The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.


During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!

The 2016 Collaborative School Library Award

Yesterday I invited you to experience the “Open” stage of the award-winning GID unit developed by two librarians and a social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA. They based the unit my book, BROTHERHOOD, and posted all of their materials on this Blendspace page so that others can recreate the unit in their schools.

Set in Virginia during Reconstruction, BROTHERHOOD is the story of a white boy who joins the Klan, meets a young black teacher, and comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. The book raises all sorts of questions about identify, race, peer pressure, gangs, etc., and doesn’t provide easy answers. So it’s great for kicking off classroom conversations on a variety of topics.

During the “Immerse” stage of the GID process, in order to connect to the content of daily readings, the students at Carver wrote a tweet a day.

daily tweet.52GID blog

Historians from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society visited the school, bringing samples of items mentioned in the book, such as swatches of cloth and a copy of a page from an 1867 newspaper. The time period was beginning to come alive for the students.

During the GID stages “Explore” and “Identify,” students continued to read while researching the post-Civil War era. Then they went on a field trip to Richmond, VA, and walked the streets the characters had walked. In advance of the trip, the librarians asked me to audio-record myself reading selections from the book. I posted the audio files online, and during the trip, students stopped at key locations to listen—via QR codes—to me reading. This was an innovative way to use technology, and got the students all the more engaged. Click on this code to hear one of the recordings:


I visited the classroom and talked about how I came to write BROTHERHOOD—a presentation that includes mention of the Noble Lost Cause ideology, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement. On another day, the school’s safety officer came and presented information about gangs. The class explored reasons why a person might join the Klan or any gang—any group vying for power, control or influence.

During the “Gather” stage, each student’s essential questions led him/her to choose a gang to research further. Students divided into small groups, and for the “Create” and “Share” stages, each group did a presentation about a gang and how they (or society) might stop the spread of that gang. In this way, they progressed through the 7th grade curriculum. For prohibition, for example, one group did a presentation about the Mafia running liquor. For World War II, another group showed how the Nazis gained support by blaming Germany’s ills on the Jews. By the time the curriculum brought them to the present day, they already knew from yet another student presentation that Al Qaida is motivated in part by a rejection of capitalism. I visited the school again, and was blown away by the high quality of the presentations, both from struggling learners and from gifted students. The GID approach excited them all.

Along the way students participated in the GID stage, “Evaluate,” asking questions such as, what surprised me today? What was clear? What was confusing? I love the fact that when you do GID, you don’t leave evaluation to the very end. GID encourages self-reflection at every stage.

This GID unit was pretty involved, and it hit me that some educators might want to add BROTHERHOOD to the curriculum and use the GID approach, but they don’t live near Virginia and can’t easily do the field trip. And that thought motivated me to design a GID-based writing workshop that can be done in any classroom, anywhere. I’ll tell you about it in my next post…

Wait a second, who is the teacher and who is the student?

The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless.  The students have taught me so much.  As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners.  When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens.  I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood.  The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement.  They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why.  This is at the heart of lifelong learning.  The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people.  If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run?  That’s the goal for me.

When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time.  This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders.  While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments.  These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students.  As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first.  One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year.   Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations.  This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.

One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time.  To do it properly, GID takes some time.  It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation.  I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams.  At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day.  In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks.  Here is the deal, though.  It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class.  When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class.  We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit!  We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products.  There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.

Terri Curtis

Create Cont.

Some of our HOT questions are:
*What in the atmosphere controls the amount of snowfall? Is there a way to manipulate it and change the snowfall?
*How can we manipulate the rock cycle to from a different type of rock? Can we classify rocks even better than 3 categories, and then their name? Are changes in the Earth and atmosphere, such as global warming affecting the formation of rocks?
*Why does blood turn red when it hits oxygen. How do blood cells compare to the typical animal cell?
*What effect does the axis of the moon have on marine life? Do the tides control how some marine life behave?
*What does fluorine, a gas, have that makes it protect teeth when it is added to water?
*Why is Mars more humid than Mercury if Mercury is the closest planet to the sun?

MATTER Group (we didn’t have time to post yesterday.)

