Hello…It’s Me!

Hello Again, Guided Inquiry Community! I’m thrilled to be back! I’m Paige Holden, teacher of Language Arts at Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma. I posted at approximately this time last year about my first ever GID unit, Natural Phenomena, and I’m just as excited to share my second unit, World War II and the Holocaust. But first, a little about me, my school, and my experience with Guided Inquiry. Here I am!

I’ve been teaching for five years, all at WMS.  While teaching Language Arts, I have also taught exploratory classes in Reading Intervention and Reading for Pleasure.  My very favorite thing about teaching is sharing my love of books and reading with my students, and helping many of them discover their inner bibliophile. I’m also crazy about my school.  Whittier is the largest of Norman’s four middle schools, with a little over eleven hundred students (one hundred twenty of whom are mine!). Of those, around thirty percent are eligible for free and reduced lunch, fourteen percent qualify for special service, forty percent are considered gifted, and four percent are English language learners. With such a diverse group of learners, I’m so lucky to work with the MOST amazing teachers. My colleagues are brilliant, patient, open to new ideas, and deeply committed to providing each of their students with the best learning experience possible- which is why Guided Inquiry is perfect for our school.

As I mentioned earlier, this is my second unit. I was originally introduced to Guided Inquiry by my bevy of librarian friends (affectionately known as the Think Tank of Awesome). Their happy hour tales intrigued me, and I attended my first training with Leslie in the fall of 2015. Our team was made up of two eighth grade Language Arts teachers (one of them was me!), our gifted resource coordinator, our instructional coach, our librarian and library assistant. Together, we planned and executed our eighth grade research unit.  Then, in the summer of 2016, I was lucky enough to attend a second institute, this time with my longtime teammates and loves of my teaching life, Leah Esker and Adrienne Hall. We were also joined in the fall by the lovely and talented Kasey McKinzie, who was very brave and went to the fall training by herself. This year, we wanted to do better.  We wanted to embed the inquiry process into our existing curriculum, to make research less of an event, so to speak, and more of a natural way to learn, because that’s what it is!  When we sat down to choose a unit to overhaul, we knew we needed one that generated a high level of curiosity amongst our students, as well as one that could lend itself to potentially endless avenues of inquiry. For those reasons, we chose World War II and the Holocaust.  I can’t wait to share it with you, as well as some other great things my fellow Whittier teachers are doing with Guided Inquiry. Stay tuned!


–Paige Holden

And the Results Are In!

I did my first guided inquiry project this fall with two of my freshman ELA classes.  The general topic was on civil rights–connecting the movement of the 1960s to the civil rights climate in society today.  Partly due to it being my first GID project, we did not assign a final paper, project, or presentation based on the research, which on the one hand seemed to make things a little easier on me, and on the other hand felt a bit like cheating.  My students were confused, too.  Although we had a good vision for the project, a lot of it was planned as we went along since I was also learning as we went along, and we never planned a final product assignment.  My teacher librarian helped me understand that with GID, that was an acceptable option.

I have always claimed to be someone who appreciated the journey more than the destination and the process more than the product, but it seems different when you are responsible for teaching, although it shouldn’t.  One of the things I discovered during this guided inquiry is that I like to see what my students “got.”  “What did they get out of it? Did they get something? What did they get?”  I am curious.  I want to know.  I want to see it, even if I don’t always want to grade it.

At the end of the project, I had no regrets about not having assigned a traditional paper or presentation, except for the fact that I didn’t feel like I saw enough of what they got.  On the other hand, I didn’t exactly put a lot of time into reading their research notecards, either!  We did ask the students to complete a final reflection in writing.  It’s just that for me, there wasn’t enough about what they learned, content-wise, in their reflections.

That being said, I am definitely satisfied enough to do this project again in a similar way.  I am looking forward to working with our teacher librarian, Anita Cellucci, again because I know that her guidance will help me evaluate, adjust, and fine-tune the process.  I am also hoping to come across some other good ideas for guided inquiry projects.  I am planning to read Leslie’s high school edition of Guided Inquiry Design in Action to help inspire me.  

Meanwhile, here are some of the noteworthy reflections from the students who were the founding participants of our civil rights GID project.   

How did what you found in your research help you understand what is going on today?

