5 More Strategies for Guiding Student Questioning

Happy Monday! Today I’m sharing five more strategies for guiding students in inquiry questioning. Let’s dive right in!

 

Set Students up for Success in Explore

My mind was blown the first time I realized I could directly impact student questions with the resources curated for the Explore phase. This strategy is especially useful for a learning team that is concerned that students may miss out on critical content in a GID unit. By carefully curating the resources that inspire inquiry questions, we can guide students toward required content and help ensure their questions are right for the unit.

Here’s an example from a real-life unit: 8th graders rotated through several stations during Explore. At each location, there were primary and secondary sources, photographs and video, articles, infographics and more for students to dip into the content. Each station had a theme under the unit concept of Displacement: the Syrian refugee crisis, Japanese internment, the Holocaust, Natural Disasters, and so on. After exploring each station, the vast majority of student questions came from the materials they had interacted with during Explore. We were intentional with the content we included and that which was excluded from the first three phases of the unit in order to guide students toward the content we wished to cover.

 

Provide a Structure

As in everything else, students benefit from structure in questioning. A questioning structure helps students to recognize the quality of their own questions in a way that they can continue to use in the future.

There are many ways to structure questions: Thick vs. Thin, Leveled, or using a Question Builder. But the way I have found that works best for my students is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions. Based on the AVID questioning structure, I have found that this structure is complex enough to help my students write high-level inquiry questions, yet simple enough that they can clearly distinguish the three types of questions.

Here is a video I made for my students explaining the 3 Levels of questioning:

 

Get Started on the Right Foot

Another strategy I use to help students write excellent inquiry questions is to actually start their questions together. As a group brainstorm, we list as many question words as we can: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, Does/Did, etc. Then together, we cross out those question words that always lead us to Level 1 inquiry questions, leaving us with What, Why, and How. These are the question words that are most likely to begin a quality Level 3 inquiry question.

For students who continue to struggle with getting started, I have also provided sentence stems to help set them off in the right direction. With questioning, we want students focused on a question they are excited to answer, not feeling frustrated with the questioning process. Questioning often needs scaffolding just like anything else.

 

One on One Conferencing

In over 20 GID units, I have never passed the Identify phase without conferencing individually with every single student. Though it can seem logistically daunting, the benefits of face time with every learner as they work through their own questioning process far outweigh the costs.

In these conferences, I discuss with the student the level of their question, how it relates to the unit concept and their own interest, and how they will approach researching the answer to the question. I try to ask vague and open-ended questions that help the student come to their own conclusions about their inquiry question. Some students require more guidance than others, but eventually I know that each student will end up with a high level inquiry question that meets the needs of both the classroom curriculum and their own interests.

 

Let Them Ask the Bad Question

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if we conference or how much structure and support we provide to a student, they will insist on writing an inquiry question that does not meet the criteria we are looking for. In these cases, sometimes it is best to allow the student the opportunity to pursue their question and find that their avenue of inquiry leads to a dead end. It’s important that students understand that they always have the opportunity to loop back to Identify after moving on should they find their question does not work.

In this same vein, I often have students ask questions so specific, they find very limited information to answer them. In these cases, the trial and error involved in adjusting the question after beginning to Gather can be a valuable learning experience for the student. Real life inquiry is not perfectly linear, and Guided Inquiry units don’t have to be either!

 

I hope that you find these strategies as useful as I have for facilitating student questioning. If you have your own tricks or tips for helping your students write awesome inquiry questions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Until next time!

Kelsey Barker

4 Strategies for Student Questioning

Hi, friends! I’m back today and excited to share some of my most successful strategies for guiding student inquiry questions in GID.

In my experience, this phase can be one of the most challenging for students. In traditional research, the inquiry topic is typically provided to the students by the learning team. I have heard over and over again, “Just tell me what question to write!” from students developing inquiry questions for the first time. We can start to move away from this mindset with my first strategy:

Establish a Culture of Inquiry.

Long before beginning a Guided Inquiry unit, the learning team can begin to build a culture of inquiry in the classroom by modeling an inquiry stance and encouraging student questioning.

One of my most successful strategies in developing a culture of inquiry came from my friend and colleague, Paige Holden. In order to encourage student questioning, Paige taught me to never blow off a student question, no matter how random it may seem. Instead, have students write the question in an inquiry journal, online platform, or a communal questioning space to answer at a more appropriate time. With older learners, ask the questioning student to find the answer to their question and report back to the class at a later time. This strategy allows teachers to keep the class on track without quashing students’ natural curiosity.

 

Modeling Making Mistakes and Revisions  

So often, we see students who are afraid to revise because they believe that making improvements to their work means it is incorrect or inadequate. However, mistakes are a critical part of learning, especially in the Guided Inquiry process. Students must often rewrite inquiry questions over and over before defining a question that works. In order to show that constant revision is a part of learning, teachers can talk or write through their own thought processes aloud as a model for students. When students see these practices in action, they not only become better at doing it themselves, but come to see the classroom as a safe place to mess up and learn from it. Again, this strategy works in the classroom at any time, not just when students are engaged in an inquiry unit.