After getting through the Immerse and explore stages, we moved on to our create stage in which we finalized our HOT questions. I really loved that we could find something that we wondered about and wanted to learn more about. My partner and I are working on Matter since that consists of everything in the universe. I thought, “okay, this will be easy,” but it wasn’t. I searched through tons of resources, and cites and it was difficult to focus on one thing since I wondered about everything I saw. I was feeling overwhelmed, so I asked Mrs. Reinagel if I could change my topic to space. She said I could, but that she had an idea that she thought I would love and it was a compromise. She gave me some resources that had to do with “dark matter,” and asked me to skim to see if there was an I wonder in there. While researching, I couldn’t wait to share everything I was learning! I was amazed at how interesting it was, I came up with a HOT question right away. My question is, “how does dark matter compare to matter on Earth? What does it have to do with preventing or causing the universes recollapse?” I never thought I would have so much fun on such a challenging project! Gabe

Day 4: Questioning and Research cont.

Today we are working on our H.O.T questions! We had to think really
hard and Mrs. Reinagel had to ok it. We had to research
and answer our question. My favorite part was researching. It was exciting and informative. I learned a lot of different facts that I
didn’t know, like Uranium is a Fossil Fuel.


Hi! My name is Payten and I am on team CELLS(yeah!)with Alexandra! In today’s Guided Inquiry, we explored through stages 4-5, and to be honest, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
We had to gather up information from day 1 and then see what we were confused and questioning about, and then form it into a higher ordered thinking question, and now everyone is doing research to answer their question. And we had to do that in one sitting! (lol,lol) So, today was pretty hard, but my class is the class that takes on challenges and we can’t wait for what’s next!!:)

-Payten J.

Hello there! My name is Ayden Campbell and I am in the WEATHER group. Today we have been finishing up our HOT questions for our science guided inquiry! Most of us are finished thinking of a question and are researching, while a few are still working on a question to blow Mrs. Reinagel’s mind! But we are still working very hard! Doing this is very fun, and it is still not over yet! We have to see what tomorrow brings! But I bet it is better than today! Well, that is all for today! I hoped you enjoyed this blog! Goodbye!

-Ayden C.

Hi my name is Erica, my partner is Joelvic. Today we came up with tough questions. I picked rocks and the rock cycle and how they form. My “journey” to make a tough question was difficult because it couldn’t be an ordinary question it had to be a H.O.T question. Our teacher was picky about it. We had to get it just right (sorry Mrs. Reinagel!). It took a while because we had some question that made no sense. Also some were so easy they could be answered without research!If you were us you would be exhausted. We continue the search to find an answer to our question!Hope to see you soon!

-Erica S.\ Joelvic D.

Hi my name is Lexi, my partner is Katina we have moved on to step 4 and 5 in GID, we skimmed through sites to find something we wanted to learn more about based on our topics then we formed our hot fun thing we did was skimming threw are resources. One bad thing about making our HOT questions was coming up with one. I made connections while researching like how every planet is named after a Roman God, or how the moon has water vapor signatures on it. It’s exciting learning this way, we like it a lot. -Lexi

Hi this is Madison, Simran, and Gabby again from Mrs. Reinagel’s 5th grade class. We want to share our journey making our H.O.T questions. The things we liked about them was that we got to choose our main interest for our topic. Some things I didn’t like about it was how after you made the question, if it was not deep enough you would have to redo your question. It was kind of difficult to think of the questions, but we made it. I hope you are enjoying going through our difficult, but fun journey with us.

-Madison L.\ Simran G.\ Gabby R.

Explore and Create

Hi, my name is Katina and my partner is Lexi our topic is Space. We chose space because we want to find out what’s beyond our world. During Immersion we looked at some resources about different planets and how many moons were orbiting each one. Then we started making connections like how Jupiter looks like quartz, and how Neptune looks like an ocean.

My group(Gabby, Simran, and Madison) chose to learn more about Oceans. There is a lot to know with oceans, and we are interested in going deeper with our learning. One connection we all made was that we live about 10 min from the ocean so we should try to know all we can about it.

Hi! My name is Alexandra! I am in Mrs. Reinagel’s 5th# grade class! I am doing cells for my Guided Inquiry. I am doing this with Payten. I did cells because I LOVE cells! We first reviewed what we knew about cells. For example, did you know plant cells decay in the ground once the plant dies? Afterwards, we found new info. For example, chloroplast allows photosynthesis to occur. We can’t wait to do our H.O.T question and make a project for it!

My group is (Alexis.C, Sara.P, Jon, Ayden, Sarah G)and we are in Mrs.Reinagel’s 5th# grade class. Our topic is weather. I chose weather because it is interesting to me and I would like to know more about how storms form. Some connections we made we about lightning and how it can start fires and be dangerous.