  • It made me realize that although we believe that segregation and inequality are no longer an issue, it still appears in many ways. Seeing the similarities in many of the deaths and protests that occur now, and that did occur in the past demonstrates that the United State’s hasn’t evolved as much as we thought.
  • I found a lot of information about the current rights for LGBT members. It made me think about how blacks, women, minorities used to be discriminated against and now the world is trying to create equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgendered people.
  • I researched in the areas of black power in the time of the 1960’s and I have studied how that movement has shifted into the U.S. today in the form of #BlackLivesMatter. The use of technology allows protesters today to spread their powerful words for equality.

How did knowing that there was no paper to write affect how you felt about your research?

  • It helped me focus more on the research and instead of thinking about making paragraphs it helped me focus more on the overall understanding of the inquiry project, and answering the topic question. Knowing that there was no paper to write helped me focus on understanding the main idea.
  • It made me a little less stressed and allowed me to look at a more general view of the topic as well as allowed me to develop a lot more ideas and opinions about the topic rather than just focusing on one.
  • Well, instead of really directing my research to a certain topic and narrowing down the different branches of civil rights, I kept my research broad and I was able to learn a lot more than I would have if there was a paper at the end.

Describe how you felt about working on this inquiry project a) when you first started, b) as you were gathering information and c) as you discussed your research with your classmates.  

  • When I first started this inquiry project I was a bit confused, I didn’t really fully understand the question. While I was gathering information I was a bit frustrated because at first I didn’t know if there was a final product or not but as soon as I learned that there wasn’t, the researching became a lot easier. At the end of the project, I felt that I had learned quite a bit about civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement and I felt that I had done a good job with the research.
  • While discussing my research with my classmates, I realized that I had very much enjoyed completing so much research on different components of the large topic of civil rights. I have gained so much more knowledge surrounding the topic and can say that overall I liked and appreciated this inquiry project.
  • As I discussed my research with my classmates, it helped a lot because I got to hear what other people did with the project, and sharing my ideas and having Mrs. Cellucci ask me questions about what I found helped my understanding of what I found a little better.

Thanks for reading!  –Susan Smith

High School ELA Civil Rights GID


I really didn’t mean to leave the last blog as a cliffhanger.  But on that note, to pick up the story, we left our hero taking the plunge into a Guided Inquiry Design project on civil rights…and no worries, we all lived happily ever after.  

So the notorious science project from 2015 was an aberration, really, in a school which had been successfully using Guided Inquiry Design in several disciplines for a couple of years already.  One reason that the freshman reaction to that particular science inquiry was so loud is because almost every freshman in the school was doing it at the same time.  That, and a variety of other non-favorable guided inquiry design circumstances combined for a kind of perfect storm.  The silver lining, though, for me anyway, was that it really prompted me to investigate Guided Inquiry Design and then, more importantly, to partner with our extremely accomplished teacher librarian for tons of help and guidance with the whole project.  

Even without knowing the particulars of Guided Inquiry Design, a guided inquiry project on civil rights appealed to me as something that would kill a lot of birds with one stone.  I wouldn’t have to worry about appearing to have an “agenda” on social and political issues, I wouldn’t have to review and gather the right sources, and my students could come to their own conclusions based on their own research.  Plus, I could feel like my students were getting exposed to important information about the past and about our world today.  Such a project would satisfy an ideal of creating authentic assignments, it would connect literature with life, it would satisfy a research requirement, it would promote intellectual curiosity, it would just about walk the dog and build strong bodies 12 ways.  Still, there was a lot to think about and plan out beforehand, so I was fortunate to have our teacher librarian expert to walk and sometimes push me through it.  

It was my first Guided Inquiry project.  It was a lot.  I guess those are my disclaimers.  

I learned a lot.  I will do it again.  I guess those are my claimers.  

I’m not going to lie.  There were times when my teacher librarian partner looked at me like I had two heads (I wanted to let the kids use social media for research, somehow), and I know there were times I thought she had three heads—and I couldn’t understand any of them (She wanted to just give the kids a bunch of magazines and newspapers to look through! And forget about the differences between open, explore, and immerse or the five kinds of learning rubric—what are you talking about?).  But, we were successful in the end, and sometimes we even still speak to each other when we can’t avoid it (kidding!).  

