Howdy, from the Sooner State! My name is Jamie Johnson and this is my first G.I. blog post! I have been an elementary school librarian in Norman, Oklahoma for sixteen years. I started learning about Guided Inquiry in the spring of 2015 when Leslie Maniotes shared her knowledge and experiences with librarians and gifted resource coordinators from across our school district. I will be sharing a few strategies that worked for me and our second grade team when we used Guided Inquiry to investigate Presidents and First Ladies last spring.
Happy Monday! Today I’m sharing five more strategies for guiding students in inquiry questioning. Let’s dive right in!
Set Students up for Success in Explore
My mind was blown the first time I realized I could directly impact student questions with the resources curated for the Explore phase. This strategy is especially useful for a learning team that is concerned that students may miss out on critical content in a GID unit. By carefully curating the resources that inspire inquiry questions, we can guide students toward required content and help ensure their questions are right for the unit.
Here’s an example from a real-life unit: 8th graders rotated through several stations during Explore. At each location, there were primary and secondary sources, photographs and video, articles, infographics and more for students to dip into the content. Each station had a theme under the unit concept of Displacement: the Syrian refugee crisis, Japanese internment, the Holocaust, Natural Disasters, and so on. After exploring each station, the vast majority of student questions came from the materials they had interacted with during Explore. We were intentional with the content we included and that which was excluded from the first three phases of the unit in order to guide students toward the content we wished to cover.
Provide a Structure
As in everything else, students benefit from structure in questioning. A questioning structure helps students to recognize the quality of their own questions in a way that they can continue to use in the future.
There are many ways to structure questions: Thick vs. Thin, Leveled, or using a Question Builder. But the way I have found that works best for my students is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions. Based on the AVID questioning structure, I have found that this structure is complex enough to help my students write high-level inquiry questions, yet simple enough that they can clearly distinguish the three types of questions.
Here is a video I made for my students explaining the 3 Levels of questioning:
Get Started on the Right Foot
Another strategy I use to help students write excellent inquiry questions is to actually start their questions together. As a group brainstorm, we list as many question words as we can: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, Does/Did, etc. Then together, we cross out those question words that always lead us to Level 1 inquiry questions, leaving us with What, Why, and How. These are the question words that are most likely to begin a quality Level 3 inquiry question.
For students who continue to struggle with getting started, I have also provided sentence stems to help set them off in the right direction. With questioning, we want students focused on a question they are excited to answer, not feeling frustrated with the questioning process. Questioning often needs scaffolding just like anything else.
One on One Conferencing
In over 20 GID units, I have never passed the Identify phase without conferencing individually with every single student. Though it can seem logistically daunting, the benefits of face time with every learner as they work through their own questioning process far outweigh the costs.
In these conferences, I discuss with the student the level of their question, how it relates to the unit concept and their own interest, and how they will approach researching the answer to the question. I try to ask vague and open-ended questions that help the student come to their own conclusions about their inquiry question. Some students require more guidance than others, but eventually I know that each student will end up with a high level inquiry question that meets the needs of both the classroom curriculum and their own interests.
Let Them Ask the Bad Question
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if we conference or how much structure and support we provide to a student, they will insist on writing an inquiry question that does not meet the criteria we are looking for. In these cases, sometimes it is best to allow the student the opportunity to pursue their question and find that their avenue of inquiry leads to a dead end. It’s important that students understand that they always have the opportunity to loop back to Identify after moving on should they find their question does not work.
In this same vein, I often have students ask questions so specific, they find very limited information to answer them. In these cases, the trial and error involved in adjusting the question after beginning to Gather can be a valuable learning experience for the student. Real life inquiry is not perfectly linear, and Guided Inquiry units don’t have to be either!
I hope that you find these strategies as useful as I have for facilitating student questioning. If you have your own tricks or tips for helping your students write awesome inquiry questions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Hi, friends! I’m back today and excited to share some of my most successful strategies for guiding student inquiry questions in GID.
