Breakout Box

My goal this week on the blog was to share my experiences and thoughts about making time for critical learning experiences in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning. Analyzing our own attitudes toward how we decide to spend our time in our classrooms is the first critical step. Then remember that you are not alone! When classroom teachers and school librarians collaborate, we can create some truly exciting opportunities for our students!

On Wednesday, I shared an idea to invite local community members to your library during the Immerse phase and plan gallery walks to expose students to lots of different types of information sources during Explore. Another fun idea to try during the Immerse phase is a breakout box activity!

Modeled after escape rooms, a breakout box activity can take many different forms and can be used in any classroom and level. Students can work as a whole group, in small groups, with a partner, or individually to solve clues, unlock locks, and discover what’s hidden in the locked box! Even our high school students get active and enthusiastic. One teacher said, “I see some of my students participating who usually do nothing!” One school librarian in my district planned a breakout activity for the faculty during an in-service day before school started.

We have successfully designed 3 breakout experiences: library orientation, book censorship, and the beginnings of the Cold War. We began by purchasing a box set from Breakout EDU which was $100. However, you can buy your own boxes and locks for less than that. The advantage to buying from the website is that you get access to hundreds of lesson plans. The set includes invisible ink pens with a special flashlight, which is incredibly fun for the students to use to solve clues. Also included is a small USB drive. I made a short video of myself giving a clue, saved the video on the USB drive, and hid the drive in a book.

To begin, create a scenario that is exciting for students. For example, when we use the breakout for library orientation, we play music from Mission Impossible while reading aloud the following:

“You and your friends have been investigating a biochemist on suspicions that he is making bioweapons. His evil plans are locked in a black box in order to prevent you from finding them and destroying them. You must find the evil plans and destroy them or this mysterious villain will unleash a deadly virus in 30 minutes!”

For book censorship: “A group of parents is angry about some of the books available for checkout in the library. Specifically, they are complaining about To Kill a Mockingbird, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter. They have locked the offensive books in a large, black box and are planning a book burning ceremony in order to get rid of these controversial books! You have 30 minutes to save these books from an untimely and unjust end!”

For the beginnings of the Cold War: “World War II has officially been declared over with the unconditional surrender of Germany. While people around the world celebrate, another conflict has been brewing between the Allies, even before the war ended. The new world superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States are battling for territory and influence after the Nazi threat is defeated. As the United States is concerned about the imminent spread of communism, the Soviet Union also begins its own nuclear program. This new cold war has the potential to end in total devastation. You are the superpowers, the Americans versus the Soviets, working against the clock to prevent a world-ending nuclear holocaust. Be the first country to unlock the nuclear codes and get them out of the hands of the enemy. If you fail, your opponent will acquire your country’s nuclear codes, and a mushroom cloud may be in your future. You have 30 minutes to overcome Cold War mistrust and tensions to save the world.”

For the Cold War activity, we passed out paper copies of Soviet Union and American flags to students as they walked into the library, dividing them into two teams. This idea helped create an atmosphere to mirror the tensions of the Cold War (obviously on a smaller scale!). Each team worked to solve clues, but the box wouldn’t be completely unlocked unless both teams were successful. 

Design the clues so that students must access a variety of library resources in order to solve the puzzles and unlock the locks. For example, we use print books, eBooks, databases, infographics, and more. When we use this for library orientation, it’s a great way to test if they know how to use an index. And if they don’t, they’ll figure it out quickly because they become competitive and don’t want time to run out!

Here’s one clue from each of our activities so you can see examples if you haven’t created one yet. Library orientation: Those pesky librarians are always changing things around…this time, they have adopted a new way to use online resources called MackinVIA. Apparently they have given each student their own login. Go to schoology and open the MackinVIA link. Open the Opposing Viewpoints database. Some people call me a bully (imagine that!) and I want to know just how many news articles are available for me to read under the bullying topic.” Book censorship: “It’s not easy to stop people who want to burn books! For the first step in finding the key, figure out which book is number 6 on the list of books most challenged in 2016 as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.” The Cold War: “You must find the type of uranium used in the center of the secondary fusion device to accomplish the most powerful explosion from the nuclear bomb before the other team. What is it? (Hint: Find Matt Bougie’s Strategic Inventions of the Cold War.)”

