Finland – 100 years of independence!

I am very pleased Leslie saved a spot for me in order to blog about my thoughts. I wrote last year as well. It has been a pleasure to read all your practices in GID, this has given me a lot of inspiration! Finland has just celebrated the 100th birthday and it is an appropriate time to take a look at what is going on in education, a short glance.

Let me start by presenting myself. I am a librarian gone researcher. I have a history in school libraries. There were issues, which pushed me into information science research. I have planned my blogging week to be divided into three blog posts: one to present the current situation in Finland in the field of education and reading. The second to be about my research I am finalising at the moment and the last post to be about where in all this can we see Guided Inquiry Design having a place.

Finland is in the middle of a curriculum change, as the primary school changed into the new core curriculum in 2016 and the seventh grade in 2017. The eight and ninth grades will follow in 2018 and 2019. Curriculum change takes place approximately every 10 years. Therefore we are just in the beginning of this period.

As changes always, this gave reason to a lot of questions and even problems. The biggest change affecting all the work is the change in evaluation and assessment. Less numbers are given and most of the assessment should be done along the course, as continuous evaluation. The evaluation will be given in written and the teacher should have an evaluation discussion with each student. The students are also required to set their own goals for learning.

Another change has come in the form of phenomenon based learning. Every student is entitled into at least one phenomenon project during the school year. This means, that a theme, a phenomenon, is studied in collaboration with several subjects as a theme day, theme week or a longer project worked on once every week. There are several ways to carry this out. However, the problem has been finding the planning time, to fit the projects in to the hourly planning of different subjects. This is much easier to carry out in the primary school (1-6 classes, but to take this to the secondary school context (7-9 classes) with tighter subject boundaries – it does require more coordinating and planning.

Then there is an issue of the digital leap. For several years there has been a target to get more educational technology into schools and into learning. The digital leap has been a very hot subject in Finland. It feels like there are two camps: the ones that feel that IT (information technology) is not the key to better learning results and the camp where people feel it is the requirement for good learning results.

The issue is more complex than this. A private consulting company had rearranged the latest PISA results. They point out that the digital technology devises, which the student are using on their own in class are even worsening the learning results. The teachers’ use of technology had a more positive effect and also with the IT technology the students are using during past time. These results just indicate that the mere use of technology does not count as pedagogical use of technology. Which already made sense before the study.

Kuhankuono National Park

But the feeling I have at the moment is that the changes have come too fast and the schools were partly left with too little support and further education in this situation. There is a lot of frustration, working over hours and even resistance.

Then the issue of reading surfaced this October. The further analysis of 2016 PISA results show, that 10% of students graduating from compulsory comprehensive school (classes 1-9) have such poor reading skills that they difficulty to function in the society and in their further studies. The majority of these 10% are boys. The difference in reading skills between boys and girls is one of the biggest in comparison between all PISA countries. The government took initiative and established the Literacy Forum. This forum (which has 30 members, only 2 from libraries) has a goal by the end of August 2018 to come up with a plan, which would engage the whole nation to a community effort in reading, a reading bee.

In my doctoral research I have analysed the Finnish core curriculum looking for issues relating to information literacy skills. I have structured a model of these issues and will present it in my thesis. However, I have lately started to think that how is it that there are a lot of issues in library and information science, which would be of significant help in education, but these models just are not known in schools? Is it that the researchers cannot communicate to the field or in this case, is it about the difficulties to communicate from a field to another?

We take for example GID. We who know about the method have to be vigilant and energetic in pursuing contact with teachers and librarians. We should work with shareholders to see the benefits of library and information science resources to education. For some 20 years have teachers presented similar difficulties in students information behaviour. Still we are facing the same difficulties. Communication and collaboration is the key!

With best regards, Anu Ojaranta

(M.Ph., PhD student, qualified teacher)
Information Studies
Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

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: 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.  

Training to Be a Guided Inquiry Trainer

by Cindy Castell

 

 

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. 

 

Why Trainers?

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.

