry has changed so much, it was hard to put my finger on what to write about. When Kelsey invited me to blog along with her, she had the great idea to talk about a tool, which she alluded to yesterday. We want to talk about the inquiry journal, specifically about the digital inquiry journal we developed together. There’s MUCH to be said for the benefits and uses of digital inquiry journals, but I’m not going to say it. I’m going to save it for Kelsey to say tomorrow. Today, I want to share a little about our favorite digital inquiry journal tool- HyperDocs.

I first learned about HyperDocs last fall while attending iPadpalooza, a professional development conference at the University of Oklahoma. I heard about it AGAIN only weeks afterwards at The Oklahoma Technology Association’s yearly conference, Encyclomedia. It was SUCH a perfect fit for the one to one classroom that I was like, “Okay- I’ve got to tell people about this.” And that’s the thought that led to my GET FIT presentation Kelsey referred to in her post. Before I deep dive into information about HyperDocs, however, I want to share with you how the presenters at iPadpalooza convinced me so quickly of its value.

The presenters posed this question: “Which of the following seating arrangements would you find most and least comfortable as a student? What about as a teacher?” They then showed the following pictures:


There was discussion as different participants shared the various pros and cons of the seating arrangements. THEN, the presenters shared THESE photos.



If you can’t tell, each photo shares the level of engagement of each position in the room. I’m sure there was discussion about this, but what I really remember is this revelation that came from it:

When we put a device in front of a student and use it authentically and effectively, every seat becomes front and center.

Then we, as teachers, can free ourselves up from the constant battle for attention and engagement and spend more time focusing on individualized instruction. Now, I know that HyperDocs certainly isn’t the only way to use a device authentically and effectively. It’s not even the tool I use with teachers most often! But the fact remains that when teachers DO use HyperDocs, students are free to move at their own pace throughout the lesson. Teachers are free to circulate around the room, providing support as needed and stopping for discussion when it’s warranted. And personally, I’m a fan of both of those outcomes.


I’m sure some readers are already familiar with HyperDocs, but in case not everyone is- a HyperDoc is an interactive Google document with instructions, links to resources, tasks, bookmarks, and a multitude of other clever things to get kids thinking and interacting with content. You can create a HyperDoc with everything you need for your lesson and share it with your students just as you would with any other digital assignment. In my district, that is most often via Google Classroom, but there are other ways. When your students are done, they can turn it in, again, just like any other digital assignment, but they don’t have to click around between a bunch of windows (agony if you have younger ones!) and if you do use Google Classroom or something like it, you don’t have to upload a bunch of stuff to it and crowd it up, and then hope that students find all of it. It’s all right there for them.


To develop your own HyperDoc, start with a blank Google doc. Once you have that, there are four steps you can go through to fully develop your HyperDoc lesson:

  • Determine your objectives. When teaching and learning with technology, it’s easy to become distracted by all the bells and whistles. We’ve got to remember that it’s not about the tech- it’s STILL a standards based lesson.
  • Select your learning cycle. You can organize your HyperDoc in any way that makes sense for your content. HyperDocs lends itself to almost any organizational structure, including the 5 Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Expand, Evaluate) and the traditional lesson plan format (Opening, Direct Instruction, Group Practice, and of course, Guided Inquiry.
  • Choose your packaging. Although Google Docs is the most common, HyperDocs can also be housed in Google Slides or Google Sites.
  • Build your HyperDoc. Determine the workflow- what do you want students to do? Choose a template- there are TONS out there. Finally, create the links and bookmarks within your document.

Here’s an example of a HyperDocs lesson. This is one I use when presenting on HyperDocs, and it still has my last participant’s answers in it. I left it that way because I love for those who are new to HyperDocs to see how it can be used for classroom discussions and for students to interact with each other. Not every HyperDoc has to include this, but it’s a great way to make sure students are hearing voices besides their own and learning from each other. I think there’s a fear that we introduce technology, those things stop when really, if it’s used correctly, opportunities for them are greater than ever. You might also notice that the table of contents is also hyperlinked. Those are actually bookmarks within the same document. This is especially helpful for students when the document becomes very long- like it would if it housed a Guided Inquiry unit. This isn’t a technology blog, so you can find more on creating bookmarks in your google document here.