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Use a free website to create fake text messages. I created the following conversation between Truman and Stalin as part of what was in the locked box during the Cold War breakout. You can get really creative with a breakout activity! Use QR codes. Maybe your principal could play a role or make a guest appearance.

Breakout experiences are effective during the Immerse phase because students become exposed to lots of information through solving various clues. Design the clues so students use content area knowledge to solve them. After the breakout experience, debrief students. Have them share answers to clues if they worked on solving different ones. From here, students can choose which aspects they encountered during the breakout to investigate further in the Explore phase.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts for this week. I truly believe in the importance of educators making time for what matters and modeling their own curiosity and excitement to learn for their students.

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC


An Invitation to Learn

In Monday’s blog post, I asked everyone to dig deep and analyze their own attitudes about time. Today, let’s think about how we present the learning process to our students (which definitely relates to time). In short, is learning a drag, something to merely tolerate? Or is it a process of discovery?

When you want to learn more about something, do you reach for a textbook or Powerpoint presentation? Or do you ask a person, do some research, watch a film or video?


What can educators do to establish a warm, inviting, exciting mood for learning? In Guided Inquiry Design, the first three phases of inquiry learning (Open, Immerse, Explore) are critical. Kuhlthau et al establish again and again how important it is not to rush students because establishing a learning purpose affects successful implementation of the rest of the inquiry process.

Educators learn from studying the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning that they should not begin a unit of study by handing out an assignment. No learning context has been established! Just yesterday a student told me, “We just started reading a speech in English class today and answering questions about it, but I have no idea who was giving the speech and why.”

In my school, students can take an elective called Media Center Service Learning. We have had success implementing a unit on social justice. When we start talking about it, they all inevitably ask, “What is social justice?” That question shows me their lack of previous knowledge, so imagine how ineffective it would be if I simply handed out an assignment sheet or packet on the day we began the unit.

Units of learning should begin with an open invitation to spark students’ curiosity. Students should be curious about lots of things because they typically haven’t had many life experiences yet, so there’s a lot they don’t know. What would make you curious to learn more about something? (Probably not a textbook or PowerPoint presentation.)

At the high school level, I’ve had success using the New York Times Op-Docs website for short documentary clips to engage students and get them thinking. For the example of our social justice unit, here’s one clip we used, featuring an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Students wrote questions during viewing on a shared Google Doc which we discussed after viewing. The clip prompted some great discussions among students who before viewing the clip didn’t know the meaning of social justice. They were astonished to discover some of the information presented in the clip. Some students went on to research the school because they were curious, naturally leading into the Immerse phase of GID.

In Immerse, educators need to give students opportunities to encounter the breadth of the topic. Building background knowledge is critical if students are going to have enough information to eventually narrow down a topic in the Identify phase of GID. During my unit, the students continued their discussion about the clip. I also arranged for some guest speakers to visit my library. A representative from a local organization which works to help victims of human trafficking attended as well as a representative from a local community center and a public librarian. These three individuals spoke with students about how their jobs involve issues of social justice. This event helped show students the breadth of social justice issues around the world but also in our local community. Students took notes and also participated in discussions in inquiry circles. They were particularly interested in the human trafficking organization (SWITCH).

At this point, students have already encountered a great deal of new information as a group. As we transition into the Explore phase of GID, “students browse through various sources of information to explore interesting ideas and prepare to develop their inquiry questions” (Kuhlthau, 2012). In our unit, we prepared 13 stations each featuring an issue of social justice. Students rotated among the stations, writing down questions. We included books, articles, political cartoons, photographs, video clips, and much more. Remember that students should only be browsing, skimming, and scanning at this point. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and now is not the time to be bogged down in detailed note-taking. As Kuhlthau (2012) states, “when students rush through exploring, their thoughts about their ideas have little opportunity to evolve or develop. As learners slow down and relax, they can read and reflect on the information they are exploring” (79).