Intentional Practice

 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

Anita Cellucci

Westborough High School

Follow me on Twitter – @anitacellucci @librarywhs

 

A great journey!

For most of our students, OPEN, IMMERSE, and EXPLORE were really positive, and inquiry circles were a big hit. As librarian, I visited as many classes as possible during these phases, to listen, brainstorm, coach, and teach mini-lessons at teacher request. This exposure enabled me to share what was going on in other classes, which helped build excitement and a sense of a common goal. A student stopped me in the hallway with: “Mrs. Little, when are we going to work in our inquiry circles again? I really like that part!” Students coming into the library to grab books or headsets were happy to chat about what they’d learned, and where they were going with it. There was a lot of energy, and a sense of pride and purpose.

As we approached IDENTIFY, some students struggled to find a focus, and I was able to tag-team with the ELA teachers, to participate in some of those conversations, either in the classroom or the library; a student would appear, saying: “My teacher said I should come down to talk to you about my research question” (music to a librarian’s ears!). Knowing the ISP helped us to anticipate emotions, and assure students that they were moving in the right direction when they were frustrated or confused.

As our students settled on their research questions, we collaboratively curated resources that might be useful, and shared the Google Doc through Google Classroom. Only teachers could edit the Google Doc, but students could suggest sources, and teachers vetted them.

GATHER had our students diving into books (print and digital), database articles, and websites that we’d found together. At this point, from here on out, through CREATE, SHARE, and EVALUATE,  the ELA teachers definitely felt more comfortable – this was familiar territory!

As mentioned in an earlier post, the ten weeks we’d planned had dwindled to only seven, so SHARE was shortchanged. Our students wrote papers for their final products, but the original plan had been for them to also present their learning to each other in another format – we simply didn’t have time.  So instead, we  ‘advertised’ their work to the school by plastering their research questions to the windows of the library – which is passed by the upper grades en route to gym & lunch. We fielded questions from 7th graders: “What are the 6th graders doing? We didn’t get to do that last year!”

 

For Evaluate, we designed a Google Form to collect student input:

Our team met with our supervisor at the end of the year to evaluate the project. We had no shortage of ideas about how we could improve the project for next year, but there was a lot of enthusiasm for the process. Our end-of-project student reflection showed our students liked working in groups, choice (“learning about our OWN topic instead of a topic teachers picked”), the IMMERSE activities, and found working with their inquiry circles and talking with their teacher/librarian about the project to be very helpful.

For me, GID was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. 

Maryrose Little, Librarian
Edgar Middle School
Metuchen, NJ

What now? Would we do it again?

After our GI unit, we had time to reflect. I used the last entry of the student journal to get student feedback about the GI unit. Since it was new for both me and the students to do GI in math, I wanted their reflections. What I found most interesting is that the high performing students were the ones with the most push back on this unit. They are so used to doing so well in math; they listen, memorize, critically think and solve problems. However, this is all when they are given the questions. This time, since they were the ones creating the questions, it was hard for them to understand what to do. That freedom scared them and it was a bit of a struggle on both ends to get them motivated for the unit. On the other hand, students who are normally less engaged enjoyed the freedom of taking the lead in what they were learning. These students surprised me the most with what they learned and how much they participated. Regardless of the quality of their presentations, the quantity of what they learned was deeper than ever before.

I will be honest, this was the first Guided Inquiry Designed unit and the only one I have done. SO FAR! It was the end of the spring semester and there was not enough time to plan for and create another GI lesson to fit before final review and final exams.

However, in reflecting with my team, we are all in agreement about incorporating Guided Inquiry into our course. (Before all was lost in my mind, I created a notebook of all documents used for this GI unit, including any student work, so that it could be my personal reference when I start to design another unit.) Our first goal/step is to create a unit for our first semester. That way we have one GI unit for each semester that we can work with and tweak as we get more comfortable with the process. In reflecting on my own, I want to incorporate GI into my other courses as well. This summer has been full of a lot of reflection for me as a teacher and my head is full of so many ideas that I want to do for the 17-18 school year. I am so thankful that I have the support of my team, our librarians and the administration to back me up on the implementation of these ideas and lessons.