I think this is a good place to stop, because Kelsey is going to share more with you about our specific inquiry journal tomorrow. I hope this has been helpful and not too techy! I find consistently that in addition to just being functionally better than a paper journal, digital inquiry journals help students to be more aware of their own inquiry process- always a good thing!

If you’re interested in learning more about HyperDocs or implementing them in your classroom, here are some of my favorite resources:

HyperDocs- Changing Digital Pedagogy

HyperDoc Templates

#hyperdocED presentation

HyperDocs and Interactive Notebooks presentation

HyperDocs Tour


I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Hello again, GID friends!

I’m so excited to be back on the blog this week with my friend and colleague Paige to tell you about a project we worked on together last spring. But before we jump into that, let me tell you what I’ve been up to since the last time I posted here, just about one year ago.

When I first wrote on this blog in 2016, I was a newish elementary librarian just diving into the wide world of Guided Inquiry. Since then, I became a GID Coach and then a GID District Trainer for my district, Norman Public Schools in Norman, OK. I moved from elementary to middle school in and worked in GID into my practice at the new school (sometimes successfully, other times not so much). I have learned so much about Guided Inquiry through the units I’ve been a part of in the last five years and especially through teaching the GID institute to other teachers in my district.

I have had the chance to learn and grow in my GID practice especially because for the last two years, my school has been a part of an IMLS-funded research grant with the University of Oklahoma and Norman Public Schools. The grant researchers are studying how students at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels learn when Making is embedded in Guided Inquiry. In the 2017-2018 school year, I worked with two 7th grade Language Arts teachers to complete four GID units, and it was an intense but amazing experience. I learned so much about GID at the middle school level, how to structure units for student success, design thinking, and more. The classroom teachers were wonderful and very dedicated GID practitioners themselves, but I think all of us were worried that four units in one school year was too much. Turns out, it made for great learning for our students, and this year they are still planning to do three units.

This year on the grant, I am working with two new teams: 6th grade Social Studies and 8th grade Science. As I write this, we are just beginning the Create phase with 6th graders, and I can’t wait to see what wonderful products they dream up. Maybe I’ll come back in a few months to share our results!

I also had the opportunity in the spring of this year to try something completely new for me: a cross-curricular GID unit, where 8th graders were looking at the concept of activism through the lens of the Civil War time period. Through their Language Arts classes, students experienced Civil War-era activist literature, music, art, and poetry, while simultaneously immersing themselves in the same time period through Social Studies. The classroom teachers worked together to create an engaging, intensive unit of study that achieved the standards of both courses.

The learning team was comprised of two Language Arts teachers, one special education Language Arts teacher, two Social Studies teachers, our gifted resource coordinator, and myself. When the team sat down to collaboratively build this unit, we knew it would be a logistical challenge to make sure that all students had the learning experiences we desired for them while still allowing each content area teacher to use the strengths of their subject to enrich the curriculum for students. For example, one of our challenges was that one student’s schedule may have Social Studies before Language Arts, while another had Language Arts first in their day. Because of this, activities could not build up one another within the same day. We needed some kind of tool to keep students organized and create a day-by-day guide for what was expected of them in each class.

As we designed the unit, I was reminded of a session Paige taught at Get Fit, our annual in-district professional development conference. In this session, she had participants work with a tool that I thought would be perfect to meet our needs for this unit. I will let her share more about that tomorrow… I hope it changes your teaching life the way it did mine! I’ll be back on Thursday to share how Paige and I worked together to implement this tool and make my cross-curricular unit successful.


Kelsey Barker


Guess Who?!

It’s me again, Guided Inquiry Friends! I’ve introduced myself to you before (here and here!) as Paige Holden. This time I’m coming to you as Paige Littlefield (52 days of wedded bliss and counting!).

I’m so excited to be blogging again. What’s even more exciting is that I’m sharing the blog this week with a colleague I have SO much respect and admiration for- Kelsey Barker, middle school librarian (library mastermind, I like to call her) and district Guided Inquiry Trainer. Oh, and did I mention she’s also my bestie?!

We’ve done a lot of collaborating over the years, and we’re excited to share with you something we worked on together. She’ll be around tomorrow to introduce herself- you will LOVE her! But first, here’s what you need to know about me.