In my experience, this phase can be one of the most challenging for students. In traditional research, the inquiry topic is typically provided to the students by the learning team. I have heard over and over again, “Just tell me what question to write!” from students developing inquiry questions for the first time. We can start to move away from this mindset with my first strategy:
Establish a Culture of Inquiry.
Long before beginning a Guided Inquiry unit, the learning team can begin to build a culture of inquiry in the classroom by modeling an inquiry stance and encouraging student questioning.
One of my most successful strategies in developing a culture of inquiry came from my friend and colleague, Paige Holden. In order to encourage student questioning, Paige taught me to never blow off a student question, no matter how random it may seem. Instead, have students write the question in an inquiry journal, online platform, or a communal questioning space to answer at a more appropriate time. With older learners, ask the questioning student to find the answer to their question and report back to the class at a later time. This strategy allows teachers to keep the class on track without quashing students’ natural curiosity.
Modeling Making Mistakes and Revisions
So often, we see students who are afraid to revise because they believe that making improvements to their work means it is incorrect or inadequate. However, mistakes are a critical part of learning, especially in the Guided Inquiry process. Students must often rewrite inquiry questions over and over before defining a question that works. In order to show that constant revision is a part of learning, teachers can talk or write through their own thought processes aloud as a model for students. When students see these practices in action, they not only become better at doing it themselves, but come to see the classroom as a safe place to mess up and learn from it. Again, this strategy works in the classroom at any time, not just when students are engaged in an inquiry unit.
Practice Questioning Along the Way
Developing good inquiry questions can be a huge challenge for students, but it becomes substantially easier when students have had previous practice writing questions! In addition to building in questioning in the first three phases of the GID process, I have learned that building questioning into the daily classroom routine really helps to support students as they take on a GID unit. Consider where you could build questioning into your classroom outside of the GID unit. I think it could be a great fit with class journals, lab notebooks, bell work, literature circles, reading reflections, and more. Where would you build it in?
Stack the Learning Team
You probably noticed that all three strategies above happen before the Guided Inquiry unit even begins! That’s because for many students, GID is a departure from the traditional learning they are used to. And while GID is incredibly beneficial for students, the learning team may need to prepare students for some of the big differences coming with a Guided Inquiry unit.
The final strategy I’m sharing in today’s post is to build the learning team with the educators who can best help students be successful with questioning. During the Identify phase, I like to have “all hands on deck” to work with students on developing quality inquiry questions. This includes the classroom teacher(s), the gifted resource coordinator, appropriate special education teachers, and teachers of other content areas as necessary. Students respond differently to different teachers, and a variety of available adults in the room gives students the ability to work with the teacher of their choice. Gifted and special education teachers are also there to assist with differentiating for their respective students, making sure everyone has the support they need to be successful.
I hope that these strategies will be useful to your own GID journey, and I’ll be back tomorrow to share four more strategies I use with my students during the Identify phase.
I’m Kelsey Barker, and I am the Teacher Librarian at Longfellow Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma. I have blogged for 52 Weeks of GID before (here and here), and now I’m back again! I can’t get enough GID.
Here I am, showing my love for libraries!
When I attended my first GID institute with Leslie in the fall of 2015, I was the librarian at an NPS elementary school and brand new to the job. I fell in love with the process and the way that students were fully engaged in deep level learning. When I moved to middle school last year, there was no question that I would be working to implement Guided Inquiry at my new school as well. I have seen learning miracles happen through GID.
My first GID Institute team!
Like Cindy, who you heard from a couple of weeks ago, I am also a Guided Inquiry district trainer for Norman Public Schools. This has been an incredible opportunity to share my love of Guided Inquiry with other teachers in my district. I love watching these amazing educators grow in their profession, and it’s so rewarding to see their excitement to implement a unit with their students.
My most recent GID institute team… the district trainers!
As a district trainer, I have the opportunity to talk to lots of teachers just starting out on their GID journey, and there is one question I hear from them more than any other:
How do I guide my students to ask high level inquiry questions that stem from their own interests but meet the need of the classroom curriculum and state or national standards?
