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

Guided Inquiry and the IB Extended Essay

Dear Colleagues,

The International Baccalaureate is a global curriculum and one that we proudly offer at our school. Very recently I became the Extended Essay Coordinator. As you will note in the image below, the Extended Essay is part of the core of the Diploma Program of the IB. It is one of the few occasions that students are able to pursue a topic that they are interested in. It is the perfect foundation for the implementation of Guided Inquiry Design.

The IB Diploma Program with the Extended Essay at it’s core. Copyright International Baccalaureate

The Extended Essay is a 4000 word academic piece of writing centring around a question based on one of the subjects that the student is currently studying. The student needs to have enough background knowledge to tackle the topic in depth. Students are allocated a supervisor (based on their topic) at school who will spend about 4 hours over the course of the year, guiding and intervening as necessary and various stages of the process. As you will note in the document below, using the various stages of Guided Inquiry breaks up the year long project into manageable steps.

We begin our journey one year before it’s due date. Students are presented with the Extended Essay (Open) and asked to engage with all of its possibilities. We spend a couple of weeks immersing the students in the EE, walking through the potential for different topic areas, we concept map different ideas, they talk to teachers and do a lot of reading before submitting a proposal of potential topics. We need to do this quite early in the process to ensure that we can allocate a supervisor to support them through their journey.

One of the most difficult parts of the process is the Identify step, where students are required to narrow down their topic to a specific research question which will guide them through the rest of the research process. In order to get there, we ask students to undertake a literature review during the Explore phase, which requires them to annotate at least four sources of information. This has the double effect of ensuring that their topic has enough background information to formulate a question and identify where their extended essay is going to go. Note, that we often go back to this step during the process because as we all know, often our research starts in one area and ends in another. The reflection process is incredibly important to students at these important points in the process because it enables them to understand their own thinking and make steps in taking the next step in the process. It also allows supervisors to intervene and offer guidance, make suggestions, and help students move on in the inquiry process. We use a system called Managebac, which easily allows students and supervisors to communicate throughout the process, while also scaffolding the reflection process.

After identifying their question, students spend a whole term gathering sources of information that will help them answer their question. This allows them to conduct primary and secondary research while at school and gain support and guidance from teacher librarians and their supervisor. We ask that they write a big chunk of their essay (create) over the Christmas (long summer break in Australia) holidays, which then allows us to provide some feedback and guidance on the direction of the extended essay. You will see that at the end of the process (which actually takes about six months), students are in a revolving door of creating, sharing and evaluating their work. We repeat this process at least once, allow students to self-assess and make changes before submitting the essay to be externally marked.

Students are required to be highly independent during this process. This is their work and close marking is not allowed by supervisors or teachers. This is why Guided Inquiry Design is so important in scaffolding the process for students.

I welcome your questions and comments about this and would really like to hear how other teacher librarians use Guided Inquiry Design in the Extended Essay!

Erin Patel – Head of Libraries & IB Extended Essay Coordinator, Kambala

GID Transforming Student Research @ BCPS

In my last post, I referenced a few examples of our BCPS Online Research Models (ORMs) for extended, in-depth research, which our Office of Digital Learning Library Media team has been designing using the eight phases of the GID model since 2012. I’d like to share in a little more detail how one of our ORMs was completely transformed at last summer’s 2016 Curriculum Workshop using the GID model. In 2001, our BCPS Office of Music requested a research model on Native American music for the Grade 8 American Music curriculum. As a library media specialist on the ORM curriculum writing team that summer, I co-designed an ORM titled First Music, First Nations—it was the first research model I ever designed. Courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, I can show you the Webpages for the original 2001 version of the “First Music, First Nations” ORM — even though I’m extremely embarrassed to do so!


As you can see, we were using our own research process steps at the time: Scenario, Task & Product, Assessment, Question, Gather, Organize and Conclude. This ORM has a nice poem at the top (but no connection to the poem is made anywhere in the process), and lots of “cutesy” clip art of Native Americans, drums, etc. The Scenario and Task & Product were NOT authentic or engaging —how many 8th graders would seriously be excited at the prospect of being a museum curator for the Smithsonian Institute? Students were asked to select from 5 research topics about traditional Native American music (Instruments, Pow-wows, Dances, Songs, or Ceremonies), take notes using resources including targeted Websites, and create a “display” of some sort; usually students made a diorama or something like that. Believe it or not, this ORM remained virtually unchanged (except for updating broken resource links) until summer 2016. THEN, with some new leadership in the Office of Music and new state learning standards for Music education, our team was asked to do a much-needed revision last summer.

