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

All Aboard!

Every teacher brought their own talents to the table as we worked on our session plans together. Some were excellent at locating resources, some liked writing the session plans, and all imagined the project through the eyes of their students, and suggested ways to adapt it for their students’ needs. Everyone came up to speed on the topic more quickly because we worked together – just like what we hope for when our students work in inquiry circles. We spent most of our planning time on the OPEN, IMMERSE, and EXPLORE phases, and so we entered those phases with materials and activities in hand. Teachers didn’t march in lockstep through the project, of course, but it gave everyone a framework they could refer to along the way.

Suzy Menafro Palmer is one of the 6th grade ELA team who wasn’t available to attend the Institute last summer, but was completely on board from our first meeting, and enthusiastically dove into planning and resource gathering as we prepared for our adventure. In hindsight, she offered her impressions of the unit (shown in blue):

The “Open” part of our Urbanization Unit was probably my favorite. Listening to my students be such little experts about their town was so impressive. I couldn’t believe how knowledgeable they were about the history of Metuchen. It was clear that their parents explain ideas to them like taxes and population increases, and they went on and on about what a great town they live in. They were so proud of their downtown appeal, the family oriented sense of community that has been established here, and their reputation for being “The Brainy Boro”.

We looked at maps of Metuchen over the years from the 1800’s to a more current map. Something that sort of took me by surprise was when it was evident that most students really weren’t familiar with reading maps. Once they understood what they were seeing, they were really intrigued and made some great insights about how the town has changed over the years.

What’s really exciting about GID is the opportunity for us to see how it connects to our students’ lives, and to see them as experts in things we otherwise would not have know about, and cross-curricular opportunities.  Suzy then went on to describe part of our Immerse phase:

We also did a walk around the school to see how the building has changed over the years. The students identified how there are different bricks indicating that there are additions to the building,  and there are new lockers that were clearly an afterthought because they don’t match the lockers already in place.

…Explore…

In our “Explore” phase students were in groups reading articles about the subtopics of urbanization. This was so well organized by the team of teachers who put this together. It went seamlessly, and the students were really interested in all of the topics. Some of them even cheered when I gave them the folder for “Trends in Migration” (I was in shock). Ideas that I thought they would be totally bored by, they were excited! I have to say… I did have an exceptional class of 6th graders this year who are very task oriented, people pleasing, high achievers. However, I was still pleasantly surprised they were interested in the topics as they were.

…and then Identify…

When it came time to get even more specific and come up with their research questions, I was again impressed with the variety and specificity they came up with for questioning. They were interested in animals, war, drones, flying cars, city gardens, and so much more. One of my students even wrote a paper about how advancements in technology for cities with apps like Uber have decreased the number of DUI’s in a certain city.

There were some students who really went above and beyond, and then there were some students who were pretty basic and surface level with their research with little insight. But that’s sixth grade in a nutshell! Some kids are just more engaged and capable of taking it to another level, and some of them just aren’t there yet, and I’m really okay with that. I was happy that they found a topic they were interested in and worked start to finish.

The Gather phase required lots of flexibility, since so many students needed to share resources, and technology was at a premium, because we were in the midst of standardized testing. We spent a lot of time negotiating for the use of laptop or Chromebook carts (and not always successfully). Books were on a cart that stayed in the library, and students came down to borrow them as needed.

Amazingly, we didn’t misplace one book or headset in the process!

Everyone seemed to understand that other classes were working with these materials – there was definitely a sense of a community of learners throughout the 6th grade.

Next up: Create, Share, and Evaluate

Suzy Menafro Palmer, 6th Grade ELA teacher and
Maryrose Little, Librarian
Edgar Middle School
Metuchen, NJ

Fourth Grade, Five Senses

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, British Columbia has recently introduced a brand new curriculum, which my school started to roll out in the 2015-2016 school year with some pilot units. By the 2016-2017 year, we were expected to be fully teaching the new curriculum.