I am not ashamed to share that I too wondered this at my first institute in 2015. In fact, I wrote it on a sticky note in my institute notebook after day one. Looking at the big picture of unit design, it can be hard to understand GID can help students connect deeply with the content if we are allowing them choose the inquiry questions they ask. At the time, I understood that this is where the Guided part of Guided Inquiry came in: students require guidance to ask the questions that will lead to a successful inquiry experience. But honestly, I had no idea how to do it.
Now, with hundreds of hours of collaboration with fantastic educators and nearly 20 units under my belt, I’m excited to share what I have learned about guiding student question with all of you. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing several specific strategies I have used with my students to guide them to high-level inquiry questions that meet the needs of the curriculum and engage the individual student.
I’ll be back this weekend with my first four strategies, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have questions about student questioning? What’s your biggest hurdle around inquiry questions? Do you have a great strategy for guiding student questioning?
Norman Public Schools is experiencing a year of great change. From the previous sentence, I would like to emphasize the word GREAT. Change is happening in all kinds of ways. Our buildings have all been updated and are fabulous learning spaces, and we have implemented our 1:1 technology initiative in grades 6-12 in addition to having 4-5 devices in every elementary classroom. This is thanks to our citizens overwhelmingly passing bond issues and to the vision of our district leaders.
So I mentioned in my Day 1 post that I have a new job this year. I am one of the six new I Tech Coaches. Each of us is assigned to one secondary school where we are housed and 3 elementary buildings. Overall, our main purpose is to help teachers integrate technology in a way that transforms learning from the traditional. From the NPS ITech website, “In the past, students attended school because that is where information was found. Today, technology has made information accessible anytime, anywhere and offers vast educational resources for learners.” So even though NPS has not been a “sit and get” district for many years, people like Kathryn Lewis, Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology, have researched and sought out programs that will help our students. By using the research-based ISTE Standards, Kathryn and other leaders in our district wanted to support students and teachers with sound practices. The SAMR Model was also instrumental in setting the goals NPS had for technology. They did not want the new computers to be just a substitution of what we were already doing, but instead a “transformation” where students are asking their own questions, collaborating with others, and sharing their learning with a broader audience. SAMR model explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us0w823KY0g
So this year and in the years to come, we have the opportunity to help teachers design and implement lessons that integrate technology in a way that transforms learning. Guided Inquiry is one of the best models to do that with. We are thrilled that as Instructional Technology Coaches, we get to work with our librarians to be part of the extended team. We are off to an exciting start. Even though Guided Inquiry has been going on in our buildings since 2015, we now have information, experts, and ways to communicate our learning right at our fingertips. I am again grateful for how Guided Inquiry will play a major role in how our students across the district will use the technology. We hope that districts around the country have the opportunity to share Guided Inquiry with their students. We know that it will benefit all of our learners as they move through their education and their lives.
So as I mentioned in my first post this week, I feel very fortunate to be one of the first 8 people trained to be a Guided Inquiry Trainer for Norman Public Schools. As the interest in our district has grown, Leslie Maniotes and our leadership worked together to come up with a plan to train as many of our teachers as possible.
The passion for Guided Inquiry is spreading in our district as teachers return to their buildings and start working with students on their prototype units. It was decided that 4 elementary trainers and 4 secondary trainers would work with Leslie to help to carry this into the next several years and train as many teachers as possible. I am a member of the Secondary Training Team as seen in the above picture.
Do you want to be a District Guided Inquiry Trainer?
We were all contacted by our District Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Shirley Simmons and asked if we would be interested in training with Dr. Maniotes to be a District Trainer. We were then invited to the upcoming Guided Inquiry Institutes in March to just watch and take notes as Leslie led the teachers through the Institute.
Step 1 — Watch, Note, Question
The new trainers met before the institute and Leslie shared with us that she did not want us to participate as we had in previous training, but instead, sit, watch, and take notes on each slide noting how she handled different questions and situations. It seemed at first that it may be a bit awkward, but it was such a great time of learning.