The result was the new ORM, Native Dreams: Contemporary Native American Music. This research model benefitted in SO many ways from our use of the GID model. First and foremost was our consideration of “Third Space” to make real-world connections to the content for students. We focused on contemporary Native American music artists and framed the research around the overarching Inquiry Question: How is contemporary Native American music both an expression of traditional culture and a powerful force for change? The musicians we featured have fused traditional Native American sounds, instruments, etc. with contemporary genres that are familiar to our students – hip-hop, rap, pop, EDM, heavy metal, etc. These music artists are also passionate about social justice and the issues facing Native Americans; these are issues that many of our students and their families/communities are facing themselves. We found articles, music videos, and songs online for students to read, view, and listen to as they did their research. As we always do now, we included many GID tools for students to use throughout the process—Inquiry Journals, Inquiry Logs, Inquiry Circles, etc. We also included student choice of topic selection in the Explore phase, and choice of presentation formats in the Create phase. In the Share phase, students are asked to apply their learning from their own research and from each other’s presentations in a culminating activity, by responding to a quote from one of the musicians featured in the research model (in their Inquiry Journals and then in a discussion with Inquiry Circles and the whole Inquiry Community):

In the Rebel Music: Native America video episode you saw in the Immerse phase of this research, Native American rapper Frank Waln said: “The music is my shield and my weapon.”

  • What do you think he means? How does this statement relate to music as both an expression of traditional culture and a force for positive change?
  • How is this statement true for the other contemporary Native American musicians that you and your classmates researched?

This culminating activity allows all students to apply and synthesize their learning from each other, to build a response together to the overarching question posed at the beginning of the inquiry. In the Evaluate phase, we included a suggestion for students to extend their learning by researching a social issue that is personally relevant and important to them, and to create their own music or other form of artistic expression about the issue.

Thanks to the GID process, our students in 8th grade American Music classes at 27 Middle Schools across the district now have an inquiry-based learning opportunity that is both engaging and rigorous. Feedback from the music teachers who implemented this model during the 2016-17 school year has been really positive, and they report that this was a MUCH more rich and meaningful learning experience for their students than the previous ORM was.

I welcome your feedback about this research model!  NOTE: Please excuse any broken links in this ORM; I did make a few updates since my last blog post before sharing with you here today, and any remaining broken links will be updated during our Summer Curriculum workshop beginning next week. We are looking forward to designing more ORMs like this one this summer!

Kelly Ray, BCPS

Problem Finders

B.C.’s new curriculum, as I discussed in my last post, has meant some radical changes to subject content in every grade, but perhaps none so much as in Grade 6 Social Studies. Socials used to be: Japan and Peru. I remember studying Japan and Peru when I was in Grade 6… and I’m no spring chicken!

The new curriculum for Grade 6 Social Studies has a focus on global issues, social justice, media studies, and governance systems… which sounds awesome, until you actually start looking at the content “suggestions”. Here is just a small sample of the recommended topics:

International cooperation and responses to global issues

    • environmental issues
    • human trafficking
    • child labour
    • epidemic/pandemic response
    • fisheries management
    • resource use and misuse
    • drug trafficking
    • food distribution and famine

Regional and international conflict

  • Sample topics:

    • war

    • genocide

    • child soldiers

    • boundary disputes

    • religious and ethnic violence

    • Terrorism

That is only from two subtopics! I didn’t even get into media, migration of people, or systems of government! Altogether there must be about 50 individual suggested topics just in Social Studies alone. That’s a lot for 12 year-olds to handle.

Lucky for us, our Grade 6 Social Studies teacher was excited to dig into the new material. James Weber, who used to be my office-mate and the school’s inquiry teacher before he went to teach in Dubai for two years, returned to Vancouver and joined the team at the last minute due to a sudden vacancy. Even the redoubtable James, however, was daunted by the number of learning outcomes and the lack of direction in how to teach them provided by the Ministry of Education.

Luckily, after learning about Guided Inquiry from me, we realized that following the eight phases would lead to a rich learning experience for the boys. With such a vast array of material to “cover,” GID seemed like a natural approach: expose the boys to many different ideas in the Open, Immerse and Explore phases, and then let them identify a question of interest to investigate on their own. Thus the Problem Finders Project was born.