Sending positive vibes to all of you out there that are wanting to try a GI lesson/unit in your classrooms. There is so much support and already created lessons out there. You just have to jump in and try it. You will be amazed at what your students can do and what you can do as well as a teacher. The impact on student learning is far worth the input of creating this lesson/unit. Good Luck.

Jamie Rentzel,

Teacher of the Year

Norman High School, Norman, OK

 

Cut and Paste

Hello everyone!

I’m back on the blog this week! Last year I wrote about some of the projects I helped to implement at my all-boys school in Vancouver, B.C.  This school year has gone by incredibly fast. I mean, they all do, but 2016-2017 seemed particularly speedy. One of the reasons is that British Columbia has an all-new curriculum and everyone at St. George’s has been working hard to adapt, imagine and plan. Later this week I will go into detail about how harnessing Guided Inquiry Design has helped our faculty to make sense of these new learning outcomes and content, which in many grades is vastly different from years past. But for today’s post, I thought I would share about how *not* following the Guided Inquiry framework religiously can also be of great benefit to your students!

As the go-to Guided Inquiry guru in my school, as well as the librarian (or The Oracle, as I prefer to be addressed), teachers are accustomed to approaching me for books and advice, so I have been able to help my colleagues develop and implement Guided Inquiry projects across the subjects and grades.

This is how I like to imagine myself at work.
Image credit: http://www.messagetoeagle.com

 

Sometimes, planning and carrying out an entire GI unit is neither time- nor energy- efficient. In other words, the haggard-looking teacher who has come to ask me to pull books on a certain topic gets a glazed look on their face as I start evangelizing and verbally re-organizing  their whole project into an amazing cross-curricular GI unit. Sometimes, people just want a little help, and some books. And that’s okay.

One of the best features of Guided Inquiry is that adopting and adapting the Open-Immerse-Expore phases into a more traditional research project is simple and very effective. If you have colleagues who are a little resistant to implementing a full Guided Inquiry project, or you’re short on time, think about using some of the phases to help increase student engagement and boost attainment.

An example of doing just this came about last year when the aforementioned haggard-looking Grade 2 teacher came to ask me to pull books on animals for the students to do a simple research project. In years past, I just looked for a variety of grade-appropriate animal books from the non-fiction collection, making sure I got a range of different species, packed them into a book tub and sent them off to the classroom. However, this time around, I decided to change things up, and with only minutes to spare, I did some guerilla Guided Inquiry!

After consulting with the teacher, I decided to inject some GI flavour into this project by giving the boys an Explore session before choosing their animal. Instead of pulling books about single species, I selected books that gave information on a variety of different animals thematically. For example, we have a series of books from QEB called “Animal Opposites”, with titles like “Fastest and Slowest” and “Smartest and Silliest”. A big hit was “A Little Book of Slime,” which describes snails, slugs, and their ilk. “Unusual Creatures” was also really popular.

I also made a quick worksheet made up of four boxes with space to write the name of the book, the page number, the name of the animal, and to draw a sketch. When the Grade 2s came to the library, instead of being told to think of an animal they wanted to research – which can be hard, when you’re 8! – we instead set up the thematic books at different tables, and told the students to spend some time browsing the different titles. When they found a really cool animal they might want to learn more about, they were to write down its name, the book and page number, and do a quick sketch of it. Later on, they were told, they could think about the most interesting animal they found, go find the book, and read more about it. This was simply a period to poke around in some interesting books and get an idea of what information was available.

Was this a true Guided Inquiry unit? Nope. I planned it on the fly. I was only involved in one period. There was no Open or Immerse phase before the Explore session. However, I believe there were a lot of benefits for both the students and the teachers.

Having an open-ended Explore session allowed the kids to look at an array of different creatures that they might not have known about. (Axolotls were easily the most popular choice. No surprises there; they are pretty cute.)  