I’m in my seventh year of teaching, all of which have been spent in Norman Public Schools in Norman, Oklahoma. For five years (and both of my other blog posts), I taught eighth grade Language Arts at Whittier Middle School. Last year and this year, I’ve worked as an Instructional Technology Integration Coach (iTech Coach for short!) at Norman High School. This is a brand new position- our district implemented a 1:1 technology initiative last year, and now every student in grades six through twelve has a MacBook. iTech Coaches were hired at to support that initiative at each of the six secondary sites. I share an office with our school’s onsite tech specialist, but my goal is to be in the classroom seventy-five percent of the time, helping teachers implement technology in meaningful and innovative ways. If you’re interested in what exactly that looks like, I’d love for you to check out my Instructional Technology Coaching Menu.

Leaving the Language Arts classroom was difficult, and stepping into a newly created position hasn’t been without growing pains. I went from a middle school of 60 faculty and 1,100 students- only 120 of which were mine to worry about- to my new high school, with its 150 faculty and 2,300 students- every single one of whom I have a share in the responsibility for. It was quite the transition to make, but something that’s really made it worth it for me is that now I have the opportunity to share the things I feel passionately about with a MUCH wider audience- things like differentiation, collaboration, creativity, student choice, reflective practice, professional development, ,AND- you guessed it- Guided Inquiry, which encompasses every single one of those other things!

Before writing today, I took a few minutes to re-read my past blog posts. I hadn’t read them in a long time, and it was SO interesting to see how my relationship with Guided Inquiry has evolved over the last three years! I went to my first Guided Inquiry Institute in the November 2015, and I implemented and blogged about my first unit- Natural Phenomena– in February 2016. I was so proud of that unit- I knew then that I was a Guided Inquiry convert! As much as I loved that unit, however, my grade- level team and I knew we could do better. We attended another institute in our district that summer, and implemented another unit in the spring of 2017- this one about World War II. Instead of creating a unit out of thin air just for Guided Inquiry, like we had before, we took an existing unit and turned in on its head. Our goal was to embed research into our curriculum, rather than make it this huge event, and it was a huge success.

When I moved into my new position, I knew I would no longer have my own classroom in which to plan and implement Guided Inquiry units. Instead, I’m able to work with teachers across grade levels and content areas to design and implement their own units. Our district has the very first District Guided Inquiry Trainers, and I get to attend every secondary institute they teach- three each year- to work with multiple teams from my school. I have opportunities to support teachers in instructional design, student questioning, and the implementation of technology, and I love every minute of it. None of this would be happening at Norman High, however, without one person in particular.  I’m not sure GID could flourish in a school without a teacher librarian at the helm, and I’m fortunate enough to work alongside the one and only Martha Pangburn. She was fanning the flames of Guided Inquiry long before I came along, and we couldn’t do it without her!

This summer, I took my relationship with Guided Inquiry to a new level. I attended a Guided Inquiry Institute at Rutgers, not as a participant, but as a step toward becoming one of the first four National Guided Inquiry Trainers. It was the professional development experience of a lifetime. I was able to observe SUCH diverse teams from all over the U.S. as they began their journeys with Guided Inquiry, and I learned so much about teaching and coaching from Leslie and from my fellow trainers in the making.

I know this is supposed to be an introductory post, but as I look back over the last few years, I can’t help but reflect on how much Guided Inquiry Design has shaped my professional growth. I’m a better teacher, a better colleague, and a better coach because of my experiences with GID, and I’m so happy to get to share a little piece of that with all you this week.

Kelsey and I are taking turns, so you’ll hear from her tomorrow and I’ll be back Thursday. Thanks for reading!


Paige Littlefield                                                                                                                                                                                          Instructional Technology Integration Coach                                                                                                                                                Norman High School                                                                                                                                                                                            Norman, Oklahoma

Guided Inquiry – A Mathematical Perspective

As I completed the final day of my guided Inquiry training this past Fall, describing myself as anxious would’ve been a major understatement. Our Geometry team had created a Guided Inquiry Unit for our students to complete right after Winter Break, and I honestly no idea what to expect. As a teacher interested in engagement opportunities, I was thrilled. However, from a classroom management perspective, I was terrified. I had no idea what my students were going to study, what they were going to find interesting, or what type of project they were going to create. As Winter Break came a close, I crossed my fingers (and toes!), and began this new experience.