Here is proof that GID works: some of my students ended up choosing a topic that was not featured in the Open, Immerse, or Explore phases! These same students who began the unit asking “What is social justice?” had progressed enough to find their own topics. I could not have been more proud of them. And yes, some of these students were reluctant learners.

As an end product, students wrote a letter to a local representative, organization, or newspaper explaining the social justice issue and proposing a solution or course of action. Their end products were much more effective because they were given time to explore issues that interested them and that they cared about. They gained a much clearer, detailed picture of social justice because they moved through the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. Imagine if I had merely provided them with an assignment sheet including a list of possible topics. The students would not have developed an emotional connection with the unit.

All of these activities took time. Use your fellow teachers and school librarians to collaborate. Branch out into your community and see which learning opportunities are available. Ideas provided in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases can make learning so very exciting!

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC



Time and Patience

“Would your learners come back to your class tomorrow if they didn’t have to?” –Trevor Mackenzie

I have a tall order for a Monday morning: we’re being very honest with ourselves today!

If you’re a more experienced teacher, you might realize upon self-reflection that it’s very tempting to fall into a rut. Because, let’s face it, teaching is exhausting. Tailoring instruction to your specific students, allowing for exceptionalities of all types, being creative, giving constructive feedback, entering grades, calling parents… I’ll just stop the list right there.

However, it does us good as educators to be reminded that our attitudes, tone, and demeanor dictate the paths of learning in our classrooms. I think it’s fair to say that in an average American public school, there are a lot of demands being made on teachers which can obscure our vision. How can we break through that fog to rediscover the joy and fun of educating others?

Let Guided Inquiry Design lead the way! This inquiry model isn’t effective solely for the students, but also for the educators. When was the last time you put yourself in your learners’ shoes? Done something you’d never tried before? Read something about which you knew absolutely nothing? Read something that you knew would be very difficult? Put yourself outside of your comfort zone? Engaging in these things makes us feel like learners and discoverers again, which means remembering what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and anxious and overwhelmed. We know this is exactly what happens to learners thanks to the Information Search Process research conducted by Kuhlthau and reaffirmed over the past 2 decades!

This week, I’m going to share some ideas that I plan to present next week at the South Carolina Association of School Librarian (SCASL) conference in Greenville, SC.  I will be encouraging fellow librarians to take steps to foster an inquiry mindset with their students based on the GID model, sharing some successes and struggles I have had. In this blog post today, I’m going to focus on two issues which I personally believe greatly influence our level of success: time and patience.

How many times today have you already said, “I don’t have time for that!”? Keep track and analyze your results. Time hasn’t changed; we still have 24 hours each day! Librarians hear that response a lot when we suggest alternatives to students taking notes from PowerPoint presentations or reading from a textbook. Although we do live in the age of standardized testing, there are still a lot of courses at the high school level which are not tested. Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time with your students. You don’t need to worry about drill-and-kill with content area knowledge if students are encountering your content in authentic texts and authentic learning activities (like visiting a museum, listening to a guest speaker, interviewing their local government representative). Remember yourself as a student. If you didn’t like to read your textbook when you were a student, then there is no chance your own students do.

Have you ever passed out a research assignment to students as the beginning of a unit? Do you only allow students a day or two to find information? Librarians know from experience that research is often presented in this way. If you find yourself dreading a research assignment as much as your students, then you know it’s time for a change. Students who feel pressured to complete work quickly will not turn in quality work, nor will they probably care because an intent to learn has not been established. Yes, exploration and discovery take time. But what a useful way to use the time we have! Partner with fellow teachers and librarians in your building to help brainstorm and share resources. There is never a reason to go it alone.