Adorbs. Image credit: ARKive.org

They were also able to assess on the spot if there was enough information about their animals – and if it turned out there wasn’t, they had three other creatures of interest on their worksheets. If a certain book was too difficult for them to read or understand, we encouraged them to move on to another. They were very content to flip through pages, take simple notes, and sketch, without the pressure of having a topic in mind. They carried out basic note-taking and bibliographic skills by jotting down the title and page numbers that they were using (and in fact this was very helpful to ME, later, when I had to help the boys find the books again once the project got into full swing). They got a sense of what books were available to them, and how useful they would be.

This year, with time flying by and new curriculum to introduce, the teachers did not ask me for help on this project, and they approached it in a more traditional way: Think of an animal. Find it in a book. Write down what it eats, where it lives, etc. Now, I don’t really think there’s anything terribly wrong with this sort of “bird project” (to quote David Loertscher) but it can easily grow frustrational for kids who have chosen an animal and can’t find any information on it. Grade 2 students are, generally, not savvy enough to use the Internet to find information that’s not available in books, so unless the resources – print or otherwise – have been carefully selected in advance, there is a real possibility that some kids will come up empty-handed. Which is exactly what happened this year, when a parade of little guys were sent up to the library for help with their projects. I was able to help find books about most of their animals, but there were a few boys who had chosen creatures that, for whatever reason, we simply did not have much information on. It was a real missed opportunity, and I felt sorry for the boys who had to be told to change their topic: this could have easily been avoided with a repeat of the previous year’s impromptu Explore session.

So, if the thought of implementing a full-blown Guided Inquiry unit seems unlikely, consider stealing one of the first three phases to change things up a bit. It will increase student learning, make teachers’ and librarians’ lives a little easier, and be more fun for everyone.  Think of Guided Inquiry Design more as a recipe that you can alter as you like, not dogma that must be followed to the letter.

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver, B.C.

@curiousstgeorge

 

Individualized Reading Plans and Reflection

As my last post, I’d like to share some collaboration between myself and another English teacher, Michael Jett. Michael requires all of his English students to read at least one book per 9 week grading period and present a project to the class. So we have the usual struggles: students who want to pick a book they’re already read so they can skip the reading part; one wanted to choose Captain Underpants just to be cheeky; some genuinely have zero interest in reading anything.

We devised a system that Michael named the Individualized Reading Plan (IRP). We agreed that each of his students would come to the media center to meet with either me or Karen Hill (fortunately 2 media specialists work at my high school of 1,700!).

To begin, Michael always has his students fill out a reading survey via Google Form. He then shared those results with us. When each student came to the library, we pulled up the spreadsheet and reviewed their answers with them. We had them create some specific reading goals for the 9 weeks. We also had time to provide reader’s advisory individually and help them pick a book to read if they didn’t have one already. In short, it was every librarian’s dream! We repeated this process after the first 9 weeks grading period in order to reflect on their progress toward their goals, to make new goals, etc.

We decided halfway through the semester that recording all of this information on one Google Sheet made it difficult to read (and while I love technology, use it, and teach it, sometimes paper is just easier). Plus, we realized that not every student remembered their reading goals. So we came up with a handout that the students used to write down their goals and specific steps they would take to reach those goals. We even included space for their parents to sign the sheet and write down any comments.

Of course because of things like student absences, tests, assemblies, and life, the timing of these conferences did not always occur in a timely manner. But overall we were all pleased with the process and are looking forward to tweaking it next year. Mostly we were so happy to collaborate with a classroom teacher who put so much faith in the media specialists!

The Individualized Reading Plan process fits into the GID model by emphasizing individualized education, goal setting, and reflecting throughout the entire process. We used the concept of Third Space to connect students to reading material that would interest them, and provided scaffolding for the student who wanted to read Captain Underpants just to be sarcastic. You don’t always just happen to find your next favorite book; sometimes we all need some guidance and suggestions! This is the brilliance of the school library. There is something for everyone that they didn’t even know they were going to love. This process reminded some students that they did enjoy reading (sometimes teenagers need that little nudge!).