The Open phase was a simple gallery walk in the classroom: James posted about 20 photos around the room, each one related to at least one topic in the curriculum. Without prompting or frontloading the boys observed each photo and jotted down ideas or questions it inspired.

As the instructional team was planning the project, however, we realized that the Immerse phase might be a challenge to execute. With so many possible topics, how could we possibly provide an Immerse experience that could touch on all these ideas at once? Since James and I used to work together in the library, we had a brainwave. What about a giant Human Library session where we invited as many possible guests in who had some experience with any of these topics, and boys could rotate around and ask questions?

And that’s exactly what happened. The Grade 6 team put out feelers to parents, friends and community members, and many people happily volunteered. We had dozens of Human Library guests, with expertise in health, politics, environment, indigenous rights and many of the other topics suggested by the Ministry. A list was provided on the boards so boys could select topics of interest, and they rotated around for 10 minutes of discussion with the guests. This provided the students with an opportunity to put out feelers on these disparate topics, and start to formulate ideas of their own.

Following the Human Library Immerse session, the boys went on to Explore using our library databases, as well as meeting in inquiry circles with faculty members to continue to talk through all the ideas they had encountered, and to begin to identify a question to research further.

The Problem Finders Project thus continued through the phases of Guided Inquiry, and when it came time to decide how to Share their learning, we planned another Human Library event – but this time, the students were the experts!

Each boy wrote his inquiry question on a sign that he hung around his neck and held a portfolio of his work throughout the project – this included a magazine article, a slam poem, a letter to a stakeholder, as well as his notes from various stages of the project. The rooms of the Grade 6 neighborhood were dedicated to the different curricular topics, and the guests – parents, teachers, and other students – selected topics to rotate around and discuss with the Grade 6 experts.

A list of all the Grade 6 boys and their topics was provided for guests.

Rooms for Human Library appointments were arranged thematically.

To say the day was a success is an understatement. The level of knowledge the boys displayed was incredible – and they were able to delve into difficult topics with admirable maturity and insight. Parents and teachers were astounded at how well the boys were able to discuss their topics. Even the P.E. teacher, who sort of reluctantly wandered up at one point, told me he had never seen boys so engaged in an activity like that! Designing the Share session as a Human Library event made it very low-key for everyone. The boys did not feel like they had to spend extra time preparing – since they knew their topics inside-out – and there was no pressure to perform for the visitors.

This student is explaining his research on human trafficking to Senior School boys!

Small groups of parents and other students met with the Human Library experts.

Remember how the Ministry list of recommended topics seemed so vast and daunting? Here is just a sample of some of the questions the boys identified for their research:

How can Canada and B.C. ensure that we are getting more electric cars? What are we doing?

How has human trafficking developed and changed in China?

Why are all the bees dying?

How has the relationship between the Canadian government and the First Nations changed over the years and what will it look like in the future?

What are the emotional effects of human trafficking and child labour?
How and why did the Mexican drug war start?

Why has society become increasingly racist towards aboriginal group?  What have the aboriginals have done about this and how does it relate to African American Racism?

If the Grade 6 team had approached this as a typical unit – with textbooks, quizzes, class discussions – so much of the rich learning would be missed.

The student feedback was overwhelmingly positive:

  • We could chose what to study
  • Having interesting conversations
  • The amount i learned about my topic, being an expert
  • I liked listening to the others
  • I liked how much time you gave use to complete the project and how you kept us relaxed
  • Doing the slam poem
  • That you could choose from lots of topics
  • How it was split into assignments
  • Having lots of little projects inside of one big one was really fun
  • I liked the presentation, we got to share our knowledge and experiences with other people
  • How it is covered in 2 subjects [Socials and Language Arts]
  • Seeing people interested in the topic we researched
  • Meeting new people
  • Seeing different projects
  • I love that we are actually sending letters
  • Answering other people’s questions
  • Fun!

Using the Human Library model in our Guided Inquiry Units this year has been a very successful endeavour, and one I would encourage other schools to try out! Take advantage of the expertise amongst your parents, friends and larger community, and you will be amazed at the connections and learning that will take place.

I’ve had a great time guest blogging here this week! Thank you so much for reading, and do get in touch with any questions or comments.