Be willing to honestly examine your own attitude toward time. You teach your students about what is important through your words, actions, body language, and tone. Make exploration and discovery something you can’t wait to do either, and be the learning role model for your students. As Kuhlthau (2015) states in Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, “Guided Inquiry has the power to excite students about using resources for learning” (114). Furthermore, “Sources from the community enliven the inquiry process” (115). Use your time to find resources beyond your textbook or PowerPoint presentation: the school library, fiction, objects, museums, experts, parents, public library, business professionals, community officials.

Guided Inquiry Design states that during inquiry, the learning team “uses modeling, listening, and encouraging” to engage and guide students. Prioritize time in your classroom and library to model curiosity, listen to students throughout their process of discovering information, and encourage questioning.

These ideas naturally lead into the second issue I believe is greatly important: patience. I am the first to admit that I struggle with this one! Patience and time are directly linked. If students are going to build their own knowledge through an inquiry stance and develop information literacy skills, then they have to be the ones doing the learning. We don’t need more research and books to prove that to be true again and again. How many times did it take you to truly learn something well enough that you could teach it to someone else? Probably more than once! Allowing students to make mistakes, maybe even on purpose, so they can learn from them is critical. Avoid telling students answers. Use questioning to guide their thinking.

Moreover, being patient with someone shows that you care. Being patient shows that you are willing to give your time to someone else. When students trust their educators, a safe learning environment is established and they are willing to take more risks which can lead to more discoveries. Be patient with learners as they reflect on their abilities in order to make goals, then give them the time to reach those goals.

Dedicating time and patience to the inquiry process has many rewards! Return to the question which begins this post. Do you even want to return to your classroom? Being excited and curious, having patience, and using authentic sources of information will influence how students answer.

In my next post, I will share some ideas for the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of GID and why they are so important to the inquiry mindset.

–Jamie Gregory, NBCT Library Media, Duncan, SC


Past GID blog posts:;;;



Asking the Questions, Connecting the Dots…


In my previous post I shared how app(roach) smashing the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) within the GID Framework is not only worth trying, but well worth doing.

So now to the nitty gritty—where exactly might you use the QFT within GID?

Open Phase:

The opener is the hook that sparks curiosity and paves the way for inquiry. One way to do this could be to use an artifact, object, image, photograph, quotation or video related to the curricular focus and use that as a QFocus.

Immerse Phase:

In the Immerse Phase, everyone builds collective background knowledge via a particular experience or interaction, from reading a common text to watching a performance or role playing in a simulation. The QFT could become a possible post-immersion activity, using collaborative crowdsourcing to leverage what everyone has picked up from the Immerse phase. The cool thing about doing the QFT after the Immerse phase (or Explore phase) is that students now have some prior/background knowledge in order to ask higher-order, open questions beyond basic fact-based ones. Students could use these as “under the radar” questions in their minds as they enter the Explore phase, without making any serious commitments to a particular research focus as of yet.

For example, in a recent WWII/Holocaust collaborative project between 8th grade reading and English at my campus, our learning team structured the Immersion phase as study of various nonfiction articles about the time period students read and discussed in their reading classes, while students studied the book Night in their English classes. Then before going into the Explore phase, we set up a double-class QFT involving 9 different “QFocus statement stations” based on core historical themes and issues paralleled in their collective readings. The Explore phase was an online interactive LibGuide that hosted these QFocus areas in more depth through varied multimedia content.

Explore Phase: During or After

As students explore in this phase, they “survey” myriad sources, “read when they find something interesting,” and “reflect on questions that begin to shape their inquiry.” They still remain uncommitted to any driving question(s) or collecting information from what they discover; the point is for them to “keep an open mind” as they explore, read and reflect on what they come across. While doing this, the questions generated by a QFT done between the Immerse and Explore phases can help dovetail into guiding students into narrowing down what they want to explore in more depth at the end of Explore, moving into the Identify phase. Their level of questions will also be higher, since the “Exploring strategies are designed to put the ideas generated in the Immerse sessions to work.”

Identify Phase:

In this “pause and ponder” phase, students identify their inquiry question that will propel them forward and decide the direction they will take through the remaining GID phases.