As Leslie conducted the institute, we were able to each write what we saw, heard, and question how she handled each situation. She would walk over and explain her techniques and reasoning to us for each section of the Institute. We would meet during lunch and after the institute each day to discuss what worked and why. On day 2, she had two of us at a time sit in on the conferences and listen to how she coached each group with their prototype unit. The groups during this institute had very diverse topics and issues to deal with, so the training was very thorough. We had the opportunity to provide feedback as well to the groups and participated on day 3 in the sticky note activity as groups presented their units.
Step 2 — Preparation
At the end of the March Institutes, we were told that in July, we would be presenting the summer institutes with Leslie there to coach us through it. So as the summer began, we found a time to get together to go through the training and see which parts each of us would do. We went through the slides and then went home and studied some more. Finally, the institute was coming soon. Leslie provided support by sending us messages offering help as we prepared. We met again and went through the whole Institute slide by slide.
Step 3 — Our Turn with Coaching
The week of July 19, we were on with Leslie right there with us. I have to admit I was a little nervous. I have been a trainer before, but never with one of the authors, researchers, etc… right there watching. However, my mind was quickly put at ease. Leslie Maniotes is a teacher. She is kind, giving, and an amazing coach. As each of us got up, she took notes, added ideas to the slides, and did some “side-by-side” coaching. In a smooth flow, she would make sure we added pertinent information or phrase something a certain way. Throughout the day, she would meet with us on breaks and share that each step of the institute (down to very small details) are in there for a reason and help lead the participants to their own thoughts.
Personally, I had two instances that stood out as growth moments. Leslie pinpointed that as I would raise my hand to get the group back together to not start with a fully extended arm, but instead to start at my elbow, so I have somewhere to go if they were not coming back together. WHAT A SIMPLE, COOL idea that I had never considered. She also caught my phrasing when I would ask, “does anyone have anything else?” She pointed out that the language I used closed a conversation. If I would change that phrase to “what else?”, that would open and invite the conversation. At the end of the institute, she also met with each of us individually. She offered great praise and wonderful suggestions for growth. What an honor it was to be coached by her!
So the three days were a great time with an amazing group of teachers. We made it through with support from Leslie, and the teachers did incredible work.
Here is the fabulous group we worked with:
In conclusion, the thought of all the students this year who will have the opportunity to learn through the Guided Inquiry process is exciting. The work that Dr. Leslie Maniotes has done in Norman Public Schools is transforming how our students learn. What an honor it is to be a part of helping to spread this amazing program!
Tomorrow, I will share what is coming this year with Guided Inquiry in Norman Public Schools.
Hello from Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma. My name is Cindy Castell, and I have been at Whittier for the past 25 years. I am currently in a brand new position, I Tech Coach (Instructional Technology Integration Coach). I will explain more about this on day 3. I have also served the past four years as our school’s Gifted Resource Coordinator, where I served over 500 students in our GT program by providing enrichment opportunities and supporting teachers in developing differentiated instruction. Before that, I was a seventh-grade language arts teacher for 21 years.
In a quote about lifelong learning, Brian Tracy said, “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”As with many of you, my career in education has been defined by finding what works best for students. I want them to walk away from my class, or the classes I support, with the ability to continue to grow and learn. To me, that is what education is all about.
My initial Guided Inquiry training was in December 2015. I was in the second group of many who have been trained in our district. Norman Public Schools strongly supports Guided Inquiry in all classrooms K-12. It has been so exciting watching it grow and hearing all of the success stories with students of all ages. I was just looking back at my reflection journal from my initial training, and this is what I wrote:
I am super excited about this approach. For the past few years, it has become apparent that teaching facts and even basic skills are not preparing our students for the future. Our kids need to be able to move on and learn without us, but they need to have guidance on how to be good consumers of knowledge that is out there. I have been reading, subscribing to groups like MindShift, Edutopia, etc., and just trying to find everything available on how we move from standards-based to inquiry-based. I believe the skills will come as we have meaningful learning happening as I see this will be the case using Guided Inquiry as a structure.