As a class, we dove into ratios and proportions head on, with a new interest in real world applications, or most commonly phrased as the “why do we care?!” factor. My students kept a journal they wrote in one to two times a week, and I was fascinated by their responses. Overwhelmingly, they were so appreciative of my change of teaching! They enjoyed knowing the “why” of things, and felt much more connected to this chapter than any other we had covered so far. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! They were truly interested in mathematics! Quickly, my anxiety was replaced with hope and pure joy.

For my student’s create phase, they were to research a topic of their choice, and create a presentation and model of something in the real world. Common topics chosen included baking, toys cars (such as hot wheels), and movie sets.

However, one of the most interesting projects created involved Sea World’s Shamu and the animal’s large tank. The group of students created a model tank that was proportional to Shamu’s real tank. They weighed their model, thanks to a lovely science teacher, and converted its weight to pounds. Then, using proportions, discovered how much water would need to be in the tank with this model to be proportional to the real tank at Sea World. My students were so engaged in finding the correct answer, I think for a time they forgot they were in math class. I sat in awe as they presented their work, overcome with joy that these students were indeed mine.

As the unit came to a close, all of my students completed one final journal reflecting on the chapter, giving feedback, and rating this unit from 1-10. As a whole, everyone loved the unit. Many students enjoyed the project aspect of the unit. Others loved the real world applications. Finally, the majority couldn’t thank me enough of allowing them to study something they truly had an interest in. As a teacher, I felt I had truly done something amazing in my classroom.

To all my math teachers out there who are afraid of Guided Inquiry, I was too. But, don’t let that fear stop you from allowing your students to create something great. I encourage you to give Guided Inquiry a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed! Don’t let anyone tell you Guided Inquiry isn’t for math. Now more than ever, it’s exactly what we need.

Julia Prise
Geometry, Algebra 2, College Algebra Teacher
Norman High School


Writing in the Math Classroom?! A Guided Inquiry Reflection

I remember the first day of my first Guided Inquiry Unit. I told my Algebra 2 students (a mixture of Sophomore-Seniors in high school) that we were going to try something a little different. I asked them to keep an open mind throughout the process. I explained that I was nervous about this unit, but asked for their support because I believed this unit would be of great interest to them. They nodded along, smiled, and promised to try their best.

Then, I asked them to complete their first journal prompt. In math class. Oh, the audacity. I can still see the eye rolling. One student actually muttered, “Ummm, Mrs. Prise, I have English next hour, not now.” I put on my best ‘fake it until you make it’ face and put up the journal timer.

I remember this day not because of the anxiety or the eye rolling of annoyed teens, but instead because it was the day that I learned something truly incredible – writing in math class allowed me to converse with and understand students in a way I never thought possible. Throughout the unit, students who never spoke in class wrote vivid reflections, and I had the opportunity to write back and continue our conversation. I was able to judge student’s understanding quickly, without having to have them complete a typical assessment. I gained insight on what my students appreciated about the GI unit, and what they would recommend I change. Most importantly, I understood what my students were thinking.

When the Guided Inquiry unit ended, both my students and I were sad that the journaling was over. It was back to goal quizzes, homework, and exams. As the days went on, I felt myself using various GI ideas to make my content more engaging and applicable to the real world. But, there was still a hole where the journaling had been.

I’m thrilled to say that in August, each student will keep a composition notebook in my classroom, and we will journal at least twice a week. Sometimes, the prompts will be used as a checkpoint for me to see what students understand and what students are struggling with. Other times, it will be used to check vocab comprehension. Finally, sometimes, the journal prompts will ask a goofy ‘would you rather’ question, so that I can honor and value my students as individuals. I can see them as more than just math students, but as people who deserve a cheerleader in their corner. Whether their journal entries are excited, happy, lonely, or angry, they will know their math teacher is there to help with whatever they need. I may not be able to complete every unit in a true Guided Inquiry manner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my practice with its aspects and ideas.

Still think writing in journals is just something for the English classroom? Think again! I’m going to turn all my student’s ideas about math class upside down, and I’ve never been more anxious, or more excited.