The new curriculum, which can be found here , is quite a bold endeavour. Instead of focusing purely on content, students are instead expected to develop “curricular competencies” across all subjects, with a set of overarching “core competencies” – personal traits such as critical thinking, creativity and social responsibility – that are self-assessed.

Each subject has a set of between four and six Big Ideas – the broad understandings that students should gain. Below the Big Ideas are Content – what is being taught – and Curricular Competencies – the skills and attitudes students need to be able to demonstrate.

Analysing and discussing our new curriculum could be a whole blog in itself, so suffice it to say that it has caused a lot of reflection, planning and imagination at schools across the province. Overall, I really like it. I think it lends itself beautifully to Guided Inquiry Design, cross-curricular learning, and individual interests. There are, however, an awful lot of learning outcomes to be addressed, and much of the wording is vague.

Despite the fact that there is less emphasis on content, there have nonetheless been massive changes in the content taught in different subjects. I will get into this more in my next post about our Grade 6 project, but in almost every core subject, our teachers have had to introduce different content to align with the provincial standards. In Grade 4, one new addition to the science curriculum was the Big Idea “All living things sense and respond to their environment” with the content expectations surrounding the five senses.

The Grade 4 teachers, Vickie Lau and Guy McAuliffe,  met with me and our inquiry based learning teacher, Graeme Webber, to brainstorm some ideas for an interesting unit on the senses – not just in humans, but in other animals as well. As it turned out, we didn’t know a whole lot about how other animals use their senses… how could we make an engaging project so the boys could ask questions, build their knowledge, and showcase their learning in a unique way? The five senses are an interesting topic to think about teaching, because kids know what they are – but how much do they truly understand about the sensory systems of other animals? What organs and structures in animals and humans are responsible for sensing stimuli? What seemed like a pretty straightforward topic actually had many interesting avenues we could take!

Initially we played with the idea of a full Guided Inquiry unit which would allow each student to explore the senses according to his interests, but we determined that this might be challenging given the timeline, our own teaching schedules, and student abilities. Eventually we came up with the idea of having a weekly mini unit comprised of an Immerse/Explore session for each sense based on our library’s very successful Human Library program. We would invite a guest expert in each week to talk about one particular sense, then give the boys time to journal, ask questions, and later explore a LibGuide about animal senses that I would create.

Based on past Human Library events, we had a wonderful supply of guest speakers we could call on. We invited a dog trainer who specializes in scent detection work, our school’s contract vision and hearing consultant, and a marine biologist in to give presentations on smell, sight, hearing and touch respectively. But what about taste? We debated for some time and decided that we could do that ourselves. We set up stations in the library with a salty, sweet and bitter taste tests, and had the boys determine where on their tongues they could identify each flavour.

As has come to be expected with any GI unit we do, student engagement was very high. Ann, the dog trainer (and a retired elementary school teacher) set up some experiments to test the boys’ sense of smell compared to that of her dogs. Linda, the hearing and vision expert, demonstrated how technology can help people with vision and hearing deficits, and Melanie, the marine biologist, enchanted the students with how creatures of the deep oceans are able to use touch to find prey. (We teachers also ran a pretty fun taste test!) Questions came fast and furiously; the boys recorded lots of ideas from both the presenters and their LibGuide explorations. The depth of understanding went far beyond our expectations.

 

Ann sets up a test of human scenting abilities!

Melanie explains the different zones of the ocean.

Boys could not wait to ask Melanie more about marine animals.

Based on the BC curriculum, the boys certainly demonstrated the following curricular competencies through this unit:

  • Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world

  • Observe objects and events in familiar contexts

  • Identify questions about familiar objects and events that can be investigated scientifically

  • Make predictions based on prior knowledge

  • Make observations about living and non-living things in the local environment

  • Collect simple data

 

But then an important question came about: how can the students share their new knowledge about the senses? Because we structured this unit as a series of Immerse sessions, each student received the same experience and heard the same information. They all read the same resources on my LibGuide. We did not move beyond the Explore stage into identifying individual inquiry questions, so preparing oral reports or posters would be rather tiresome with each student giving the same information.