Immersion and Exploration

Our topic (Camden, Logan, Daniel, Matthew) is electricity, we chose electricity because we want to learn more about how it impacts our world. During the Immerse stage, we skimmed some sources and made connections, one of my connections was that I have solar panels and N.A.S.A also has solar panels. During exploration, we came up with ideas to investigate further. One was static electricity.

Hi, my name is Caitlyn, and I’m in Mrs. Reinagel’s fifth-grade class. My group (me and Gabriel), chose “matter” because we both had an interest in the subject and had struggled to understand all the concepts. The first is step is open, and we’re so excited to move on to stage 2. We are still working on the second step, immerse. In immerse we found a lot of information and just looked through it so we could really get interested in the topic, and make some connections. Our connection was: all plants, and animals actually have a lot in common. For example, they all have atoms, elements, and some even have similar compounds. The third step is Explore. where we find more information, explore the topic, and get more immersed. During Explore, we try to find interesting facts we may wish to learn more about. For example: How do compounds and elements work together? Is it possible or them to “break down?” I guess we’ll look more into that tomorrow. This is also the stage where we come up with our H.O.T. questions.


Guided Inquiry and the Curious Crew of 5th graders.

We are an energetic, and enthusiastic 5th-grade class from Virginia Beach, VA. When I first heard of this challenge, I decided to bring it to my students as I knew it was something I wanted to explore. Needless to say, they were excited to begin. Now, months later, we have chosen to implement Guided Inquiry Design (GID) while revisiting Science topics of their choosing. We will use Essential Questions to guide our inquiry.

My experience with GID can best be described as “exploratory,” I have implemented it on several units, but, if I am, to be honest, it was easy to blame time or other priorities to not follow through to the end. I shared our previous attempts with my students, and they were on board for taking part in the 52 weeks of Guided Inquiry Design Challenge. My students are risk-takers and always looking for a new challenge. They let me know their topic of inquiry when given a choice of approximately 7 topics via survey. They are broken into groups based on their choices, and we are ready to take off.

I hope you all will join us on our journey of exploration using Guided Inquiry as we blog along the way. My students will be posting the rest of the way, after joining their teammates and reflecting on their exploration. With their curiosities stimulated, they are ready to move ahead.

Carol Reinagel
5th-grade teacher

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection–Oh My!

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection:  these three educational buzz words are at the forefront of conversations in schools today.  As we know, the research shows the following:

Children have different ways and modes of learning.

Children learn by building on what they already know.

Children learn by being actively engaged in and reflecting on an experience.

This research is directly integrated into  GID; and in fact, the aforemtioned statements are three of the six principles highlighted in Guided Inquiry Learning in the 21st Century (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Caspari).  The awesome news is through GID, a teacher can incorporate all three principles and a lot more!  And that is why I’m passion about the GI process; my students are truly working within a holistic, invigorating process that will benefit their learning in a multitude of ways.


As mentioned in my previous blog, I teach a senior English seminar called Psychology in Literature.  It is heterogeonous grouping:  I have students who take Advanced Placement classes and I have students who have significant learning and/or behavioral challenges.  I have students who are English Language Learners.  Bottomline:  the range of my students’ abilities differs greatly.  So how do I design an assignment that can meet the needs of all the students in my classroom?  Through GID.  GID naturally differentiates through its stages, skill development, and content.

For example in the Psychology in Literature assignment that my library educator Anita Cellucci and I created, we ask students to review and reflect on the literary materials they have accessed over the course of the semester.  These materials include books, poems, short stories, articles, TED Talks, movies, guest speakers, etc.  We ask them to contemplate course terms such as coping mechanisms, addiction, positive psychology.  We ask them to review skills such as information psychological analysis, personal refflection and information literacy.  And based on their own individual curiosity, personal experiences and connections to the material, cognitive development, etc. students are able to move through the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify stages at their appropriate learning ability. Another key component of differentiation is the research.  Anita created a libguide ( that enables students to access information based on their learning abilities.

Student Choice

Because students are empowered through their teachers and the weath of options presented, they often start at a much higher level of engagement and motivation than if we assigned them topics to research.  I now see students who are visibly excited to gather research, are more willing to use vetted sources (versus using Google and then picking the first site that pops up), and are committed to putting the time in to analyze the information they have acquired.  The range of topics for this particular assignment are fantastic:  the negative effects of  sleep deprivation in teens, the benefits of art therapy, the negative effects of stress on teenagers, the struggles of veterans who suffer from PTSD in assimilating back home, the differences in sociopathy and psychopathy, the benefits of positive psychology, etc.  Just reflecting on the topics myself, I observe just how different my students’ choices are based on their experiences, interests, and connections.