Elizabeth Walker

St. George’s School

Vancouver Canada

@curiousstgeorge

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

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

 

Student Choice & Student Voice

 

Imagine your school space was slated for a renovation. What would you change and why? Because our school library is slated for a renovation in the district’s facilities plan, we wanted to hear what students would change. For that reason, students were tasked with redesigning the school library to better equip students and staff to meet the changing demands of education in the 21st century.

In the open phase, school librarians designed a one period class involving multiple activities geared to get students curious about what exactly a 21st century library should look like and what additions, deletions or modifications would be necessary in their minds to create an innovative space.  

For Immerse, students spent time observing what happens in their school library before or after school and then took a field trip to three local libraries. First was another school library in the district, second was the central branch of the Lexington Public Library, and third was a state of the art university library. This activity helped students notate (and in many cases, photograph) layout ideas, furniture options, technology implementation, etc. To prepare for this important step in the process, the school librarians designed an observation sheet that students filled out to compile (and guide) their notetaking. One of us helped chaperone the trip too!

Exploring in any inquiry unit is key, and this project was no exception. The school librarians designed four stations for students to explore all things related to a school library. Within these stations students took notes on various symbols and floor plan designs, notated technology items and furniture options that may be beneficial for their proposal. One station even included a Symbaloo webmix created to help students brainstorm various elements of a 21st century library.

Students were given latitude in identifying which part or parts of the school library they would address in their proposed renovation and the classroom teacher often used Google Forms to collect this data.

Days were set aside for students to Gather whatever they needed to formulate a strong renovation plan. Each time this was done in the library. It was in this phase that students measured the library, worked on calculations, and revisited Explore station materials to determine what would be needed to make their individual renovation projects a success.

Ultimately, students Created a presentation which included (but not limited to): a Request For Proposal (RFP), a scaled model or drawing of their renovated space, and a budget, however, the format in how that presentation was created was entirely up to students.

Share presentations took place in the library so that librarians, classmates and guests could better visualize the renovation recommendations. Fish tanks, comfortable seating with electrical outlets, a skylight, an additional second floor, a cafe, new paint, updated computers and 3D printers were among the students’ proposals. More on this in the next blog post so stay tuned!

And just like any other unit, assessing learning is essential. That’s why there were several layers of Evaluation with this project. Math content standards were assessed in the scaled model/drawing, the budget and calculation page submissions. Speaking & Listening standards were addressed in the presentation rubric which was designed with input from the students. Writing skills were evaluated with the RFP rubric. And let us not forget self-reflection as this not only helps students to process their learning process but it is great information for teachers and librarians to use to modify and tweak instruction for the coming years too.

Our core learning team for this unit included one math teacher and the school’s two school librarians. Between the three of us, we collaborated, designed instructional experiences, co-taught lessons and served as a support to one another and our students throughout the entire project. Our extended team included the librarians at local libraries in the community and initially an art teacher. Due to a conflict between the timing of the project and the arrival of a baby in the family, this partnership didn’t work out this year, however, we will definitely include it in future years!

As always, thanks for reading the 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry blog! Please leave comments on the blog or contact me directly on Twitter using @HCHSLibrarian. I’m always eager to brainstorm GID ideas and work to make existing units better.

Sincerely,

Amanda Hurley, National Board Certified Teacher

Library Media Specialist, Henry Clay High School

Getting STEAMy with GID, Alexander Calder, & Balance and Motion

For our final post, we wanted to share about a unit on which we have actually collaborated! Carole, our fabulous fine arts teacher Carrie Howes, and myself came together to create an integrated science unit. While it is still a work in progress, the students (and teachers) have learned a lot and are incredibly passionate too!

The beginning:

On the same day, both Carrie and I talked with Carole about presenting at the HOT Schools Summer Institute. This week-long experience brings together other HOT school teachers, artists and many others for incredible learning opportunities. This summer, the focus is STEAM. The idea of collaboration between the Library, Art room, and classroom was born. As we began planning, GID was a natural fit. The three of us met several times during lunch breaks to brainstorm and lay the foundation for this work.