There are three ways a QFT could work in this phase:

  • To help students develop driving questions individually
  • Through a Learning Team intervention
  • Through smaller inquiry circles or classmate consults

Students could revisit a previous QFocus and generate additional questions via their own QFT, or use a specific area of interest they uncovered or explored during the Exploration phase.

The Learning Team could check the pulse of inquiry and see where students are, using any formative assessment “intel” to then shape into a more solid QFocus either for the class or individual students.

Another option is to pair down an inquiry circle into a classmate consult pairing of questioner and listener. The questioner seeks feedback on any “emerging insights” as potential fodder for a QFocus and subsequent questions, and the listener offers feedback by listening and making suggestions based on their interchange.

The QFT lends itself to these peer conversations by using co-construction front and center; if the QFT is done individually at some point in GID, then students and the LT can still collaborate and share ideas for QFocus statements and related questions in smaller inquiry circles or pairs, and larger inquiry communities that comprise the entire class.

Some ideas for helping students to generate a QFocus on their own or via a classmate consult or LT conference/conversation:

  • Use a title or significant quotation from a discovered source, image, etc, that they found most intriguing
  • Make a visual diagram of the pit stops of exploration, and choose one to generate more in-depth higher level questions from that
  • Use a question of interest from any previous QFT activities and turn it into a statement

Getting Meta about Inquiry

There’s another connecting thread between the QFT and GID—that of reflection and metacognition.

The last essential step in the QFT is reflecting on the process itself; this step mirrors that of Evaluation as the last phase in GID. In GID, the Evaluation phase focuses on evaluating the student’s product and their own process used to create it.

As cited in Make Just One Change, metacognition is an essential part of learning how to learn. As students reflect on the QFT process they have just used, they are doing more than that—they are using metacognition to cement the process and see themselves as agents in their own knowledge construction.

Likewise, the Evaluation phase in GID asks students to evaluate how they have learned along the way by assessing their process along with any products they’ve created as a result of the inquiry process. Students self-reflect on how they internalized the inquiry process to propel their own learning and develop their own self-directed processes for learning in the future.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

In reflecting on my own process and learning through this week’s blogging experience, my mind keeps coming back to something Seth Godin asks in his TEDX Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams: On the future of education & what we can do about it, which admittedly I just recently watched for the first time. Besides everything he says, one line keeps resonating with me: 

Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?

Yes, we are asking them to connect the dots. Every time we try something like Guided Inquiry or the Question Formulation Technique, we are creating experiences that lead to new connections for our students and for ourselves. But likewise through these approaches, the students are doing the real connecting, thinking, and learning. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for letting me share my own experiences and ideas connected to Guided Inquiry via this blog. I am excited to be a part of this community, and want to stay connected and keep learning with and from you all. I have learned so much from reading and reflecting on the posts already shared, and look forward to what I can read next here in 2018!

-Teresa Diaz

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Lead, Reflect, Inspire: 52-GID in 2018

I’m Leslie Maniotes- co-creator and author of the Guided Inquiry Design process and book series, leader of this blog. I’m taking the blog, for one post, to welcome this new year, set the vision for this work and inspire engagement.

Get a cup of tea or your favorite beverage, I’m here to tell you a story.  I made this post a pretty hyperconnected document so you can dig in more deeply to the details of my story, if you are so moved. Enjoy!

As many of you know I live in Colorado.  My husband and I moved out here from North Carolina, when I was accepted to the Doctoral program at CU Boulder in 2000.  Having lived in North Carolina for 15 years prior, we loved exploring the Boulder area and showing our new digs to friends visiting from the east coast.  One time, back in 2004, we were in Boulder, on the famous Pearl Street mall, with some friends from our Guilford College days, and as we crossed Broadway, a man on a bicycle was zooming by.  Being the observant guy he is, my husband recognized that this was not just another fit conscious Boulderite or Boulder professor scooting off to class, but it was the famous David Byrne from the Talking Heads. (wikipedia is good for some things)

Having graduated high school in the Stop Making Sense era – he was an icon we all recognized. We all shouted “Hey David!” To which he turned, smiled, and gave us a big wave as he bumped down the curb. This was back in 2004 and David was beginning his quest starting with riding bikes in the cities he was visiting. Turns out, he loved the experience as it gave him a new perspective on the cities and so he got involved in the bike sharing movement.