Self-reflection is the process that gets our students to that next level. Having them write their own goals and sign their names next to them helps them feel involved in their own education. When they start holding themselves accountable for their learning or lack thereof, we know we are doing our jobs.

Farewell from South Carolina! –Jamie Gregory   @gregorjm  Jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Michael Jett  @mrjett213  michael.jett@spart5.net

Concepts and Questioning

Yesterday, I explained how I spent last semester introducing the Guided Inquiry Design model to a cohort of teachers at my high school. Today is all about showing student work related the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify phases of GID inquiry-based learning. I’m going to extend my discussion about using questioning as part of implementing GID by showcasing a unit my library service learners completed. I’m also going to show how one English teacher in particular worked to implement concept-based research assignments as well as questioning into her curriculum.

I am fortunate that my school offers media center service learning as an elective unit of credit. Students fill out an application and we take teacher recommendations. The students who participate learn about running a library, fielding reference questions, researching the future of libraries, you name it! My fellow librarian Karen Hill and I have developed a unit focused on learning about social injustice. For the Open phase in this unit, our students watched 2 shorter documentaries posted on the New York Times website (Check out the website, you’ll get lost in the possibilities!). We kept a shared Google Doc of questions in order to provide scaffolding at the beginning of the unit. For the Immerse phase, we created a gallery walk with 13 stations featuring various examples of social injustice in the world today. Students read from print books, articles, infographics, watched clips from documentaries, political cartoons, statistics, all sorts of fun stuff! They had to create their own lists of questions about each topic as they rotated through each station.

And there are so many opportunities here for embedding information literacy skills. Have students practice citing sources as they create questions, and have them question the sources themselves. Introduce them to authoritative resources they won’t know about, such as the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States! Once students have experience with the gallery walk approach, start having them select the sources instead of the media specialist!

I cannot emphasize enough how effective we have found the stations activity to be in my experience with implementing GID. Students can move through the stations at their own paces, ideally, or you can use a timer if more structure is needed. Students respond honestly and find topics they are genuinely interested in. The great part about this particular group was that once we entered the Identify phase, only 2 students out of 10 chose a topic that was included in the 13 stations! They branched out and found other topics, which was inspiring to watch.

We had one particularly great success story this past year with a reluctant learner. She didn’t like to read at all, and it was hard each day to keep her from texting the entire class period. She truly blossomed during this project. She chose to research teen suicide because, as she told us, she didn’t know anything about it. She was engaged in her research and in her proposal wrote that maybe our high school should establish a help hotline.

Remember that in GID you do not begin a unit with an assignment; you begin a unit with an open invitation to learn! We didn’t introduce the assignment until the Identify phase. Don’t let students get stuck on the mechanics of the assignment; you’d rather their energy be spent on the content!

Now, back to the awesome English teachers I work with! In our cohort, we focused on designing concept-based research opportunities driven by student-led questioning beginning with the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. One classroom English teacher, Sarah Plant, re-envisioned her traditional Great Gatsby research paper (by the way, Sarah recently had to move away. We’ll be sad about that for a long time). While students might traditionally research aspects of the 1920s, she realized that assignment might fall under the “bird unit” categorization. While it is, of course, still necessary and worthwhile to know and to understand 1920s culture for successful reading of that novel, we realized that there might be more effective opportunities for authentic learning and research by moving to a more concept-based assignment. Plus, students are too tempted to simply copy and paste information with “bird unit” assignments!

For the Open phase, Sarah had the students watch some short videos and they wrote down questions while watching, then sharing as a class. Sarah next came up with 3 concepts related to The Great Gatsby: effects of social media, effects of poverty (and the American Dream), and effects of money on happiness. (While choosing the concepts ahead of time provided scaffolding, students were allowed to research their own concepts discovered throughout this process.) Karen and I then searched through our databases for information related to the concepts. We printed relevant articles, infographics, found print books, encyclopedias, etc. (For example, try “How to Buy Happiness” from the Atlantic, April 2017). We then designed a gallery walk activity for the Immerse phase. Students were given time to visit each station as a group. The groups designed questions based on each station’s focus.