 

Practice Questioning Along the Way

Developing good inquiry questions can be a huge challenge for students, but it becomes substantially easier when students have had previous practice writing questions! In addition to building in questioning in the first three phases of the GID process, I have learned that building questioning into the daily classroom routine really helps to support students as they take on a GID unit. Consider where you could build questioning into your classroom outside of the GID unit. I think it could be a great fit with class journals, lab notebooks, bell work, literature circles, reading reflections, and more. Where would you build it in?

 

Stack the Learning Team

You probably noticed that all three strategies above happen before the Guided Inquiry unit even begins! That’s because for many students, GID is a departure from the traditional learning they are used to. And while GID is incredibly beneficial for students, the learning team may need to prepare students for some of the big differences coming with a Guided Inquiry unit.

The final strategy I’m sharing in today’s post is to build the learning team with the educators who can best help students be successful with questioning. During the Identify phase, I like to have “all hands on deck” to work with students on developing quality inquiry questions. This includes the classroom teacher(s), the gifted resource coordinator, appropriate special education teachers, and teachers of other content areas as necessary. Students respond differently to different teachers, and a variety of available adults in the room gives students the ability to work with the teacher of their choice. Gifted and special education teachers are also there to assist with differentiating for their respective students, making sure everyone has the support they need to be successful.

I hope that these strategies will be useful to your own GID journey, and I’ll be back tomorrow to share four more strategies I use with my students during the Identify phase.

 

See you tomorrow!

Kelsey Barker

Questioning Questioner Questions

Hello, GIDers!

I’m Kelsey Barker, and I am the Teacher Librarian at Longfellow Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma. I have blogged for 52 Weeks of GID before (here and here), and now I’m back again! I can’t get enough GID.

Here I am, showing my love for libraries!

When I attended my first GID institute with Leslie in the fall of 2015, I was the librarian at an NPS elementary school and brand new to the job. I fell in love with the process and the way that students were fully engaged in deep level learning. When I moved to middle school last year, there was no question that I would be working to implement Guided Inquiry at my new school as well. I have seen learning miracles happen through GID.

My first GID Institute team!

Like Cindy, who you heard from a couple of weeks ago, I am also a Guided Inquiry district trainer for Norman Public Schools. This has been an incredible opportunity to share my love of Guided Inquiry with other teachers in my district. I love watching these amazing educators grow in their profession, and it’s so rewarding to see their excitement to implement a unit with their students.

My most recent GID institute team… the district trainers!

As a district trainer, I have the opportunity to talk to lots of teachers just starting out on their GID journey, and there is one question I hear from them more than any other:

How do I guide my students to ask high level inquiry questions that stem from their own interests but meet the need of the classroom curriculum and state or national standards?

I am not ashamed to share that I too wondered this at my first institute in 2015. In fact, I wrote it on a sticky note in my institute notebook after day one. Looking at the big picture of unit design, it can be hard to understand GID can help students connect deeply with the content if we are allowing them choose the inquiry questions they ask. At the time, I understood that this is where the Guided part of Guided Inquiry came in: students require guidance to ask the questions that will lead to a successful inquiry experience. But honestly, I had no idea how to do it.

Now, with hundreds of hours of collaboration with fantastic educators and nearly 20 units under my belt, I’m excited to share what I have learned about guiding student question with all of you. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing several specific strategies I have used with my students to guide them to high-level inquiry questions that meet the needs of the curriculum and engage  the individual student.

I’ll be back this weekend with my first four strategies, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have questions about student questioning? What’s your biggest hurdle around inquiry questions? Do you have a great strategy for guiding student questioning?

Kelsey

 

Training to Be a Guided Inquiry Trainer

by Cindy Castell

 

 

So as I mentioned in my first post this week, I feel very fortunate to be one of the first 8 people trained to be a Guided Inquiry Trainer for Norman Public Schools.  As the interest in our district has grown, Leslie Maniotes and our leadership worked together to come up with a plan to train as many of our teachers as possible. 

 

Why Trainers?

The passion for Guided Inquiry is spreading in our district as teachers return to their buildings and start working with students on their prototype units.  It was decided that 4 elementary trainers and 4 secondary trainers would work with Leslie to help to carry this into the next several years and train as many teachers as possible.  I am a member of the Secondary Training Team as seen in the above picture.  

 

Do you want to be a District Guided Inquiry Trainer?

We were all contacted by our District Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Shirley Simmons and asked if we would be interested in training with Dr. Maniotes to be a District Trainer.  We were then invited to the upcoming Guided Inquiry Institutes in March to just watch and take notes as Leslie led the teachers through the Institute.  

Step 1 — Watch, Note, Question

The new trainers met before the institute and Leslie shared with us that she did not want us to participate as we had in previous training, but instead, sit, watch, and take notes on each slide noting how she handled different questions and situations.  It seemed at first that it may be a bit awkward, but it was such a great time of learning.

