Pick a partner or two

After planning and implementing Guided Inquiry for a few years, I’ve learned lots of things.  I almost always learn as much as the kids do when I am part of a team that teaches using GI.  Some of my reflections are below:

  • For me, implementing units goes better if there are lots of adults available to help.   Ask your counselor, teachers on other teams, sped teachers, music teachers, your principal, parents, interns, gifted teachers, ELL teachers, anyone that you think might be willing to help.  You can even ask your mom.  I asked my mom and her friend to come and help with a unit I did with 2nd graders.  We were learning about national monuments and symbols.  For the explore phase, I needed a person at lots of small stations.  With just a quick description of what our purpose and goal was, she and her friend jumped right in.  They are both retired first grade teachers and sometimes miss being with kids.  Neither of them knew one single student, but I put them in the library with me, and students rotated through our groups.  ASK ANYONE.  The worst they can do is say no.  If they say yes, your groups just got smaller.  The people that help do not have to be trained.  This is especially true with when working with non-readers.
  • When students have voice and choice in their learning, the results are incredible.  Their buy-in is increased.  Let’s be honest…  sometimes doing research with students can be a little dry.   This is not the case when teaching using GID.  Students are researching questions that they really want answered…  what is important to them.  They often get to demonstrate their learning in a way that makes the most sense to them.  While I give some options for their “create”, I often tell students to let me know that they might need another option that wasn’t presented.  If a student has another idea, I am happy to hear them out.  It is important to give students as much control over their learning as possible.
  • I’ve had to learn to be flexible.  Sometimes what you have planned takes a lot longer than you think.  Sometimes what you have planned doesn’t take as long as you think.  Sometimes using a new strategy goes really smoothly.  Sometimes it flops.  You may have to adjust your timeline or make adjustments to your plan mid-stream.  It’s a learning experience for everyone…  adults included.  I find that often the line between “identify” and “gather” is kind of blurry.  It may take some kids 2 days to come up with a question and other kids know immediately.  I let the ones that know what they want to find out get started while they are excited and ready to learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to try stuff with little kids.  With small adaptations, you can do GI with any age.  Yes, they can’t read yet but there are lots and lots of resources to help with that.  Technology is your best friend (and so is PebbleGo).
  • If this is your first time, find someone in your building that you can collaborate with and go for it.  Again, you don’t have to do GI with other people who have been to training.  While it helps, you just have to  find someone who will trust you and listen to you.  Ask how they normally teach the unit, and keep anything that is already fantastic.  Talk about it.  Talk to other people who have done GI.  Librarians in my district constantly ask each other for new ideas or ways to freshen up old ideas.

Thank you for taking the time to read my posts this week.  Leslie, thank you for asking me.  It has been fun and educational for me to really reflect on my teaching.


–Terri Curtis, Madison Elementary, Norman, Ok

PreK and GI? You betcha!

Hello again.  Today I’d like to discuss a couple of things I’ve used with early childhood kiddos or with older students that aren’t quite reading that have worked within a Guided Inquiry unit.  Let me start by saying that I really like doing GI with younger students.  They are more likely to try new things without skepticism and negativity.  They aren’t embarrassed that they can’t read yet because nobody else can either.  They are used to working in groups and doing centers.  They don’t know that failing to meet a learning objective is an option.  They jump right in with both feet and are eager learners.  Yes, you do have to do things a little bit differently, but a little bit of planning goes a long way with these guys.

I’ve done a space unit with PreK the last two years.  The interesting part about this is that all four of the PreK teachers that have willingly agreed to go on this journey with me have not been trained in GI.  You would think this would be a setback, but these four ladies have been incredible.  They have trusted that because I believe in the process,  it will go well.  They were involved in planning the unit together, even though they hadn’t done Guided Inquiry before.  They are the experts on their kids and what is age-appropriate for them.  They are the ones that know exactly what their kids can do.  I just gave a quick description of the purpose of each phase, and off we went.  All four teachers have asked to do other units or asked “Why don’t we teach like this all the time?”.  One of my PreK teachers had to move to another state, and she has taken GI with her (and we still occasionally text and plan stuff together even though she is on her own for implementation).  PreK is the perfect place to do GI.  They aren’t bogged down by testing or grades yet.


Our district is very lucky to have a portable planetarium that fits nicely in the library.  I have borrowed it from the district to open this unit.  Students can go in the planetarium with their teachers and me and look at the stars.  We can talk about constellations and the reasons that people in the past used constellations.  They can make up their own constellations and tell stories.  This has been a huge hit with the kids.  Check around your community and see what is available.  Often people are more than willing to come in and share their passion with kids and then you have yet another adult on your GI team.