Julia Prise
Geometry, Algebra 2, College Algebra Teacher
Norman High School

My Mathematical Journey to Guided Inquiry

As a high school math teacher, my overarching goal every year is to nurture a unique group of mathematically literate students. In today’s society, we are surrounded with numbers, statistics, and figures, and my goal as an educator is to create critical consumers of mathematics. In order to engage my students in this kind of thinking, they must be engaged and excited about mathematics. I am lucky enough to teach at Norman High School, where engagement is always on the forefront of classroom conversations. Last year, I had the privilege of attending a Guided Inquiry Training, and my eyes were immediately opened to a new, effective way in which to engage and interest my high school students. Guided Inquiry has given me, as an educator, the means to involve my students in mathematics while engaging them in interesting topics. Students can study math, something of interest to them, and become critical consumers of research and mathematics in one large swoop. I have completed two Guided Inquiry Units in Geometry and Algebra 2, and each project has impressed and surprised me more and more each time. My students have overwhelmingly enjoyed the Guided Inquiry process, journaling to me about their appreciation for individual choice, real life applications, and an overall change from traditional mathematics teaching. As I approach my fifth year in the classroom, my mind is already racing with Guided Inquiry ideas for my students to explore. I have the unique privilege to engage students in mathematics, and my students deserve nothing less than the best. Guided Inquiry has given me the opportunity to involve my students in research, data, and most importantly, engaging mathematical content.


Julia Prise
Geometry, Algebra 2, College Algebra Teacher
Norman High School

Gr.6 Science Inquiry

Hi! This is the last post for Brian Shin and Michael Alford. We have two previous posts, the last one can be found here.

Our students in gr.6 had just come up with their inquiry questions and were excited to delve deep.


This leads us to the Gather phase.

At this point a research rubric was introduced, outlining how many words and the type of visuals that should be included; also, to describe problems with researching their question in relation to scientific inquiry (for example, the distances of our universe makes inquiry more difficult); and to formulate a new “I Wonder” question manifested from their research that promotes further inquiry (but won’t be answered).

The boys now began their focused research to answer their Inquiry. They had to use a mix of sources including the cart of books, youtube videos, online websites, and podcasts. What they were to create with their research findings was left a mystery…

Impressions: Multiple reminders were absolutely necessary in addition to the initial review of the research rubric. You know 11 year old boys – once they get going it is as if they grow ‘blinders’! Teacher feedback in the form of check-ins at an individual level was helpful. However, we needed to keep in mind that Inquiry should avoid continuous ‘hand-holding’. A certain amount of autonomy fosters ownership and accountability.


A few classes were given to finish their research, and with their findings they were introduced to the next phase: Create.

Themed topics were announced and posted on the walls of the classroom. Some themes were: Black holes and dark matter, Space technology, Stars & Nebulae, Planet colonization including travel…etc..
The students then moved to the posted themes according to their own inquiry topic and groups were formed. If one grouping was too large then it would be split up.

Two options were outlined to the groupings for what they had to ‘create’:

  • make a website organized to display each boy’s Inquiry through page links.
  • make a collage of individual student infographics (using Pictochart or Canva) and place together collectively on a display board.

Impressions: Creating a website seemed to be the harder choice. They could use Wix, Weebly, or Google Sites. Some groups started to design a website but decided to switch to infographics after a period because of website creation difficulties. The infographics looked wonderful displayed together but due to time constraint creative license was limited. Ultimately, the inquiry process provided students with a learning tool that allowed for the generation of focused questions and deeper understanding. Bonus: this was all about their unique individual interests!

Pictochart or Canva infographics










Part of a website presentation


Some student inquiry questions are shown again below, but with their new ‘I wonder’ question to promote further inquiry for another time…

“Why can time slow down when you near a black hole?” – “I wonder how astronomers can test Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity?”

“How can we use the gravitational pull of a black hole to our advantage when travelling through space?” – “I wonder if the mass or size of a black hole affects the penrose process?”

“What is the process that creates energy for stars and how might humans use it as an energy source?” – “I wonder if nuclear fusion will ever be a main energy source for humans?”

“How might we create new space technology that is more advanced and doesn’t need fuel?” – “I wonder why fuel is one of the only things we have figured out to use that generates enough force to leave earth?”

“How can the nano craft of the project ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ withstand a force of 10,000 g’s?” – “I wonder how will the starshot company predict where exactly Proxima B will be in 20 years?”

“Why can’t we see dark matter? – “I wonder why the universe is predicted to collapse on itself?”



The Share phase

Our intention was for a gallery walk/show & tell, but alas time ran out. Therefore we have come up with our own “I wonder” question about this process: “We wonder how can students present a succinct, meaningful ‘take away’ regarding the entire process and what they learned?”