Guy, who teaches Language Arts, had a brilliant idea to add a cross-curricular piece to this unit. One new L.A. curricular competency is oral storytelling:

Create an original story or finding an existing story (with permission), sharing the story from memory with others, using vocal expression to clarify the meaning of the text, using non-verbal communication expressively to clarify the meaning, attending to stage presence, differentiating the storyteller’s natural voice from the characters’ voices, presenting the story efficiently, keeping the listener’s interest throughout.

This was, so far, not something Guy had been able to cover in his classes, and he had not had any ideas of how to teach it. What if the boys synthesized their understanding of the five senses and turned it into an oral story about an animal they learned about during our sessions? And what if, rather than performing his story live (thereby experiencing potential performance anxiety and squirrelly audiences), each boy videoed himself so that everyone could have a chance to listen and watch?

This turned out to be very successful – Guy provided examples and instruction in oral storytelling during L.A. classes and gave the boys time to prepare and practice their stories. Using their school laptops, each boy filmed his story and saved it. We then hosted a celebratory Share session in the library: each boy brought his laptop, and we spread them out around the space with headphones and evaluation sheets. We gave everyone time to listen to as many of their classmates’ stories as possible. It was a wonderful celebration of their learning and a really unique way to evaluate each others’ understanding of the five senses. For the Evaluate phase, Guy made a peer evaluation form that was left at each laptop, so students could leave feedback on their classmates’ stories. 

Both classes rotated around the library to listen to the stories

Boys listen to each others’ oral stories and leave feedback

 

My next and final post will be a look at our Grade 6 Guided Inquiry project – also based on new curriculum, and also leveraging the power of the Human Library!

 

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver, Canada

@curiousstgeorge

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

Hello from Connecticut!

Last March I shared about how I got started learning about GID and the beginning steps I was taking. You can find those posts here, here and here. In July 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the CISSL Institute with two amazing colleagues, kindergarten teacher Jessica Loffredo and 1st/2nd grade teacher Carole Sibiskie. During this school year, I have worked to add as much of our learning from the institute as possible. We understand that this is a process and it has been exciting to see the progress made! This post will be focusing on learning occurring mainly in the library. Our final post will be sharing about a collaborative Guided Inquiry unit involving science, art, technology and more!

 

Attending CISSL was an experience I will never forget. We had participants from around the United States as well as Europe. We represented all different grade levels and subjects. Perhaps my biggest takeaway was an emphasis on reflection. While I had read the GID books, Dr. Maniotes brought GID to life! We did each part of the process together and throughout, every teaching strategy, every tool, every piece that was important to supporting learners, was demonstrated and reflected upon. We ended the three days with many chart papers full of best practices that we could bring back and use with our students. Just as emotions are an important consideration throughout the information search process, they were important to our learning as well. As we reflected on these practices, the CISSL team reminded us over and over about how important reflection is for the students too as they go through each step.

 

For this school year, I set 3 goals for myself. First, I wanted to focus on trying out different ways to Open. Second, I wanted to take all my students, whether I was collaborating with a teacher or not, through Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify and Gather. Third, I wanted to begin collaborating more with teachers.

 

Goal 1: My students and I had a lot of fun and learned about some really interestingresources that support the Open step. For example, the incredible photographer Nic Bishop provides many amazing images to get kids thinking. These 2 pictures from Nic Bishop were my favorites. I also used Wonders from Wonderopolis.com and other video clips.

Photos from Nic Bishop’s books.

 

Goal 2: It has taken me all year, but each of my classes has experienced at least some part of
the Guided Inquiry Design Process, even the preschoolers! The preschool class did this in a very basic way. We read a story about a spring peeper and then listened to its call. We then read a nonfiction book about spring. They had lots of questions and sometimes I think they were mixing Groundhog Day with spring. But we went back to their questions and using either print books or PebbleGo, we answered them the best that we could.

Preschool questions about spring.

Preschoolers recording what they know about spring.