One of my favorite parts of GID is the Share stage.  This stage enables students to share their research AND reflect on their research and the process.  I find student reflections so valuable because I can “see” their thinking/feeling process.  This enables me to reflect on my students’ learning and my teaching.

In my next post, I’ll share a couple of the students’ presentations; however, what I want to show you now are a couple of student reflections.  We ask students to remind us of what their inquiry question is, discuss a bit of the research process, ask new questions, and reflect on any further thoughts.  Below are two excerpts from two students’ reflections. You will be able to see certain places where students make mention of their own choice, engagement, and motivation as well.

Student #1:

My question was, “how does positive psychology help humans obstacles and what methods/treatments are available?” I really was confused on the literal meaning of positive psych and all it encompassed. I found myself wanting to know exactly what it is. Naturally I wanted to learn the methods and see how this thought process can apply to myself. I don’t think I need a psychologist but good mental thinking cap can help. Keywords included “happiness” “resilience” “treatments” “learned optimism” and “meditation”. Although I used a lot more, I found these one reoccurring a lot. I used these keywords on all four databases in the libguide…A new question would be are there treatments people are experimenting with? How is this new movement being incorporated into society? And I also noticed the backlash and wondered how can there be any negatives to positive psychology?

When I first started I really was eager to learn about the topic. As I went along I found the articles weren’t boring me and that the topic maintained my interest which led me to some great books and pieces of writing…I definitely see how negative thinking and depression can be linked to the disorders of characters in Girl Interrupted and The Bell Jar

Student #2
My inquiry question is “How are students affected by sleep deprivation and what can schools to do to help students?” I knew from the beginning, I wanted to research about sleep deprivation, because it’s a disease that’s a lot less talked about. Usually, it’s something big like depression, PTSD, and such but sleep deprivation hits home for many people. When I was using the LibGuides, the articles I kept finding were related to high school teens suffering from sleep deprivation. Therefore, I chose to stick with how high school students are affected by school deprivation and how schools can help with the problem. The keywords that I found to be most effective were: “sleep deprivation”, “sleep”, “high school sleep”, “adolescent sleep”, and such. In the LibGuide, I used the Gale Research in Context database within which I searched for my topic using various advanced searches. One difficulty I had issues was with whether, in my presentation, I should be talking about sleep deprivation as a disease in general and at throughout just allude to my topic or is my whole presentation going to the specifics about my inquiry question based on students and schools. I decided to focus only on my inquiry question and only address the schools and students’ perspective to have a clear focus and not jumble up a bunch of information on sleep deprivation and not talk enough about my inquiry question. Some new questions I had were: “If adolescents are the most affected and prone to sleep deprivation, why hasn’t school board legislation done anything sooner?”, “What’s the probability of an adolescent contracting this disease as opposed to an adult?”, “Can sleep deprivation kill you naturally over a prolonged period of time?”, “Assuming school times are, in fact, pushed back, how long will it take for the positive effects to take place?”, “Over all these years, why is it that public convenience always  outweighed millions of students’ health?”, and others. When I first started this project, I was really set out on finding a perfect solution that solves this huge problem and since it readily affects me personally, I was a lot more involved. The process was kind of long and arduous, but when research isn’t long, clearly you haven’t done the best research on your topic and there is much left to be discovered. As I was finishing up and realizing there has been an advocacy for a push of school start times to solve this crisis of sleep deprivation, I was sort of frustrated with public school legislation that no change has been put into effect even with clear medical research. Considering my topic was sleep deprivation and the fact that most high school teens in fact are sleep deprived, I can see the effects of sleep deprivation in students every single day, including myself. Usually, teachers blame the students for staying up late and that’s why we’re so tired in school. But there’s more to the story than just that. Unknowingly to most, many students are battling a serious disease everyday and it’s never really recognized.

In order to set standards and expectations for our students, we as educators need to put the appropriate structures in place for students to excel.  Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection are three essential principles of GID that will lead our students to engage enthusiastically in learning.  And perhaps more importantly, GID supports students in  making meaning of their learning and life-long connections from their learning.


By:  Kathleen Stoker, English/Journalism Teacher, Westborough High School, Westborough, MA