Thank you for reading our posts! We hope you gleaned some idea(s) from them. Good luck with your GID project!

Gr. 6 Science Inquiry

Hello again! Here is the second post of Brian Shin’s and Michael Alford’s gr.6 science inquiry. If you have not read the first post for an introduction, click here.

We continue now at the Explore phase.

In the book, Guided Inquiry Design, it is noted that the intention of this phase is to expose the students to a wide variety of sources where the focus is to skim over many topics and write down what is interesting to them. It is important to emphasize to them that this is not a search for as much information on one topic as they can gather. This last word is the confusion. The Explore phase is not the Gather phase where a topic has already been chosen.

We introduced the graphic organizers that would be needed for this phase: First, an Inquiry Log which keeps track of source names, and ranks how important or interesting the information in them is to the student. The second is a Stop and Jot form which allows the students to briefly write really interesting ideas from a particular source (going a bit deeper!)Both these graphic organizers are found in Guided Inquiry Design.

The sources that we made available to the students were: a trolley of library books, prepared for us by the librarian, a podcast website called ‘Starspot’, the website, and Youtube videos.

Luckily, we have many up to date books including multiple copies!


By the end of a couple of classes, we asked the boys to do a mini-assignment. They were to review the following:
1. Inquiry Journal video notes, and any other important journal entries.
2. Their “I wonder” questions from your shared Inquiry Circle Google slideshows.
3. Their notes from the “Gallery Walk” – “I see, I think I know, and I wonder”.

After review they must answer the following two questions and submit via our online school platform ‘Canvas’:
* What do you want to know more about?
* Which sources do you want to spend a little more time with? Explain.

Impressions: boys who had great ideas on topics and were previously engaged really flourished; but the boys who struggle with developing ideas and questions on their own had more challenges. We found sharing questions as a class after one session helpful to those boys. The Inquiry log and Stop and Jot forms are very helpful tools to organize immediate thoughts and research notes on paper. It is a nice mix of digital use with pencil and paper.


Exciting! Now for the development of their Inquiry question in the Identify Phase.

We introduced this Inquiry Chart from the book, Guided Inquiry Design; it has been changed a little visually, but the content remains the same.

Step by step development of an Inquiry question


Using a highlighter to focus on the most important ideas after reviewing all work to this point is helpful. Making more questions from these ideas is essential. Providing more graphic organizers to list these highlighted ideas scaffolds many students who struggle with visually organizing work.

Used as many of these as needed


From their collection of ideas and questions, the boys had to sort them into common themes which we called ‘clusters’.

Similar questions or ideas put into a cluster


Then from the cluster they would develop an Inquiry question. The boys could develop two or three clusters and Inquiry questions, but had to choose only one to investigate.

Here are some of their examples:

“Why can time slow down when you near a black hole?”

“How can we use the gravitational pull of a black hole to our advantage when travelling through space?”

“What is the process that creates energy for stars and how might humans use it as an energy source?”

“How might we create new space technology that is more advanced and doesn’t need fuel?”

“How can the nano craft of the project ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ withstand a force of 10,000 g’s?”

“Why can’t we see dark matter?”

Impressions: Similar to the Explore phase outcomes, boys who have a natural ability to connect ideas and formulate new ones were fast to go “deep”. Other boys needed more teacher feedback and guidance but overall they still were able to find a personal connection at a deeper level. Wonderful job!

Tomorrow: Gather, Create, and Share!

Gr.6 Science Inquiry – The Universe

Good day! Let’s start by introducing ourselves: our names are Brian Shin and Michael Alford. We are gr.6 science teachers at St. George’s Junior School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our school is an all boys school and has fully embraced the GID model for learning. It is exciting to share our Guided Inquiry Design (GID) experience! Let’s take you through the process!

A unit of study in the B.C. gr.6 science curriculum is ‘The Universe’. The “Big Idea” noted in the curriculum is “The solar system is part of the Milky Way, which is one of billions of galaxies.” With such a large scope of available topics of study, it is easy for students to choose one and research many facts on it. But here is the issue: they end up not really focusing on one key idea, or connecting the student with the content at a much deeper and meaningful level. Thus, the end result of their project is typically a broad, superficial summary. We wanted to change that!