We started with the idea or the prompt.  I wanted students to compare the original Civil Rights Movement to the things going on today.  I had even seen some articles with titles like “Are We Having a Second Civil Rights Movement?” so I wondered if they could research that question and support or deny it.  Anita and I talked through some of my thinking and she helped me come up with the essential question: what are the similarities between the time of the original Civil Rights Movement and today, and how can we use this information to understand the climate in the U.S. today?

One of my favorite pieces of the project was one of the early stages. Umm… yes, it was definitely one of those early stages.  We created stations. One station had several photos of then and now (like a 60s protest photo and a picture of Colin Kaepernick).  One had an article from The Atlantic relating to racism and the presidential election.  The third station had a great video (that I found on Facebook) about the women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement.  The next day was even better!  In planning, Anita had watched me hem, haw, argue, and stress out for about 20 minutes straight, and then she decided that we should gather up a bunch of current magazines and newspapers from right there in the library where we stood, and have the students go through them in search of items related to civil rights.  I was incredulous.  I never thought they would just find things if we didn’t already know what was in there, but I went along with it, with absolutely no faith.  Luckily, Anita plowed on, because I  ended up loving it.  My honors students found a bunch of relevant articles and pieces.  The movie Loving was out (about an interracial couple who wanted to get married, which was against the law, and went to court), there was an article about local discrimination in housing, an article about immigration, and a bunch of other great things that I can’t remember.  I just remember that I was amazed at how wrong I was, and excited for all the topics the students seemed to be engaged in.  There was even something just pretty cool about seeing students reading newspapers.  None of the groups ran out of civil rights connections, and the sharing afterwards helped everyone to see how many different topics were included under the idea of civil rights today.  Check, check.  

My college preparatory level students who were doing the same project did not do as well with the newspapers and magazines, interestingly.  One kid got lost in the paper, and he and several others seemed to forget what we were looking for.  When we shared, he talked about what he had found interesting in the obituaries.  Although the students themselves were content, we decided to give this class one more day with that early stage of the process.  It’s noteworthy that these projects can be fluid and adapted for the students’ needs.  These guys needed a little more, so we found four videos and did another station session.  One video was the part of the Eyes on the Prize documentary that featured the story of Emmett Till.  One video was from an episode of What Would You Do? that featured a woman being denied service at a bakery for wearing a Muslim headscarf.  One video was about a transgendered teen who was an activist.  The final video addressed the Dakota pipeline protests.  Adding an extra day with some pre-selected content made a big difference for this class, I think.

Although there were other aspects of the project that I really appreciated, like how easy it was to read students’ notecards in Noodle Tools, I think those introductory sessions were the highlight for me.  I even used the same sort of station format for a lesson with my senior film class.

I could certainly say more about the project in its various stages, but I’m so long winded, and I have said the things that seem most important to me.   Definitely not a cliffhanger–I will try to talk about the results of our project in the next post.  

Susan Smith


How Facebook, the NCTE, The Secret Life of Bees, and My Pissed Off Freshmen Got Me Into Guided Inquiry


My name is Susan Smith (yes, that is my witness protection program name), and I teach high school English in the suburbs of Boston, MA.  This year I took the plunge and did my first guided inquiry project. This is how I got there. (Warning, I tend to make short stories long.)

I have taught all four high school grade levels at one time or another, but I have taught freshmen every year for the last ten years.  One of the novels we do in freshman English is The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, which takes place during the Civil Rights Movement.  Although we definitely do some activities related to the historical context of the novel, as the years have passed I have been more and more itching to do something beyond teaching kids about civil rights in the 1960s.  I have wanted to have some discussions and increase awareness of how those events and those issues are not just “what it was like in the old days before things got better like they are now”— if you know what I mean.  Sometimes in speaking about racism and social injustice, I feel like I am teaching them racist and homophobic and sexist content that they may have never thought of before—almost like I am teaching it TO them instead of teaching them about it.  Like if I talk about how there is a history of a stereotype of lust and violence around black men and white women and how white men have (created and) reacted to that stereotype (as in the story of Emmett Till), I am teaching them terrible concepts that they never thought of before (and didn’t need to know?).   Still, it is important stuff.  Recently, with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the increased awareness of cases of police brutality and institutionalized racism and voter rights discrimination and so many other social justice topics and issues, I have felt more compelled to figure out what to do.  