Carole shared about the concepts and curricular areas that her class would be focusing on. I suggested and found a copy of The Calder Game book to spark the curiosity of the students. Always on the lookout for STEAM connections, I also wondered if sphero robots could add to this unit of study with their connection to motion. Carrie began to research the works of Alexander Calder and connected the concepts of the mobiles to balance and motion, the underlying curricular theme. She also collected and gathered materials for the students to use when creating their group mobiles. Carole created the student groupings and loved every moment of researching the art, science, and technology that would make this unit come to life for the first and second grade students. In addition, our technology teacher Bridgette Schlicker has been partnering with us. We became so excited about this unit and will indeed be sharing it during the HOT Schools Institute!

As with anything, the GID process for this unit has not been linear. One of the hallmarks of HOT schools is student voice and choice. So while some of this unit could be planned, at times we worked flexibly as students helped decide the directions we would go.

Here are the steps in the GID process and how they worked with this unit.

Open:

Carole used several items for the Open phase. The class read aloud is The Calder Game. Together with biographical information on Alexander Calder and pieces of Calder’s art, students were immediately hooked!

Immerse:

Much of the immerse phase took place in the classroom. Students watched YouTube videos of Alexander Calder’s mobiles, museum exhibits, Calder working in his studio, and his circus. Students selected a focal art piece to display in the classroom and spent time looking at Calder’s stabiles. In library class, I had curated as many websites as possible using Symbaloo and students explored these sites. All of this added to their knowledge of Calder and his work. Throughout, the ideas of balance and motion were discussed, although they were not the focus yet.

Image from idaaf.com

Explore:

Again, much of the explore happened in the classroom. Students made stabiles out of paper with partners. They explored balance scales and weights. While reading The Calder game, students drew a five piece
mobile. Extending this further, students then added a numeric value to the pieces to make a balanced equation. An Art Farm performance of the Little Apple Circus continued to expand students’ knowledge and understanding of balance and motion concepts.

In library, we worked with Sphero robots to gain experience with moving them around the room, first using the app to just drive the Spheros and then using the Tickle app which utilizes coding to move the robots.

Identify:

The identify phase has probably been the most difficult. These are first and second grade students and they have constant questions and also this unit almost has two areas of focus, balance and motion and Calder. In library, we created a list of questions about Calder together and then learned as much as we could. I don’t think that these questions were as deep as they could have been. However, I believe that when Carole and her students began to think about balance and motion concepts, these became those deeper types of questions. This works well because the balance and motion is the major focus of the unit.

 

Gather:

In the library, the classroom, and in technology class students collected all kinds of information. We used this Gather phase to integrate some information literacy, such as citing sources and note taking.

Create:

A variety of creations are happening with this unit. Carole began to have her students create Calder curations. She asked them to select three favorite pieces using Safe Search. Students then created a Google doc with an explanation and reflection of each art piece. This was begun in the classroom and continued in library. The Eli Whitney Museum is nearby and students used kits from the museum to build a balance and motion circuses. Mobiles are being created collaboratively with inspiration and information from our art teacher as students focus on craftsmanship. These 2D mobiles will (we hope) be made into 3D objects to use in the share that we are imagining.

Collaborative Mobiles

 

Carrie Howes, art teacher, creating mobiles.

 

Share:

At this time, we are planning to create the “Four Ring Circus” with each group programing a Sphero robot which will be used to show balance and motion concepts. They will also use the elements from their 2D mobiles and translate them into 3D objects in the ring for the “circus act” to engage with. This work will be shared in part at an Assembly (which are held each Friday afternoon) and in whole for the school wide Share Fair.

Image from: superradnow.wordpress.com

Evaluate:

The students will have a rubric to complete for each “circus act”.  They will search for evidence of balance and motion, Calder inspirations, and technical use of the Sphero as they watch each performance.

Final thoughts

From the classroom: If time allows (we are getting very close to the end of the year!) the students will be able to design an individual balance and motion experiment to further test one of their “big questions” about this concept. By combining GID and STEAM elements together, this project has become totally purposeful and engaging for everyone involved.  All learners were able to shine in a strength area with their group as there were so many styles of learning that were needed for the different stages of learning.  So much of the work was hands on and experimental which also raised engagement. The kids were using the language of the 4Cs of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity to describe this work. Students had to push their thinking further in each step. It was astonishing that not one group struggled to balance their mobiles. Because of the groundwork, they have a great conceptual understanding of how to construct a balanced mobile!