Luckily, there is a great support network at our school to help. Our librarian and faculty have already exposed the boys to this wonderful process, so the steps and expectations were familiar to all learners. Moreover, Leslie Maniotes is incredibly helpful and always available! Her book, Guided Inquiry Design is the ultimate resource, with detailed examples.

Today and the next couple of posts we will provide an account of how we used GID to promote deeper learning and also to provide some reflection on the process; we will review each GID stage and then write some “impressions”.


In the beginning…Open Phase

We thought visual! Boys especially connect with good visuals to stir the imagination.
The hook was to watch the video “The Milky Way HD” by National Geographic(available online) and were provided with a link to finish at home if needed, depending on class time. The boys started a journal here to keep a record of interesting ideas that they felt impressed by.

Impressions: spectacular visual introduction of space; advanced presentation in terms of concepts, that left them excited and curious. Each boy was given a portfolio folder to be kept in class; they also created a google doc that was to be their personal ongoing Inquiry Journal (thank goodness for the automatic saving which is a feature of this program!). Video notes were made in their journal to keep a record of interesting ideas that they felt impressed by. These ideas were shared on post-it notes on the board at video’s end, and the start of next class. Lots to think about!



For us, the most time consuming phase of GID is the Immersion.

The students were now exposed to concepts that continue to build on ideas generated in the Open phase.
What a better way to start to do this than a field trip! The Vancouver Planetarium was an easy choice for sure! Lots of hands on, kinesthetic activities, plus the mind-blowing dome show. Lots to write about for highlights in their journals!

This is hot!

SO heavy!








For the following class lesson photos were posted at points around the classroom. This was a “Gallery Walk” where they held a graphic organizer with columns headed ‘I see’, ‘I think I know’, ‘I wonder’. Listening to tranquil space music streamed from Youtube, and in silence, they took a few minutes at each picture to write in their organizer. The pictures ranged from a Nebula, space technology, birth of stars, etc..Once they made their way through most or all of the gallery, they got into their newly created Inquiry Circles to share important thoughts about the top 2 or 3 intriguing pics for each Circle member. Their portfolio would contain all written materials such as this.

Gallery Walk pic

Gallery walk activity









Building a base of background knowledge in addition to just highlighting key terms and definitions is critical in the Immersion phase. If researching this knowledge is too wide-ranging and individualized, students will not have a common platform to work from; selecting core principles for basic understanding is key. These concepts are chosen by the teacher so the class knowledge is uniform. We decided on an activity called a ‘Jigsaw’ which allows each member of the Inquiry Circle to become an expert on a general concept. Using an online resource such as the ESA – kids website is appropriate for accumulating a base of basic facts and understanding. Each member of the Circle would create a Google slideshow about the concept, and then ‘share’ his google slideshow with all Circle members. The Circle members would read all their ‘shared’ slideshow summaries (the Jigsaw is completed) and write an “I wonder” question in their journal for each. These questions add to the important ideas that the student is gathering. They would also have collected general background knowledge in the form of the slideshows for future reference.

Extreme environments and technology! How easy does it get to engage boys in learning! These topics were the focus for the rest of the Immerse phase. Educational sites offer videos such as the Apollo 13 mission that are actually quite riveting with real footage. Using guided questions and stopping the video frequently to discuss the extreme environment of space coupled with technological challenges, the students found the true story unbelievable! More reflection was written in their journals. Finally, a podcast site called ‘Starspot’ was introduced and one podcast on Electric solar sails was listened to, again with stop and start playing that allowed for discussion and understanding. The boys were asked to draw the technology based on what was described in the podcast. This was added to their portfolio.

Impressions: The longest phase of inquiry for sure! The field trip offered so many connections to topics and brought a tactile quality to the experience. Fun! The extreme environment of space came through clearly in the Apollo 13 video. The introduction of the inquiry circles promoted communication and reflection among peers. Having responsibility to share background knowledge with peers in the jigsaw activity was meaningful and promoted further inquiry through the I Wonder questions. A discussion around using a podcast as a source gave them insight into resource use. The pros of a podcast include the topic is very current and is presented by leading experts in the field. A downside for gr.6 can be the advanced nature of the presentation. Throughout the Immerse phase the boys got continuous feedback on their work to date from the teacher. Using an online school-wide platform called Canvas, we were able to give immediate feedback to their journals without using paper. Their portfolio that did include written handouts was monitored for completion at this stage.


Tomorrow – Explore and Identify!