In September of 2015, the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) put out a statement to English teachers that basically said that it is somewhat of a moral responsibility to address and discuss with students what has been going on—to discuss racism in our country and our history  (http://www.ncte.org/governance/pres-team_9-8-15 Paragraph six in particular, and this line—“In addition to the revolution on the ground, we seek a parallel revolution in curricula, instructional models and practices, assessment approaches, and other facets of education that would lead to a future free from the barriers of prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination, and bias”).  The NCTE piece helped me feel more confident, so I found some articles related to current day racism and social justice, including the wealth equity gap, the school to prison pipeline, and even the Syrian refugee debate.  We read and discussed the articles in class and I felt somewhat more satisfied.  At the same time, I heard from some teachers that they didn’t feel comfortable having a social or political “agenda” in their curriculum.  They were uneasy about teaching kids things that might contradict the beliefs of their parents.  

Then, over this past summer, as so many social issues cropped up in the news and in popular discourse due to the upcoming elections, I saw more and more compelling posts and articles in my Facebook feed.  I learned a lot, and I again felt a desire to bring such topics to my students.   I just wasn’t sure what and how.  I knew that I could possibly put some time in and gather and curate some articles and posts from various figures that were popping up in my feed and educating me—like New York Times articles and Shaun King posts and stories about Black Lives Matter, but I just felt unsure of what to gather, and ultimately, how exactly to present or integrate those items  into my curriculum.   

That’s where I landed this fall—still with these ideas in the back of my mind, and chewing on what to do with my thoughts and my impulse to do something more deliberate with my students.

They say that there is no bad publicity, and although there are other reasons that guided inquiry was on my radar, probably the most memorable reason is because my 2015 freshmen hated it.  I heard their chatter before class started. Usually I don’t pay attention to it because it is a bit of a boundary for me; I feel like they should have their semi-private social time when they can get it.  However, the freshman chatter about the science inquiry project was fairly constant.  When it began to seem that they had been griping, stressing-out, and commiserating with each other about the science inquiry project (their first guided inquiry experience) for months on end, I finally asked them about it.  Given the chance to vent, their volume nearly blew my hair back.  On the other hand, though, anything that arouses that much passion in a 14 year-old can’t be all bad, right?  So I talked to them about it, and I talked to some other teachers about it, and nearly a year later I talked to our media specialist about guided inquiry.  In the end, in spite of, and because of, the notorious science project, I put all the pieces together and walked right into my own guided inquiry design project on civil rights.

Aligning Guided Inquiry with the A+ Philosophy

Guided Inquiry Design is a method of teaching that relies heavily upon teacher flexibility and student personal interest. Many veteran teachers have said, during or after their GID training, that “this is how we used to teach!” As I have learned this process along with other ongoing professional development, it has been interesting to compare and see where GID overlaps with other teaching philosophies and methods.

One important characteristic of my school, Monroe Elementary, is that we are an A+ School. This means that we have some basic tenets that provide a framework for the things we do. For example, one of the A+ Essentials is Arts at the core. This means that we integrate the arts into our teaching as often as possible. Another example that identifies an A+ school is focus on collaboration.

Teaching in an A+ school makes it easy to integrate Guided Inquiry, because so many of the key philosophies overlap. One of the most important tenets of A+ is Enriched Assessment. This means that assessment is more meaningful than paper and pencil tests. It is assessment through multiple pathways, such as creating a project to share what is learned. This is just one area where A+ and Guided Inquiry fit together perfectly!

This chart shows some of the overlapping areas between A+ and GID:

A+ Characteristic

Guided Inquiry Design

A+ and Guided Inquiry Implemented Together

Enriched assessment


Project based learning

Arts at the core


Student freedom to be creative

Multiple Learning Pathways

Third Space

Flexibility in students’ choices of inquiries and creations


Extended Guided Inquiry Team

Teachers work together to plan and implement instruction


Time and flexibility

Students have time to spend in Open, Immerse, Explore


Ownership, Third Space

Connection to students’ real life is valued

Experiential learning

Hands on experiences

Open, Immerse, Explore give real life experiences


Focus on standards

Standards are taught in meaningful ways

As you can see from the above chart, Guided Inquiry and A+ work well together! When our 1st grade teachers and I were at the Guided Inquiry training, we were building a unit over space science. The unit template includes sections on “Overarching Learning Goals” and “Five Kinds of Learning.” Our team didn’t even have to stop and ponder what this meant, we said, “This is just A+!”