 

The Kindergarten classes learn about their community and world all year long. I framed a question for them about people who changed the world and then read a book about Gertrude Ederle, a fantastic swimmer who beat many men’s records, even swimming across the English Channel. I was even able to find a video about her! They were amazed! As we explored other people, I kept bringing back the question to our focus about how they had changed the world. This is not easy for Kindergarteners. They chose a person who they were interested in and I worked with them in small groups to record one fact that they had learned. Each student drew a picture of their learning and I helped them write their fact down. They have all learned about someone new!

 

First and second graders had been studying trees throughout the school year. They had already developed a lot of background knowledge. I had a thought that perhaps they might like to explore really famous trees from around the world. For my open, I found a Wonderopolis wonder about sequoias and redwoods – one with a car driving through the tree! They were amazed and had tons of questions about these special trees. Paying attention to their voices was important, so that is the direction we went in. Using Symbaloo to curate resources about sequoias and redwoods made Explore fun. These students jotted down ideas that they noticed in the videos and we developed questions together as a class. We took two library classes to Gather information, sometimes in small groups, sometimes independently. I was also able to have these students look back on what they had learned and select the one or two most important items. We are currently working in small groups to Create poems and hopefully will add movements to help express the words as we share them.

 

Goal 3: My goal was to collaborate more with the classroom teachers and I began to do this with the third and fourth grade classes. Each classes was beginning independent project work, so while there wasn’t a group Open or Immerse, I was, for the first time, able to find times in my schedule for the classes to come down to the library and Explore possible topic ideas using both print and digital resources. The classroom teachers loved being able to work together to help find resources and talk things over with each student. I was also able to talk with the teachers about the importance of Exploring BEFORE the students developed their questions. Oftentimes I had seen the questions being written first. This was a huge success! I believe the students were able to go deeper than in the past. Throughout their independent project work, I taught information literacy skills based on observations I was making. Many students were having difficulty searching for information, so we took time to learn about good search terms. We began to use evaluation tools that helped students know whether their resources were credible or not. While these lessons were done in library class, I shared them with the classroom teachers so that we were all using the same vocabulary. We emphasized using more than one resource so that if information didn’t make sense, students had a way to double check.

Selecting key words

Next steps: I think I made progress this year in all of these areas. I am looking forward to next year and being able to work with even more teachers. I am also looking forward to having students be more reflective at various stages of the process.

Finally, all three members of our GID team are also on our district’s NGSS Elementary Leadership team. As we began to learn about NGSS, we all looked at each other because so much lines up with GID. In NGSS, Open = Phenomena. We are excited to use GID as we begin to implement new science units. Another place where I noticed a lot of similarities was in A.J. Juliani and John Spencer’s LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. Take a look when you have time!

This journey has been such a challenging and rewarding one! I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing people!

Jenny Lussier, Teacher Librarian K-4

Regional School District 13 in Connecticut

 

Reflect, reflect and reflect…

Oh no…the reflection was yet to come…the most important part.But first enjoy some pictures from Math Evening.

Did anyone notice Daisy the Traveling Teddy Bear in the pictures?

The students now understand that learning the context is secondary, learning how to learn best is the most important aspect. So once the Math Evening was over, they thought about what went well and why, plus what did not go well and why not. They discussed what they could do to make this event better next year. I loved listening in to these passionate conversations, especially the part where they discussed the impact of this school-wide process and the learning that happened not just with the students but the parents as well.

I conclude that this was an amazing learning experience for me, since it greatly helped me to assess and reflect on my teaching practices. Throughout this process, the students were thoroughly and actively engaged in their learning. My biggest take-away has been that when we let go of the controls, awesome things happen. So yes…Learn to let go!

At the end, I would like to apologize to the GID experts for instances where I went wrong or totally off-track. Please do correct me, after all I’m the LEAD LEARNER! (Thanks Patrick for the phrase!)

Last but not the least, a huge thanks to Leslie and all the GID peeps for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this blog.

Hilaa Mukaddam

Shifting the Learning Culture: Triumphs and Challenges in GID Implementation

As mentioned in my previous post, DPMS has transformed learning in all of our content area classes through GID by providing students with an engaging, 21st century, research-based learning model. While we are by no means experts on GID, we have spent extensive time this year learning more about the model, rewriting old content area units, and testing out new techniques and technologies. In this post, I will share with you some tips that we have learned along the way from our own successes and mistakes.