From the library: I have loved every minute of this process. While there are days when we literally go by the seat of our pants, the learning has been amazing. Echoing Carole, the student engagement has been so much fun to watch. In the future, I would like to be more intentional about the information literacy skills that are embedded and also assess those more. I would also like to include more student reflection throughout.

We will update this post with pictures of the circus that I am confident will take place!!!

Thank you for learning with us!

Jenny and Carole

 

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

 

Diving into GID

I was supposed to post this earlier but the heat wave took its toll. My school had swimming gala last weekend. The temps were 41 but felt like way higher, throw in the humidity factor and you get a picture of hell on Earth. Standing there from 8:30 till 12:00 was killing. So yeah heatstroke! And hence the delay… Apologies peeps!

Jumping In…

My recent foray into GID has been a lot of trials and errors and I’m still not sure if I’m on the right track. I’ve been reading posts by various educationists who are using GID in their classes, but I think I need a personal coach to tell me where I’m going with what I’m learning.

The purpose of this second post is to share how I used GID with my students. We (not so) recently celebrated Pi Day with a Math evening at our school. For this my students designed their own games from scratch. But way before we did that, we started listing down all the Math concepts that we had covered until now since the beginning of the school year. The topics ranged from place value (7digits), the four operations, base ten, factors and multiples, graphs and charts, fractions, measuring and converting length/weight/capacity/time, area & perimeter, patterns, shapes, angles, etc. Some were still not sure where the conversation is headed, but they thought about the content to make further connections.

They also listed down games that they could look into for the Math Night. These included mostly board games and card games. At this stage, they were questioning and looking for interests. It was loud! But they were so engaged because by then they were beginning to make connections between the content and games they listed. Some even used Chalk Talk to make connections. It is amazing how these kids have started using different strategies to help them learn better. They’re learning how to learn, and that is more important than learning the content itself.

Math Game Design Project - Grade 4

Math Game Design Project

 

Required Elements for the Game – Grade 4

After listing down the games, the students explored the instructions leaflets to look at the format. They picked out the similarities in all the instructions to figure out what they needed when they made their own games. They researched rules for various board and card games to compile a list. We went over strategies for putting the ‘re back into the research’ (a phrase taken from an AIS colleague…yes that’s you Jeff). Do keep in mind that during all this, I was a learner along with my students… there are times when I was so overwhelmed with the process and not even sure whether I was leading them in the right direction.

During this stage the students identified and connected the IB key and related concepts used in the board and card games they found online. They looked for the big ideas to construct their inquiry questions. They also thought about why they’re making these games…in other words goals not just for themselves but learning goals for their audience, especially the lower grades coming in to play them during Math Evening. It is amazing what kids can do when we teachers, or rather adults, let go of the controls. I just loved the conversations bouncing back and forth. They were so excited to teach these concepts to those coming in.

Students worked in groups of three and looked at videos on Brainpop, Khan Academy, YouTube, Math-Play, etc., to start gathering resources to build their own games.

 

Game Project Proposal

Game Project Proposal

 

 

Rough draft/sketch of game

Rough draft/sketch of game

 

By then they were just too excited and wanted to just dive in to start building their games but before that they needed to make checklists and rubric to ascertain their goals. We did this as a class and came up with a rubric assess requirements, rules, playability, design and the accompanying Math questions. They would use this as a self as a peer rubric.

For designing their games they used the Design Cycle since they were already familiar with it. They had used the same for their Passion Exhibition at the beginning of the year.

I think they took the most time during this process. They wrote their game design in detail, starting from how they will make it, who the target audience is, and how the game should be played for a win. They drew their rough sketches to plan their designs.

Math Game Designer Rubric (self-assessment)

Math Game Designer Rubric (self-assessment)

 

 

Math Game Peer Rubric

Math Game Peer Rubric

 

Using the project proposal and sketch draft, they made a prototype and initially played it in their small group to make any changes if needed. Next they invited other groups to play each other’s games to get feedback from their classmates. They had to either justify their design or use that feedback design a solution to the problem.

Lastly, they used the rubrics for peer checking and a self-check. I am so proud of my students for using academic honesty for grading. It is a very difficult task, especially at that age to not focus on the grade itself but on the learning. AS you can see from the rubrics above, their is clear evidence of the connections between the learning and the process.

Next post

Reflection coming up soon… In the meanwhile please help me learn better by providing your feedback. Thanks all!

Hilaa Mukaddam