Guided Inquiry is a model that fits with so many other effective teaching methods. GID units can be elaborate research projects for high school and college students. They can be beginning research projects for primary students, and every grade and subject in between! Guided Inquiry is for everyone, and all it takes is some flexibility and willingness to adjust our thinking from traditional research to make the switch!

Trisha Hutcherson, M.L.I.S.

Monroe Elementary

Norman, Oklahoma

Americans Who Made a Difference: Popplets, Paper People, and Videos!

In my previous post, I referred to our first Guided Inquiry unit with 2nd grade, Americans Who Made a Difference. For this post, I will describe the unit in more depth.

In our 2nd grade Social Studies curriculum, students were learning about such people as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, George Washington, Ruby Bridges, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Cesar Chávez. For Open experiences, I really like to use tangible artifacts or some other type of real object if possible. I was able to gather an object to represent most of the above people, and set them out on a table. They were only numbered, and the students tried to guess the important person that each object represented. This was a fun hands-on way for them to start interacting with the people from history, and it also gave them an opportunity to interact with each other and discuss the meaning of some of the objects.

For Immerse and Explore, each student had a basic Inquiry Journal on which to write down some information. Their journals included a place to write down the names of 2-3 people they had browsed, and the sources where they read about each. Most students were able to get some good ideas about who they wanted their units to focus on through this process, and then were were ready for Identify.

After students had identified the person they wanted to learn about, we proceeded on to Gather. Students had a four square research page to use as an organizer for their thoughts and information. Many of the 2nd graders needed a lot of scaffolding for this process. Thankfully our extended inquiry teaching team included our resource teacher and assistant who did an excellent job of helping some of the students find the information they needed and get it recorded. Students worked in small groups, using books and online resources for their information. Most students’ subjects were readily available in books and PebbleGo, but there were a few that required a little advance research on my part so that we would have appropriate information for them. Once we had gathered information, we were ready for the real fun!

For Create, we gave the students four choices of projects to make to share their learning: life size cutout paper people on which to write their information, Popplets, Wordles/Tagxedos, or dress up as your person and create a video. There was a fairly even split among the projects the students chose, with the exception of the paper people. Many of the students chose this project. We laughed because when they had their paper people spread out on the tables working, it looked like we were having mass surgeries in the library!

Share was then fairly easy to do with the computer based projects: we printed out the Tagxedos/Wordles, shared the Popplets, and I sent home instructions so that parents could view their child’s project at home. The classes were able to watch the videos that were made, and they all really enjoyed this. We shared the paper people by hanging them on the walls in the hallway outside the library and their classrooms. This raised a buzz among the younger students, who look forward to the year when they get to do this project. Here is one of the projects in which the student chose to share her information through a video: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B357lApiB-4ZRi1TUUYtaEQ2SW8

At the current time we are in the Gather phase of Americans Who Made a Difference, and the students are so engaged. I am very excited to see what lies ahead when they start pulling everything together to Create and Share their information!


Trisha Hutcherson, M.L.I.S.

Monroe Elementary

Norman, Oklahoma

From Teacher Librarian to Leader

My name is Trisha Hutcherson, and I am the librarian at Monroe Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma. My experience with Guided Inquiry Design began in the 2014-2015 school year. During the 2015-2016 year, I was trained along with my instructional coach and gifted and talented teacher. Together, the three of us began to implement GID in our elementary school.

Monroe Elementary is an A+ School. This means several things, including focus on the arts, enriched assessment, and teaching to multiple learning pathways or multiple intelligences. A very important part of A+ philosophy is collaboration across grade levels and subject areas. For this reason, teachers and specialists meet to plan together once each quarter of the school year. As soon as we were trained in GID in the fall of 2015, we began implementing it in our school through school-wide collaboration.

For the first couple of units we did, the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases were where we spent most of our time and effort. I found out here that Opens are quite fun to plan! These units were 3rd and 4th grade, Solar System and People Who Made a Difference respectively. The teachers took students to their classrooms for Gather, Create, and Share in both groups, so I didn’t get to be very involved in those phases.