First, we always begin our unit planning by outlining every step of the process using a template provided to us at the Rutgers institute. Outlining each step and the essential learning goals prior to beginning a unit is essential for success. The planning process is a team effort consisting of me, Literacy Coach, Peggy Rohan, the content area teacher(s), and other extended team members such as our Technology Training Specialist and administrators. It is important for us to identify not only the essential questions and learning goals, but also the necessary resources and documents that are needed during a unit to ensure that each team member clearly understands his or her role and the learning activities during each stage. To aid in visualizing our planning process, view our plan for an upcoming eighth-grade social studies slavery unit

Teaching with GID has been a shift for the teachers, and Peggy and I continue to work with them on letting go of the idea that mastering facts and focusing on content is essential to learning in the 21st century. We continue to reassure teachers that what students really need is exposure to the topic and just enough background information to get them thinking about a research topic of interest; students will continue to learn from one another as they share their research at the end of the process. Moving from a “fact-based” curriculum to one that immerses students in inquiry learning doesn’t happen overnight, and through GID we are working to change the culture of learning so that students become critical, analytical consumers of information and effective problem solvers.

Exposing students to content information during the Immerse phase is easy when you consider the many different modern technologies and websites that we have available at our fingertips. When unit planning, I always consider the various tech tools available, and I try to weave in as many real-world experiences as possible. For example, while planning our Africa unit I learned about this awesome new website called Belouga. Belouga provides a platform for connecting students asynchronously with other classrooms from around the world after students answer a series of profile questions on culture, history, cuisine, school, environment, family, and interests. Once teachers request a classroom connection, and once students answer at least 25 profile questions, students are matched with a partner from the connected school, and they have access to their partner’s answers of the same profile questions. Reading profile responses from students in Kenya and Ghana was an eye-opening experience for our students as they were able to read first-person accounts of life on an entirely different and diverse continent. These connections also provided opportunities for rich classroom discussions and ignited student interest in further investigating issues presented by the African students.

Virtual reality is another great way to immerse students in real-world learning. During our Ancient China unit, students took a trip to the Great Wall of China through Google Expeditions. Google Expeditions offers thousands of free, narrated VR tours. In addition, Nearpod is another great source for finding pre-made VR lessons. Even without VR headsets, students still can be immersed in meaningful VR experiences by simply viewing tours on their smartphones or on iPads.

Another important pedagogical shift that we have made involves effectively teaching students how to ask meaningful inquiry questions. In the traditional research model, teachers assign a topic and send students off to try and find basic, often regurgitated facts that answer questions assigned by the teacher (think traditional “country report” where the student spits back facts such as the population, government, sports, etc.). In the GID model, students are responsible for coming up with their own research questions based on a topic of interest. We continue to work with our teachers on the best way to teach student questioning and push them to let go of assigning “criteria” that all students must answer in their final products. In teaching questioning, we have found the QFT model to be a successful way to get students thinking about the difference between open and closed questions. We encourage students to focus on writing “how” or “why” questions to ensure that they are asking only open questions. Once students have brainstormed their questions, it is essential for teachers to confer with students to help them modify and narrow their questions if necessary. Questioning is likely to be a very new skill for students, and many of them will need help with writing a question that is not too broad or too narrow. One final tip: don’t rush the Identify stage. Students need good research questions in order to effectively navigate the process and create a product that leads to new and transformative learning. When we design our units, we estimate that on average we need at least three full class periods to complete the Identify phase with fidelity.

Finally, I want to mention some thoughts about the Gather stage. This is also a stage that must not be rushed. As was often the case in the previously mentioned phases, Peggy and I had to work with teachers to ensure that students were learning the necessary- and correct- research skills that they needed to effectively navigate the research process. Many teachers have the misconception that students already “know” how to research when in reality they have never received instruction on skills such as searching in library databases, choosing effective keywords, ethically using others’ images and music, citing sources properly, or evaluating websites. I will specifically build these lessons into our GID units and either directly teach the lessons myself or provide screencast review tutorials for students. In many cases, the teachers themselves are not aware of 21st-century research tools and techniques, and during our GID trainings, I highlighted the importance of relying on the Library Media Specialist for support and student instruction especially during this phase.