Often for Immerse with PreK and kindergarten I do centers in the library.  They are already accustomed to doing centers in their classroom and they can pick whatever is most interesting to them.  For this unit we did centers that focused on astronauts and space travel.  The units included:  iPads to watch videos of astronauts in space, astronaut snacks (dehydrated foods, squeeze pouches, etc), astronaut exploration box (see picture below), moon walk area, moon sand (okay, I know this isn’t a legit thing, but we needed another hands on activity and we talked about if surfaces are different on the moon), and pictures of the moon, stars, and space as taken from telescopes.  These students and teachers did an amazing job.

Image may contain: one or more peopleImage may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor


The good ol’ standby.  I use a KWL chart for younger grades almost every time.  I do the K and L between explore and identify.  This lets students hear and build off of what other students in their class are thinking.  Often if  a student is struggling to think of something that is interesting to them, hearing from other students will get them started.  I just take a big piece of bulletin board paper and have the teacher call on students while I write.  We do the K first (this is just a list of the things that the students already know…  it can be anything they find interesting).  I mostly write down everything the students say as close to word-for-word.  Then we move on to the L (this is just a list of things the kids still want to know…  on this part I try to flesh their questions out to be a little deeper).  Even though most PreK students can’t read, I write down what they say.  This models writing for them and lets them know that their ideas and questions are important enough to write down.


This is it.  My favorite phase.  PreK kids ask approximately one zillion questions a day.  That doesn’t change just because we are doing formal questions for GI.  I like to use an iPad APP by Duck, Duck, Moose called “Draw and Tell” to identify.  Students can draw a picture and then record their voices to go with it.  I have students draw one thing that they think is interesting in the drawing.  When they record their voices, I have them tell me one thing that is interesting to them and one thing they still wonder about.  Since four-year-olds are quite proficient in working with iPads, the classroom teacher and I can wander among the students and talk to each one about what he/she is thinking.  This last set of PreK kids that did this unit came up with some really interesting questions.   Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Do animals ever travel to space?
  • What happens if too many astronauts get in a rocket?
  • Why does Saturn have rings?
  • Why do astronauts eat hard and dry food?
  • How big is space?

Here is one of the Draw and Tells that a PreK friend did.  It is a picture of earth as seen from space.  His question “What I want to know about space…  how big is it?”


Hi, I’m Terri from Norman, OK

My name is Terri Curtis, and I am the teacher  librarian at Madison Elementary in Norman, OK.  Our school is located a couple of blocks from the University of Oklahoma.  Our school is a diverse school (especially for the middle of Oklahoma) with learners from many backgrounds…  languages, ethnicities, socio-economic levels.  We are a school that has quite a lot of behavioral issues and students coming to school with baggage.  We have lots of students enrolling and withdrawing all the time, something like 20% each semester.  It’s a lot of turnover.  It can make teaching them a challenge, but it means that we are constantly getting new perspectives thrown into the mix.

This is my third year as a teacher librarian, all of which have been at Madison.  I should probably mention that I love my school.  I love the kids.  I love the other educators.  My principal is super supportive of libraries and encourages me when I want to try something new.  My district is supportive of Guided Inquiry and best practices for libraries.  The librarian network in Norman is amazing.  There is always someone I can bounce ideas off of and get feedback.  As a school that is always welcoming new students, the educators in my building really work together to do what is best for kids (and sometimes just to make it through the day).   For the past 2 years, I have done at least one Guided Inquiry unit with each grade at my school (PreK-5th) and we are now circling back and many are ready for another unit to finish the year.

This week I would like to focus on Guided Inquiry with students who are not yet readers:  both younger students and older students who struggle.  I will be pulling parts from GI units that I have done this year with younger grades.  I’d also like to focus on planning and implementing guided inquiry with teams of people who have not been trained.

This is my second time to blog.  The first time I did I was a library assistant for a middle school in Norman.  I’ve learned a lot since then, but you can find my first post here.

I’m looking forward to reflecting and sharing.

–Terri Curtis, Madison Elementary, Norman, OK

Instructional Strategies

Hello again everyone!  As a reminder from Monday the units I am discussing were 2nd and 4th grade units.  The 2nd grade unit was tied into the social studies curriculum through researching national symbols and monuments.  The 4th grade unit also tied into the social studies curriculum through researching the Northeast region. Today I’m going to identify instructional strategies that I used in during the units that I believed made them better.