The next units we did were with younger students, Kindergarten and 1st grade. Kindergarten did From Seed to Plant, and 1st grade did Light, Sound, and Color. Again, Open and Explore were a lot of fun for the students and for me with both of these studies. However, I soon discovered that Gather is a whole different world with primary students! I have since learned that the Open/Immerse/Explore phases are the most important to focus on with the little ones, and that it’s OK if their Gather happens in a big group and their Create is a drawing, writing, or simple verbal explanation or recording.

The most in-depth Guided Inquiry project we did during the 2015-2016 school year was Americans Who Made a Difference with 2nd grade. The Gather phase was a great learning experience for me with this age of students, because they were more able to gather information than the youngest students, but not as independently as the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

Being one of the few teachers trained in GID at our school site has forced me to be a leader and to advocate for improving the way we do our research and learning projects. Although now we have several grade level teams trained, at the beginning there were only about three of us. Some things this forced me to do were to train the other teachers in the basics of GID, to plan our units and work out all of the logistics, and to lead teachers and students through the process.

We are now in our second year of implementation, and having a year of experience has made a huge difference! I have been able to do some of the same units, with some tweaking, adjustments, and improvements. We are currently in the middle of Americans Who Made a Difference, Round 2! It’s going great!

Trisha Hutcherson, M.L.I.S

Monroe Elementary

Norman, Oklahoma

Using GID tools with Google Apps for Education

One of the bonuses of being the Curriculum Specialists is that when I need a “kid fix”, I have 63 schools from which to choose to visit. I recently had the opportunity to work with one of our CTE teachers in one of our Tech Centers. The principal contacted me because out tech centers do not have libraries or librarians. While the tech teachers have access to all the library resources, they don’t have the personnel to support them, so the request to help the Biotechnology class came to me. I jumped and offered to come and work with these students.


I emailed the teacher and asked for some information about what they will be researching and how might I help them with this process. This is to be an initial research into genetic engineering because later they will be working with proteins and creating their own. Using Google Classroom, I was able to help set up an Explore station for students to look for a topic about genetic engineering they had an interest in exploring further.

I started them in our online encyclopedia, Britannica School. Britannica allows teachers to create Resource Packs to set up its resources in a package for students to consume. Taking the terms the teacher provided, I set a resource pack for them to get some background information and use the Stop and Jot sheet from Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School.

Once students explored some background, we moved to Gale Cengage’s Science in Context:

Students continued to add to the Stop and Jot sheet for this database and their Student Resource in Context.


As students move forward with their research through the Identify and Gather stages, they will use the Inquiry Log to help them determine which of the articles to move forward and use for their research. Gale Cengage has an agreement with Google, so students can highlight and take notes right on the article, download load it into their Google Drive. They can share all their notes with their teacher and she can add comments as they go through all the stages in GID.

What was nice for me was to practice what I preach to my librarians, and it was really fun getting to interact with students again and talk to them about what they find interesting!

Other blog posts: 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/25/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/27/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/29/


Lori Donovan is a National Board Certified Librarian and is the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA. She holds a master’s degree in education with a specialty in school library media programs and a Graduate Professional Endorsement in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. She has published several articles in Library Media Connection and co-authored Power Researchers: Transforming Student Library Aides into Action Learners by Libraries Unlimited. She can be reached at lori_donovan@ccspnet.net or follow on Twitter @LoriDonovan14.

Using GID Inquiry Logs with Elementary PBL Projects

When Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) decided to embrace PBL, we worked with the Buck Institute for Education (www.bie.org) for training and implementation. BIE shows that PBL is a way to engage students, improve learning, helps develop critical thinking skills, promote creativity, and improve communication and collaboration among students (and teachers!). Librarians are essential in making this process work because of the elements within Buck’s framework, especially the Sustained Inquiry element (http://www.bie.org/blog/sustained_inquiry_in_pbl).


One of my AMAZING elementary librarians has embraced PBL and GID in her school. She uses LibGuides as her platform for all student PBL projects (http://libguides.ccpsnet.net/rees – look under the Projects tab) so all their work to help with all 8 elements are there for students. Tracey uses resources from Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when students are researching in the library. Leslie adapted the Inquiry Log for a PD she did on student engagement using GID as an example of how to really build students’ metacognitive skills. Tracey (and other AMAZING librarians in CCPS) are using these tools to help enhance and support student inquiry for PBL and other research projects.