In my career, we have been through “the cycles” that we often talk about in education. The cycle of drilling and testing has been a time of great conflict for me as a teacher. I know students have to have connection and meaning to truly learn. Guided Inquiry met my philosophy of teaching along with the structure to guide students to be well-trained consumers of the vast amount of information they have access to as well as developing the skills they need to be educated, contributing members of society. It is the structure I didn’t realize I was missing when I had students researching topics. I was hooked when I realized this Inquiry-Based learning model provided the structure that all of us really use or truly need to be consumers of information.
Over this week, I am excited to share with you a unique experience of being one of the first Guided Inquiry Trainers. With building capacity in our district, Dr. Leslie Maniotes agreed to train 4 Elementary librarians and teachers and 4 Secondary. I am thrilled to share with you the journey that led to being a Guided Inquiry Trainer and what we have learned through the process. We are positive that we will be training teachers to cultivate the “Movers and Shakers” of the future.
Focused reflection is what allows us to pause and mindfully ask ourselves the tough questions, think about different strategies and approaches, and then implement change where needed. Building in time for the teachers to reflect during the GID process gives space for individual thoughts and individual processing time. Reflection opens an opportunity to conversation. Finding the time to reflect can be a challenge and collaboration can be really hard. During collaborations emotions, expectations and vulnerability have the potential to collide at any given moment. In my last post, I mentioned the 3 things that I keep in mind when collaborating. I am intentional with reflection in all collaborations, but especially in GID.
Typically my reflective practice is quick sticky notes of thoughts that occur to me during a class with students. I later journal about my observations. The observations are typically first about what I could’ve done differently to engage, to assess learning, or to be more transparent to students about the objectives of the lesson or activity. It’s typically not until after I’ve processed these observations myself that I approach my colleague. In this way, I am able to articulate better as to what I think the pluses and deltas are. Approaching a colleague with this type of discussion can be challenging for both parties. A level of awareness of self is truly important to a successful interaction with colleagues and especially when it involves a long term collaboration. Framing the conversation around student learning and the goal of pushing the learning deeper allows the conversation to be reflective about improving teaching practice.
This past year, a colleague and I were able to move this to a deeper understanding of collaboration within the digital context. As we have collaborated for several years now, we are able to be authentic with each other and openly ask for feedback regarding our collaborations. Bringing it to the digital context was a helpful layer of reflection for each of us. Because it’s in a document that we can both access, it becomes a place that we can begin our next collaborative conversation. It’s also a judgement free zone, where we are sharing thoughts but not placing blame. Establishing this understanding is helpful to moving forward with building GID units. Each student, class and teacher are different. Being able to bring the reflections to conversation allows us to think about what could be different next time and to discuss what we each noticed. Bringing in the pluses and the deltas allow us to keep the good and shift the not so good.
Here are some things that I’ve personally learned from my own reflections about working with students and Guided Inquiry Design:
Teaching with this process does not mean that instruction is unnecessary and that expectations are lessened. Instead, scheduled check-ins for students allows for personalized engagement during the process. Creating an Inquiry Community builds these into the learning process and allows teachers to personalize the necessary instruction and support for each student. It also ensures that students know that you are aware of their work and effort throughout the process.
Giving students the ability to establish a reflective process before beginning Guided Inquiry allows students to transition easily from research to reflection and to develop an understanding of the complexity of reflecting. If students have not spent time thinking about their thoughts prior to GID, they will struggle with the reflective writing and the inquiry circles. Reflective practice at other times during the class give students the ability to learn strategies that will transfer.
Determining the habits and attitudes that individual students will need to be effective with GID is beneficial to developing appropriate instruction for each phase of the process. Integrating inquiry, information literacy, digital literacy, and ethical practices in other areas of instruction will prepare students.
Allowing students ample opportunity to discuss their learning throughout the process will keep students passionate about their topic. These opportunities could include interactions with students, teachers, administrators as well as digitally.
Students crave an authentic way to share their research. Finding ways that help them do so opens opportunity for engagement, motivation and learning. Authentic sharing may be in the school or beyond. Allowing other teachers to interview the students gives purpose to the research. Showcasing the work digitally creates a wider audience.