Well, 14 years later, David is telling a larger story with his new record album  which he says is about looking and asking . (Fitting for Guided Inquiry, right?) And, he is finding new channels to tell this story about Reasons to Be Cheerful.

In his talk at the New School this week, he shared some really inspiring “cheer worthy” stories, that he has been a part of across the globe.  In this speech, he also named a few key qualities to all that he found. These good ideas;

  1. Typically arose from the bottom up
  2. They were not specific to any one culture
  3. They were proven to be successful by the people themselves.
  4. They were not singular isolated incidents of goodness, but could be replicated

It’s pretty inspiring to hear about ordinary people becoming more engaged in their communities through libraries, community events, and organizing. There’s great possibility in when a group of people believe in something- they declare “THIS IS IT!!” and spread that feeling by taking action and replicating the results in their own contexts.

A little sidebar- in his talk at the New School he showed this graphic (at about minute 34) of a UPenn study in New York neighborhoods. It showed how cultural resources, libraries and community arts centers, postively impacted the people who live in those communities. Byrne mentioned this and then said all things are connected. Things that you think might not be connected, actually are. He specifically named that child abuse, obesity, crime went down, while student test scores in schools rose 18% in these vibrant communities with rich cultural resources.

So, you may be wondering why I’m mentioning this here.  Well, this blog is our community of practice!  You have decided that Guided Inquiry is IT! It has helped you reach students in new ways, teach the way “you’ve always wanted to teach”, engage students, lead others, and be a better professional!  This blog is how we share that practice. This blog serves as a space that is changing the narrative of what is happening in education.  Through your stories, as we raise our voices together, we are sharing many things to be cheerful about in education.

Many people don’t know about Guided Inquiry, but through your stories, people are learning that schools can include more voice and choice. Students can create inspiring and creative works to share their knowledge and understandings with others, and that through inquiry, our students learn to be connected to their world in ways before unimaginable.

With that, won’t you please join me for another year of cheer, of leadership, and of reflection where educators across the globe are inspired by the possibility of Guided Inquiry Design, where others might come and replicate your ideas, to make their community and schools more vibrant with questions and student voice in learning, like yours.

Here’s to another great year! We can’t wait for you to tell your story. Thanks for being a part of it.

On January 21st, we welcome Teresa Diaz who will kick off the new year.  She is new to the blog, a middle school librarian from San Antonio, Texas. She will share her learning about using the QFT within the framework of GID.  Stay tuned folks! And sign up , if you haven’t already! 

Peace and Joy to you all!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author/Education Consultant for Guided Inquiry Design

Creator of Guided Inquiry Design (with Dr. Carol Kuhlthau and Ann Caspari)

NEW YEAR, New Challenges, Continuing the great work!

Over the past two years our 52GID blog has been a great boost to people practicing inquiry based learning, and we would love to continue the momentum in 2018. We can boast about some of our awesome stats. Currently, thanks to you, we have 145 regular subscribers and about 50 authors and the blog has logged over 13,000 views worldwide over the past 2 years.

We consider this to be a growing community of practice committed to sharing best practice in inquiry based learning, as we grow together as professional educators.

This year we have learned all kinds of new things from you all- like

  • getting great questions from students is not as easy as you might think, and
  • Guided Inquiry is a great way to differentiate instruction, and
  • through GID many educators are filling the role of teacher leader in their school as they share the practice with others – and so much more…

We are learning from each other and want this learning to continue and grow!

One of our active 2016-2017 bloggers called blogging for us one of the best professional development experiences of her year! (Thanks, Kelsey Barker!)