Wagon Wheel

In the Wagon Wheel discussion round there is an inner circle and an outer circle with the same number of people (adjust as needed if you have an odd number and make one group a triad each time the wheel rotates).  Members of the inner and outer circle will begin by facing each other. The instructor will then tell either the inner or outer circle to move a certain number of spaces to the left/right. When they stop they will have arrived at a new discussion partner.  You can alternate inner and outer movement to keep everyone active. Full credit goes to Leslie Maniotes for introducing me to this technique. Now that I’ve explained how to conduct a Wagon Wheel let me discuss how I used it for instruction.

With 4th grade I used the Wagon Wheel strategy as our grounding/anticipatory set the day after students identified their question in the Identify phase.  I split the class in half and instructed each group what part of the circle they would be. There was a little confusion, but everyone figured out where to go pretty quickly.  My first prompt was for each partner to tell the other what their inquiry question was and why they chose it. Then, I had students rotate five spots. My next prompt was to have students identify their inquiry question and why the chose it again, but this time the partner had to provide some feedback in the form of a question or clarification.  Students rotated once more and again identified their question and provided positive feedback on something they liked about the question. While these questions didn’t delve into deep academic thoughts they did allow students to think about their own questions more, which I believed developed a better awareness of what they truly wanted to know. In addition to this students were able to gain greater understanding about what other questions were being asked in the group and how they might relate to one another.  While I used this technique to open a class session it could also be used as a closing activity to discuss what was or was not working well.

Clock Appointments

To set up clock appointments have students take a small piece of scratch paper (post-it note size works well) and fold it in half.  On each half of the paper have students write 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 and 12:00 (or whatever time works for you). Be sure and instruct them to leave enough room for someone to write their name after the time.  If I have 3:00 open and you have 3:00 open we will trade papers and write our names on each others papers. Then, our papers will be returned and we will make appointments with other students. Students will mill around making appointments until they have evert slot filled.  I tell students not to use the same person twice and usually let them set up times with me. After demonstrating how students will make appointments I let them set up their appointment slots. Be sure and tell them to keep their pieces of paper because they will need to know who to meet with.  After the appointments are set up we resume instructional/research time. As we progress through the session the instructor will ask students to meet with a specific time. Please note, you do not have to go in a certain order and can use the strategy as much or as little as you need. I rarely make it through all of the appointment times students have set up in a session.

With 4th grade I used this strategy during the second session of the Identify stage.  At this point students had identified a question, but I wanted them to be able to begin their research by having multiple access points to items they could begin researching.  Students wrote their questions on index cards and I modeled how to do a concept web of sorts on the card. From here, students developed ideas for answers they would need to find to their inquiry questions.  During this session I would pause at certain intervals and have students meet with a certain appointment time. These appointment times were used to discuss frustrations, offer advice, give positive feedback about something you liked and to talk out what students were thinking.  One thing that I want to note is that the classes I met with hat 27-29 students each. By using this strategy students were able to use work time in a more focused manner. I think this happened because they knew they would be meeting with someone soon to discuss something and because they were able to m-o-v-e, move.  


Learning Centers

2nd grade students participated in learning centers in the school library during their explore and gather phases.  During each of these phases there was an informational book station, a Pebble Go station and a Symbaloo station. The Symbaloo station required finding websites that were applicable to the topic. Students kept a inquiry log to identify the name of the book or article they looked at.  By working in centers 2nd grade students were able to focus their time in 10-20 minute intervals (I prefer students to have 15-20 minutes in each station). During the rotations they were able to explore many national symbols and monuments. When they were in the Gather phase their research, being much more directed meant that sometimes a specific center would not work for them if there was not information.  For many of the sessions there were three adults with one class because we had student interns. This allowed us to work more directly with students.



The thing I love the most about Guided Inquiry Design is the embeddedness of co-teaching.  However, co-teaching does not always come natural. I want my teachers to interject, clarify, delve deeper with me all the time that we are teaching.  I also want our students to get the most from each of us that they can. Sometimes you will be working with a teacher or a teacher-librarian that you have this type of natural rapport.  Most times though, I think we have to develop the trust to do this with one another. I want to identify how I did this with the 2nd grade team and I think you’ll see how it is a good fit.  During the centers activity I explicitly said or asked what group each of us would work with. By each of us taking a group we were working with 6-7 kids, instead of 20. This is co-teaching!  We were all being responsible for a smaller group of learning. During the Identify stage the classroom teacher and myself split the class in half and developed questions using the Question Focus Technique.  We were able to all stay in the library and use two whiteboards. While students generated questions the teacher and myself served as the scribe, and wrote down exactly what was asked. After students were finished asking questions the two groups switched places to review what the other group asked and then we met back together.  Again, by splitting the group we were able to narrow our focus with a smaller number of kids. That is co-teaching! By demonstrating to the classroom teacher (and vice-versa) that we were able to do the same things with very similar results we created a trusting instructional relationship. 