These ideas and thoughts are just some things I am thinking about as I prepare to work with my colleagues this school year. Allowing opportunities for engaging with complex ideas and to make meaning of them brings a deeper understanding of the intellectual process to our students. To me, Guided Inquiry Design is the avenue that gets our students there.
I’m excited to be blogging again for 52GID. Last year I posted about some of my adventures with Guided Inquiry Design and I’m happy to say that teachers from my school and district have also joined in to write about their experiences. Overall, it’s been a lot of fun over the past several years creating GID curriculum, co-teaching, uncovering new ways of using the process and learning with colleagues and students.
Our town is in central Massachusetts, we have 1140 students and I am grateful to be the teacher librarian at the high school. This year is my 8th year in Westborough. I am proud of all that we continue to accomplished with GID. As a teacher librarian, I rely on trust within my relationships with teachers in order to bring new ideas to the table. GID is quick to point out what’s working well in the classroom and where there is room for growth. I am happy to say that the majority of the content teachers I work with are knee deep in the growth mindset of education. And although it’s sometimes messy and uncomfortable, there is always time to reflect on what we may want to do better as well as how we can integrate our teaching styles, our teaching philosophy and our personalities.
Here are a few things that I am mindful of with GID collaborations:
Meet teachers where they are: Trying new things while we are in the midst of another wildly busy school year is scary, overwhelming and time consuming. I listen to what the content teacher is saying – their projected outcomes, their hopes for their students and their worries about making a mistake. GID can look different from class to class, and that’s okay. I reassure, model, jump in where necessary and remain positive.
Leave my agenda at the door: Collaborating with content teachers isn’t about me or what I may want to accomplish, but instead it’s about that individual teacher and their classroom of students. I don’t pretend to know their students better than them. I am not an expert – we are growing together – and we do. Every time.
Keep it real:Teaching is challenging and all consuming. We can get caught up in how much we want our students to learn, what assessment must look like and how everything should be. Even in high school, kids need to know that we care about what they are interested in.
Over this week, I hope to share some examples of what I’ve learned from GID collaborations with high school teachers and students.
School librarians in Croatia are interested in Guided inquiry. One of our leading experts in information science, Prof. Stricevic I mentioned before, advocates for it at our professional education events. She keeps saying that GI is the model of learning that best suits the needs of contemporary students. Guided Inquiry is recommended in IFLA-s guidelines for school libraries as well. So, why do we not use GID more?
The problem in Croatian education system is that we are stuck in our curriculum reform. Most teaching in our schools is traditional, there is no real collaboration between teachers, not to mention that teachers are not satisfied with their social status and many of them are not motivated to learn new things. The fact is, with traditional method of teaching, where teachers are lecturing and students are reading just their textbooks, there is no actual need for information literacy. If the only goal of teaching is that a student remembers what a teacher says to him, there is no need for collaboration between a teacher and a school librarian.
So, the question is – what kind of schools do we want? How do we prepare our students for their future life? Two years ago, it seemed that serious improvements in Croatian education system are to be made, but the change of political power stopped that. A New Committee for curriculum reform was appointed, but we still do not know any concrete results.
So much time and money is lost in the political struggle. Unfortunately, our students cannot wait, they are left at the mercy of their teachers. There are excellent schools, libraries, teachers, but they are excellent despite the system, not because of it. That is why, on the average, our students do not perform well on international testing (like PISA, PIRLS, ICILS….) nor do they achieve splendid results at their final high school exams.
We desperately need GID in our schools. We should have the books available in Croatian. We should educate teachers and librarians to apply it. There is no straightforward way to do this, I am aware of this. But, however futile it seems sometimes, we librarians, have our duties to perform no matter what are the circumstances. I have seen that GID works in my school. Students love learning through Guided Inquiry. I am aware that my colleagues and I made mistakes in our first attempts at it. But, the change in the classroom is enormous compared to traditional teaching. Students are motivated to work, they do not notice the bell ringing, and everybody is active, not just a few designated to answer all the questions.The students are learning, thinking, making conclusions based on evidence. Therefore, at the beginning of this school year I am going to ask my colleagues to join me in planning and preparing more GI units. I think this is my humble contribution to education winning in the race with catastrophe.