Most of the groups wrote down superficial questions, which gave us an opportunity to model asking effective questions. We also monitored the students while they worked in groups, giving guidance and suggestions as needed.

Sarah shared that moving toward researching concepts required more advanced researching from the students. This move required more synthesis skills from the students, and they genuinely learned something because they chose their topics. She saw improved essay structures and stronger thesis statements because they weren’t just trying to summarize historical information about the 1920s.

Sarah also had the students include questions about their topics and learning goals on the grading rubric:

This part of her project touches on the last stage of GID, Evaluate. I spent a good deal of time in our cohort meetings emphasizing the importance of self-reflection throughout the entire inquiry process. I shared some strategies I used in my own classroom to help students evaluate not only their skills but also their behaviors. Creating specific goals for each assignment keeps students from feeling overwhelmed, particularly the reluctant learners.

In my next post, I’ll share how I worked with Jena Smith to embed some more in-depth information literacy skills during the Gather phase of her research project, which gave me an opportunity to use an amazing article by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci! Stay tuned, again! (I’m sorry y’all, I have too much to share about GID and I just can’t help myself. Anyone who read this far, I love you.)

-Jamie Gregory, @gregorjm jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Sarah Plant, sarahel2@gmail.com

The Students Said What?!?!?

We asked two classes of geometry students, “What do you want in a renovated school library space that will better prepare you for learning in high school and beyond?” After we facilitated student learning through the guided inquiry phases, it was in the Share presentations that we fully heard their answers.

Numerous proposals called for a second floor. Students recognized the square footage of our library and the number of classes we accommodate each day often make it a tight fit. While some suggested a top floor to be a lounging area, others wanted to place 30-40 computers up there so the direct instruction space could be in a more isolated location. Same idea with two very different visions for the space. Hearing the rationales behind their choices was very interesting and made for great reflection and discussion.

A cafe was another popular recommendation. Having a place to purchase coffee, hot chocolate or tea was quite the trend. Students talked about how this could potentially raise more money for library books while helping them stay awake and energized throughout the day. Others wanted the cafe to be a self-serve vending machine so that the librarians wouldn’t have to run the space and yet it would still provide a place for students to get that mid-morning pick-me up. Regardless of how it was operated, students loved the idea of having a new place to relax and socialize throughout the school day.

There were very practical proposals too. Those included more durable and modern furniture, tables and chairs on wheels that would be easier to move, a new paint scheme, faster computers, and furniture with electronic device charging stations. The inclusion of whiteboards or whiteboard walls were often mentioned as a more convenient way for groups to work together too.

Other students pitched one-of-a-kind ideas. For instance, one student recognized our windowless space could be totally transformed by adding an atrium of sorts. Others wanted to install fish tanks — many, many fish tanks — so that we’d be different than any other school in the area plus have an interactive learning space for science classes. Another idea was to install a state of the art camera system that monitored each library space so librarians wouldn’t have blind spots anymore and took it one step further to suggest having monitor displays throughout the room so everyone could self-police themselves. Another person recommended taking out all the traditional bookshelves and install expandable (electronic) stacks so that we could house MORE library books in a smaller space to make room for other learning areas, including an expanded Makerspace.

Who knew this is was what high school students wanted?

I wish you could’ve been there to hear these students present their ideas. For the most part, they were professional, positive, and attempted to solve issues that are currently dealt with in the school library. And on top of that, these students applied many of the geometry concepts they had been learning all year in a very real and practical way. It was an authentic project centered on mathematical content. And while I was hoping for a green screen and video equipment area, less bulky circulation desk and/or fitness bikes that would help keep both our minds and bodies healthy, that’s not what the students said. And that’s ok! In the upcoming renovation, it is my hope that we can work with school officials and architects to combine the students’ ideas and what the school librarians prioritize too. And that, I believe, will make our renovated space a truly unique place for our students to learn, collaborate, network, research and create with one another.

Amanda Hurley, National Board Certified Teacher

Library Media Specialist, Henry Clay High School