Ultimately what matters at the end of the process is that students are positively impacted by learning through GID. What did our students think of the process after completing a GID unit?  I was curious, and at the end of our Africa unit, I conducted a few student interviews to find out. Please view the video below to hear a variety of student perspectives. Please note that the students in the video represent a range of learning abilities from the low to the high end of the spectrum.

While we have worked hard this year to restructure our learning culture, we realize that we still have a lot to learn. We continue to research, read, and review what we are doing as we learn more about how GID can transform student learning.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

Evaluating our GID Global Connections ‘OREO’ experience

While our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving and taking a holiday for two days, ‘Down Under’ we are very busy completing the last few weeks of our school year and looking forward to our six week summer holiday!

This morning I have been working with two of our four Year 7 classes on their GID unit of work ‘Ancient World depth study: China and helping them finish off their reports before selecting a way to share their work – so far we have a selection of web pages, poems, songs and there will no doubt be a prezi or two!

But I digress – In my last blog post about the Year 5 Global Connections unit of work we arrived at the vital stage of ‘Evaluate‘.

This unit of work became extremely large and our time was very limited. We did, however, take the time to evaluate! This is very important so that a second cycle with another class can build upon what took place this time and improve on what was already so exciting!

The teaching team had already discussed quite a few aspects during the process.

One idea was to give certain students, with special learning needs, tasks that would allow them to absorb more knowledge without having to write as much. One boy we decided, who loves using cameras, should have been given the video management role so that as he edited he would have learned a lot more than through doing his own research!

Students could also have worked in groups, with a leader allocating tasks, so that some students could work on the logo, another on the script in partnership with those working on goals and motto etc.

This would have saved a lot of time but we were also aware of just how proud each student was of their individual achievement that they could then share with the others. Some of these activities, though, were also used to achieve outcomes in other subject areas such as Art.

We decided to evaluate the students and the teaching team but we also received unexpected comments from parents.

Students: Based on de Bono’s hats

Catherine decided on a wonderful way to ask the students to reflect on their learning. After telling them all about de Bono’s thinking hats she had them work their way around the room in groups to tables that held coloured pieces of cardboard. They all wrote comments on these and the teaching team, including a special needs teacher, circulated to assist in some of the ‘harder zones’.

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A timer ‘bomb’ App on the white board kept the students focused to achieve a comment in the limited time before the massive explosion!

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I collected the cardboard and notated the comments  so that we could discuss this together later.

Teaching Team: Catherine and I discussed at length together – what went well and what needed fixing. I interviewed her and her responses were recorded and are stored here:

Student achievement: https://vimeo.com/128838865

Student Engagement: https://vimeo.com/128838303

Integration and evaluation: https://vimeo.com/128837052

Teacher Librarian Collaboration: https://vimeo.com/128837051

Integration and ‘Thinking’ Questions: https://vimeo.com/128837050

The Year 5 parents were amazed by the enthusiasm of their children throughout this whole unit of work and after their attendance at the “Summit” we received these two emails:

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SHARE again – Widely!

I was invited to speak at the NSW annual conference of the Teacher Librarian Professional Learning Community. The topic I spoke on was TL – changing pedagogy to increase student engagement and learning.

I decided to invite along Catherine and also one of the students with his parents. I gave them half the time and we all spoke about our learning experience on this unit. Needless to say, a number of teacher librarians became convinced that Guided Inquiry Design, collaboratively taught and with the assistance of the teacher librarian certainly engages students but also increases their learning across many areas.

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This GID unit of work really was a wonderful learning experience for us all!

Stay tuned for my final general GID wrap up reflections later in the week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Alinda Sheerman (Broughton Anglican College, Menangle Park, NSW Australia)