Here at BLV Consulting, we value professional development, and personalized PD. I learned through my National Board for Professional Teaching certification experience that reflecting on practice is one of the best ways you can improve your practice.  Blogging is a great format for that reflection where you can learn through your reflection, and we can learn from you when you share it! Since we value professional teachers and reflective practice, we want to get more people involved in this blogging effort. Together we can lead the change needed for our students.

So, to grow our base, we have a special challenge this year that we hope encourages past bloggers to continue and adds new bloggers to our list!  Read about the PLUS ONE Challenge by clicking that link above. This year with free poster giveaways for anyone who encourages a colleague to share their practice on our blog, we hope to have a full schedule and lots of learning!

Thanks for your participation and for encouraging your colleagues to learn with you!

If you’re ready to sign up for this year’s blog please sign up using this form to get started.

Looking forward to a great year!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Apps that promote Inquiry

I believe in Inquiry because I believe it fosters a self-directed and self-driven desire to life-long, continued education.  A child/student who learns to intrinsically ask questions and seek answers through a research driven process such as GID will most likely become an adult who continues to learn, question, research.  I further believe that GID is much needed, to discourage and discontinue the current trend towards believing fake news, false information, scams, etc.

Because of my beliefs, I am always searching for ways to encourage student driven Inquiry.  Most recently at my campus, I have begun to find and publicize technology apps and programs that either promote Inquiry, provide a great platform for Inquiry or can easily be integrated into a unit of Inquiry.  Apps and websites such as and recap provide a safe place for students to wonder, ask questions and seek answers.  Other technology can be used to promote shared note taking (Google docs is one such technological advantage in this area).   Technology can also be used to organize ideas, and present findings (such as movie making with iMovie or screencastify).

I would not say that any one app or website has become widely used across grade levels at my campus.  This is another example of an early stage plan to widely promote GID at my campus.  Therefore, I would love to learn more such apps and websites from all my GID colleagues.  If you have an app or website your campus uses, please leave me a comment with the name and description of use!  I look forward to adding to my list!

Tara R.

Marrying G.I. and MakerSpace

One of the best things about Guided Inquiry is that it allows teachers to allow students to “think outside of the box”. Common Core and many other education initiatives eliminated the ability for students to learn at their own place and in their own way. Guided Inquiry allows for creativity, and self-paced research with the child in the driver’s seat of their learning. With this model, the teachers and librarians guide and encourage students to feed their curiosity and creativity. When we allow students to inquire and create in this way their engagement and learning skyrockets.

The second grade students and teacher at the school where I serve as librarian embraced the Guided Inquiry process when they were investigating Presidents and First Ladies. The student engagement was incredible. Some students said they had never read, learned, and written as much as they did during this unit of study!  The inquiry circles allowed students to share what they found interesting and inspiration about our past Presidents and First Ladies. They shared similarities between the Presidents and made connections that might not have been made if a traditional research approach had been used for this unit.

Once the students had completed the Gather Phase for this project, I read What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanock Piven. We discussed the collage-like illustrations and made connections with the materials he chose in order to create several of the President’s portraits. The students used the ideas from this text to brainstorm a list of objects that connected with the President or First Lady they had learned about during the unit. Many students brought things from home, however, I provided many miscellaneous items for them to use for the Create Phase. Our MakerSpace tasks for the month of March was to create President/First Lady portraits. Guided Inquiry and MakerSpace are a match made in heaven. I was very pleased with the growth I saw in students throughout this unit. They learned to take notes instead of copy information from a resource, and they learned how to discuss and share what they had learned with their classmates.

Students could choose to create a collage or pen an “I AM…” poem about their chosen historical figure. Several students chose to complete both tasks. Their products illustrate a small portion of their learning. Below, you can see some examples from the Create Phase of the Presidential Guided Inquiry Unit.

Jamie Johnson, Elementary Librarian, Norman, OK

4 Strategies for Student Questioning

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.


See you tomorrow!

Kelsey Barker

Guided Inquiry and Our I Tech Initiative

by Cindy Castell


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:

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.