As Leslie conducted the institute, we were able to each write what we saw, heard, and question how she handled each situation. She would walk over and explain her techniques and reasoning to us for each section of the Institute.  We would meet during lunch and after the institute each day to discuss what worked and why.  On day 2, she had two of us at a time sit in on the conferences and listen to how she coached each group with their prototype unit.  The groups during this institute had very diverse topics and issues to deal with, so the training was very thorough.  We had the opportunity to provide feedback as well to the groups and participated on day 3 in the sticky note activity as groups presented their units.

Step 2 — Preparation

At the end of the March Institutes, we were told that in July, we would be presenting the summer institutes with Leslie there to coach us through it. So as the summer began, we found a time to get together to go through the training and see which parts each of us would do.  We went through the slides and then went home and studied some more.  Finally, the institute was coming soon.  Leslie provided support by sending us messages offering help as we prepared.  We met again and went through the whole Institute slide by slide.

Step 3 — Our Turn with Coaching

The week of July 19, we were on with Leslie right there with us.  I have to admit I was a little nervous.  I have been a trainer before, but never with one of the authors, researchers, etc… right there watching.  However, my mind was quickly put at ease.  Leslie Maniotes is a teacher.  She is kind, giving, and an amazing coach.  As each of us got up, she took notes, added ideas to the slides, and did some “side-by-side” coaching.  In a smooth flow, she would make sure we added pertinent information or phrase something a certain way.  Throughout the day, she would meet with us on breaks and share that each step of the institute (down to very small details) are in there for a reason and help lead the participants to their own thoughts.  

Personally, I had two instances that stood out as growth moments. Leslie pinpointed that as I would raise my hand to get the group back together to not start with a fully extended arm, but instead to start at my elbow, so I have somewhere to go if they were not coming back together.  WHAT A SIMPLE, COOL idea that I had never considered.  She also caught my phrasing when I would ask, “does anyone have anything else?” She pointed out that the language I used closed a conversation.  If I would change that phrase to “what else?”, that would open and invite the conversation. At the end of the institute, she also met with each of us individually.  She offered great praise and wonderful suggestions for growth.  What an honor it was to be coached by her!

So the three days were a great time with an amazing group of teachers.  We made it through with support from Leslie, and the teachers did incredible work.  

Here is the fabulous group we worked with:

In conclusion, the thought of all the students this year who will have the opportunity to learn through the Guided Inquiry process is exciting. The work that Dr. Leslie Maniotes has done in Norman Public Schools is transforming how our students learn. What an honor it is to be a part of helping to spread this amazing program!

Tomorrow, I will share what is coming this year with Guided Inquiry in Norman Public Schools.

Movers and Shakers — Being a Guided Inquiry Trainer

Hello from Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma.  My name is Cindy Castell, and I have been at Whittier for the past 25 years.  I am currently in a brand new position, I Tech Coach (Instructional Technology Integration Coach). I will explain more about this on day 3.  I have also served the past four years as our school’s Gifted Resource Coordinator, where I served over 500 students in our GT program by providing enrichment opportunities and supporting teachers in developing differentiated instruction.  Before that, I was a seventh-grade language arts teacher for 21 years.  

In a quote about lifelong learning, Brian Tracy said,  “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”  As with many of you, my career in education has been defined by finding what works best for students.  I want them to walk away from my class, or the classes I support, with the ability to continue to grow and learn.  To me, that is what education is all about.  

My initial Guided Inquiry training was in December 2015.  I was in the second group of many who have been trained in our district. Norman Public Schools strongly supports Guided Inquiry in all classrooms K-12.  It has been so exciting watching it grow and hearing all of the success stories with students of all ages.  I was just looking back at my reflection journal from my initial training, and this is what I wrote:

I am super excited about this approach. For the past few years, it has become apparent that teaching facts and even basic skills are not preparing our students for the future. Our kids need to be able to move on and learn without us, but they need to have guidance on how to be good consumers of knowledge that is out there. I have been reading, subscribing to groups like MindShift, Edutopia, etc., and just trying to find everything available on how we move from standards-based to inquiry-based. I believe the skills will come as we have meaningful learning happening as I see this will be the case using Guided Inquiry as a structure.

In my career, we have been through “the cycles” that we often talk about in education.  The cycle of drilling and testing has been a time of great conflict for me as a teacher.  I know students have to have connection and meaning to truly learn.  Guided Inquiry met my philosophy of teaching along with the structure to guide students to be well-trained consumers of the vast amount of information they have access to as well as developing the skills they need to be educated, contributing members of society. It is the structure I didn’t realize I was missing when I had students researching topics.  I was hooked when I realized this Inquiry-Based learning model provided the structure that all of us really use or truly need to be consumers of information.  

Over this week, I am excited to share with you a unique experience of being one of the first Guided Inquiry Trainers.  With building capacity in our district, Dr. Leslie Maniotes agreed to train 4 Elementary librarians and teachers and 4 Secondary.  I am thrilled to share with you the journey that led to being a Guided Inquiry Trainer and what we have learned through the process.  We are positive that we will be training teachers to cultivate the “Movers and Shakers” of the future.