We all use great instructional strategies everyday, but I am 100% accurate in saying I don’t use all of the great instructional strategies I know every day.  What are your best instructional strategies?  My favorite one I’ve used this week in a non-GID activity was a quick write with third grade.  They wrote such good little stories on post-it notes guys!

Feel free to tweet me a question if you’ve got one and share an instructional @StacyFord77 be sure and use the tag #52GID if you do.


GID – Wrap it up with 3D Science and Phenomenon

I’m so thankful that Leslie shared her expertise on designing a guided inquiry lesson with our teacher group in DC this summer.  It changed my pedagogy and student engagement. I’m a veteran teacher, trained in 3D science by the best in the state, and a state teacher of the year finalist.  Yet, here I am, still learning and loving it!

What would I have done differently?  The students would have researched and read more informational text.  Other than that, I really loved this unit and how it turned out.

The final piece is wrapping up 3D Science, natural phenomenon, story lines, and guided inquiry into a stellar lesson. If you use NASA’s 5E lesson planning, it easily plugs into GID’s template for student driven learning.  Plugging in 3D Science is a natural process in GID as well.

The Science and Engineering Practices are “how” you “do” science:      https://ngss.nsta.org/practicesfull.aspxImage result for science and engineering practices


The Crosscutting Concepts are how students view, make sense, and apply natural phenomenon:   https://ngss.nsta.org/crosscuttingconceptsfull.aspx

Image result for crosscutting concepts

The Disciplinary Core Ideas are the science concepts that the students are making sense of.

In conclusion, SEP’s and CCC’s are a part of a student’s toolkit to dig deeply into the phenomenon that they are making sense of, and are easily incorporated into the guided inquiry process.

Thank you for letting me share this week what I’ve learned about guided inquiry design and how it was implemented this year.

Lisa Pitts, 5th grade Science and STEM Teacher, Edmond, OK

Guided Inquiry Design Integrated with 3D Science and Phenomenon – our fifth grade lesson

This summer I returned from NASM’s Teacher Innovator Institute excited to implement guided inquiry design with phenomenon explored in our classroom.  At the same time, I wanted to delve deeper into tying it all together with storylines.  https://www.nextgenscience.org

What fifth grader doesn’t love animals and the great outdoors?  We started the year with Matter Moving through Ecosystems (NGSS 5-PS-3, 5-LS2-1).

OPEN-  (Storyline) I shared with my class the story of finding a raccoon on the side of the road on my drive to Oakdale and showed this picture:






IMMERSE-  We discussed times they have found “roadkill” and what would that look like in four days, four months, four years.  As scientists, we observe, record, and question. I asked them how they could observe the raccoon to answer this question.  In teams, they came up with all kinds of solutions, and we came to a consensus to use time-lapse video.

(Phenomenon)– We found a video of a decomposing badger that was roughly the same size.  The class watched the video (a few times) while recording observations and questions.  We came back as a large group  and shared observations and questions:  Why did the birds come, why did the badger seem to heave, why were bones and fur left?  They were surprised by how quickly decomposition occurred.  https://youtu.be/E93rNE5F-LE   We came to a consensus for our driving questions.

EXPLORE–  First, all of the classes wanted to know what the birds were eating and why the badger seemed to heave and flatten so quickly.  They created a hypothesis and explored their theories.  We came together as a large group and discussed their findings.  Then they watched watched a video of maggots eating steak. (The best day to watch this is when your school is serving rice for lunch.)  https://youtu.be/1OMTywqUPvg 

This spring-boarded topics of conservation of matter, life cycle of a fly, uses of food for organisms, movement of energy and matter through food webs, and decomposers.  How do plants and water organisms decompose? Does matter decompose in space? 10 year-olds have lots of questions when given an opportunity and time to think.







IDENTIFY-  Students divided into teams based on similar questions, and I provided resources for their experiments and research.

GATHER-  Students explored matter decomposing in different types of soil, plants decomposing, worms as decomposers, decomposing bones (this group had to find out what happened to the bones and fur from the badger).