Tracey’s school is one of our first who were trained in PBL, so she and her fellow teachers have had lots of practice and reflection on how to make their PBL projects engaging and have the rigor and relevance for the subject matter part of the project. Here are some examples of how students are using the Inquiry Log:

And what do the students say about these GID tools?

C – The inquiry log is helpful because you can look at different sites without taking notes.

N – The inquiry log is helpful because it helps me decide which sites I should use to find the information I’m looking for. It also helps me pick a subject to use. Another way it helps is it helps me decide which facts I can use.

K: The inquiry log helps because many people can’t remember what they read in the websites. Instead of forgetting, you can put the facts on the inquiry log and remember what you read.


Success is when students feel successful and encouraged to dive deep into what they want to learn!

Lori Donovan is a National Board Certified Librarian and is the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA. She holds a master’s degree in education with a specialty in school library media programs and a Graduate Professional Endorsement in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. She has published several articles in Library Media Connection and co-authored Power Researchers: Transforming Student Library Aides into Action Learners by Libraries Unlimited. She can be reached at lori_donovan@ccspnet.net or follow on Twitter @LoriDonovan14.

Other blog posts: 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/25/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/27/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/29/

CCPS’s Journey with GID

Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is a large, suburban school district just outside Richmond, VA. We have 63 schools and serve just over 60,000 students. As part of our district’s comprehensive plan, we are becoming a Project Based Learning (PBL) district – training several schools each summer until all are on board. As part of LIbrary Services, I wanted to find an inquiry research model to support the division’s move towards becoming a PBL District. That is how our journey began with GID. Leslie has done all day trainings with the librarians, and we spend other PD time looking at how GID supports all types of inquiry, not just for PBL.


This year we have had lots of change. We have a fairly new School Board and July 1, we got our new Superintendent. We also have had quite a few administrative changes happen at the building level as well. With all this change, the expression “Shift Happens” has become quite a mantra in our district. To help support the librarians here, I offered two book studies on professional books that talk about library services but were written for administrators. Our first book, Tapping into the Skills of 21st-Century School Librarians: A Concise Handbook for Administrators by Dr. Audrey Church, helped our librarians frame the types of conversations that can happen, especially with a new administrator in the building. We have new administrators who are new to CCPS but not new to administration; we have new administrators not new to CCPS but new to administration; and we have new administrators new to CCPS AND administration so we ran the full gamut. One of the big connections I wanted the participants to make was in using GID, they were tapping into 21st-century skills and inquiry learning was all about that Dr. Church describes. It was to allow them to use the format Dr. Church set up to frame their initial conversation with their new administrator.


Our second book study was with Dr. Rebecca J Morris’ School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders. In her chapter on Inquiry Learning, I asked the participants “How does Guided Inquiry Design support what Rebecca Morris calls the ‘Collaboration Arc’, ‘Assignment Design’ for educators; ‘Thinking and Questioning’ and ‘Developing Questions’ for Students? “


Here are their responses:

“Guided Inquiry supports the Collaboration Arc because it assumes that there will be planning, teaching and co-teaching between and among the classroom teacher(s) and the librarian. Assignment Design supports guided inquiry because GI encourages students to construct meaningful questions to ponder and research. As Morris writes, “educators model how and why we attend to the process.” Thinking and Questioning is part of GI in that it encourages active thinking and ‘course correction.’ Developing Questions makes Guided Inquiry personal which as we know, makes learning much more meaningful.” Elizabeth K


“Assignment Design mirrors Guided Inquiry in that it moves away from students researching from a pre-selected topic or list of topics. Inquiry based assignments want students to choose to research a topic that interests them by encouraging them to ask good questions. Think Open, Immerse, and Explore. Similarly, with the students, the ‘Thinking and Questioning’ and ‘Developing Questions’ aspect of the Collaboration Arc are in the same mold of Explore, Identify, and Gather. I like the term ‘satisficing’ the book uses to explain how students typically accept resources that are passable. I may steal that.” Gillian A

“When first learning about Guided Inquiry, I actually imagined more of an arc shape than the linear process that was offered in the text. The inquiry process is a circular process in that an idea starts small then gets bigger and grows as the student is immersed in it and explores more deeply. The student reaches his/her highest level of discomfort (top of the arc) when trying to identify quality sources to validate the idea. As the student concludes the most difficult process, he/she begins to slide into a more comfortable place as synthesis and the creation process begins to take shape. After sharing and evaluating, the process comes full circle. It’s a circular process with collaboration, as well. You can only go up when breaking ground with veteran teachers and building new relationships with fellow teachers. We, then, must immerse ourselves in and explore each other’s content areas to ensure they flow seamlessly together. The librarian will identify & gather quality sources that support the curriculum, and possibly create student exemplars. The resources are shared with teachers and students, and the librarian and teacher reflect/evaluate how well the lesson worked and how it can be improved.


Guided Inquiry totally supports the Assignment Design for Educators – it’s the framework for getting away from the “bird units.” Admittedly, we are all more “comfortable” in a controlled environment, but a controlled environment does not allow deep thinking. I am currently working on Genius Hour with 8th graders. The ELA teacher and I definitely say “what were we thinking??” but the ideas that students are generating may not have come out otherwise! We still don’t know how everything is going to work out, but we are definitely celebrating the process!


By its nature, Guided Inquiry supports thinking and questioning for students in the immerse and explore phases. Students delve deeply into their topic, and as they are immersed, they discover a wide variety of sources from diverse perspectives. This allows them to compare, contrast, validate, and support their thinking and the questioning process.” Heather M


“Guided Inquiry Design supports the new PBL training that everyone in the district is doing. Using the library to support project based learning by doing research and being part of the inquiry work. Project Based Learning often promotes students working in small groups and the library helping to develop questions, research and complete their projects. Inquiry is a natural path to collaboration and working with curriculum!” Laura I


“Guided Inquiry Design supports collaboration as teachers and librarians work together to create meaningful learning experiences for students where they can immerse themselves richly in a topic before addressing a more finite research question. Collaboration arc (as would also be true in guided inquiry) means that the nature of the project dictates the type and frequency of collaboration. Not all projects are the same, nor is all support the same. Assignment design and guided inquiry are parallel in that students move away from selecting topics that have little meaning for them to choosing topics driven by good questioning. By learning how to create their own questions and by increasing confidence in questioning, students learn how to be self-directed in inquiry. Students are more engaged as a result supporting the development of critical thinking skills. By thinking and questioning throughout the research process, students develop the skills to replicate the research process across content areas and for future units of study.” Lindsey H


“Collaboration Arc seems to be similar to PBL. PBL is based on inquiry learning. Inquiry learning allows for collaboration with librarians and classroom teachers. Inquiry learning also allows students to gain knowledge by engaging them in questioning, critical thinking, and problem solving. Teachers and librarians working together is best practices for guiding students through the process of inquiry learning. If teachers and librarians collaborate instruction will be more effective for students because learning will be authenticating and engaging.” Ruby P

“Guided inquiry mirrors the collaboration arc, assignment design, thinking and questioning, and developing questions ideas presented by Rebecca Morris. The collaboration arc of working with teachers, sharing the responsibility, creating a culture of collaboration, and varying the degrees of collaboration is exactly what we do when we assemble the team for guided inquiry. We work with teachers and community experts to support the learning process for students. I like her point that having a collaborative partner encourages risk taking and innovation. The idea of assignment design is exactly what guided inquiry is. We have a goal for students to learn so we design the lesson to guide them in their learning. The process of learning is as important as the content they are learning. We use their third space to make it matter to them and we create a hook to get them thinking and generating questions. Students generate their own questions and drive their learning. Students look at how they learn and they evaluate information by forming higher level thinking questions. The immerse, explore, identify, and gather portions of guided inquiry are where learning questions are formed, reflected on, and revised.” Tami W

Lori Donovan is a National Board Certified Librarian and is the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA. She holds a master’s degree in education with a specialty in school library media programs and a Graduate Professional Endorsement in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. She has published several articles in Library Media Connection and co-authored Power Researchers: Transforming Student Library Aides into Action Learners by Libraries Unlimited. She can be reached at lori_donovan@ccspnet.net or follow on Twitter @LoriDonovan14.


Other blog posts: 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/25/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/27/; 52guidedunquiry.edublogs.org/2016/07/29/