CREATE–  Students used their research, observations, and hypotheses to create an experiment to model decomposition in action.

SHARE–  Sharing is always our favorite part.  Fifth graders love to share in front of their classmates!  Teams made posters to explain their decomposition project and model the process, along with displaying their physical project.









EVALUATE-   We had some surprises, such as, the fruit never decomposed in a sealed jar, which encouraged students to find out why.  We had gnats get into some containers.  The soil was a little richer with tubs containing worms.  The worms did die quickly and disintegrated.  Oh my goodness, their projects carried over to their homes or vacations.  Parents sent me pictures of their child finding fungi or looking under rotten logs.  My students still bring me leaves with fungi roots.

The beauty of Guided Inquiry Design IS the organized framework for your students to OWN their learning, think more deeply, and collaborate with classmates.  Friday will be a reflection of students incorporated Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts while gather information to answer their questions.


Stem Teaching Tools: http://stemteachingtools.org/

Phenomenon:  https://paul-anderson-xw6e.squarespace.com/

Phenomenon:  https://ngssphenomenon.com/

NGSS Storylines:  http://www.nextgenstorylines.org/resources/example-storylines-ngss-topic

Lisa Pitts, Fifth Grade Science and STEM educator, Edmond, Oklahoma




My Hyper-Handy HyperDoc Inquiry Journals

Happy Friday, friends! It’s Kelsey Barker back again to wrap up our week discussing the HyperDoc inquiry journals I made with my friend and colleague Paige Littlefield.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I knew HyperDocs would be the perfect solution to keep students (and teachers!) organized through a cross-curricular GID unit last spring. I asked Paige to come over to my school and work with me to develop the doc, and I’m really proud of what we came up with:

The table of contents

The first page of the inquiry journal features of a Table of Contents. Each day links directly to the corresponding day in the HyperDoc. No matter if students are working on Open or Evaluate, they can easily navigate their journals no matter how long the document ends up being.

The second section of the inquiry journal features a Resources section, where students can easily find several resources they will use throughout the unit.

Resources Page


Below the resources in the Open section. After some trial and error, Paige and I decided it was most efficient to connect the Language Arts and Social Studies activities each day. We built in instructions for every day’s activities right into the journal so that written instructions were right in front of the students as they worked through the process.

Each phase is tabbed on the left side, which helps with navigation as well. And just to be extra type-A, we color coded each phase in the journal to match the GID phase posters I have in my library:


The GID Reflection Wall in my library


Thanks to the flexibility of the HyperDoc format, we built inquiry logs, quick write, pair-shares, and exit tickets right into the journal. This made it easy to provide students with the structures they need to be successful while keeping it seamless and easy to navigate.


Each day’s activity for each class features starter, work time, and reflection components, based on the session plan from the GID institute.



Our school uses Google Classroom, so once this inquiry journal was completed, it was assigned to students through their Language Arts class and then shared with their Social Studies teacher so that everyone could access their work.

The final inquiry journal, before students wrote in it, is around 20 pages in length. When I saw that, I knew that we had made the right choice in choosing HyperDocs for inquiry journals. Especially with multiple courses and teachers involved, HyperDocs gave students a common structure that helped them stay organized no matter if they were in Social Studies or Language Arts. Students who were absent were easily able to see what they missed by accessing their inquiry journals from home, and students couldn’t lose their journals or leave them at home accidentally. Most importantly, digital journals allowed the entire learning team the ability to check in on a student’s progress at any point during the process, leave feedback, and generally keep tabs on how students were working through the unit.

Since this unit, I have used a similar style of HyperDoc inquiry journals with other GID units, including the 6th grade unit we are currently working on. They are easy to customize for each unit, and I appreciate their functionality for all kinds of students. Right now I have to say I’m especially grateful for the “Revision History” feature in Google Docs… that has come in handy as my 6th graders accidentally delete their work!

This summer, Paige and I presented at another local conference about our joint HyperDoc endeavor, and I can tell you I’m not the only GID practitioner in our district who is excited about using HyperDoc Inquiry Journals. Between new technology, professional development, and the brain trust of my educator friends, I love to constantly grow and improve my practice… and I hope our story might be useful to growing in your own practice as well!

Thanks for following along this week. I’m sure I’ll be back to talk GID with you again soon!

Kelsey Barker

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Hello again, GID friends!

I’m so excited to be back on the blog this week with my friend and colleague Paige to tell you about a project we worked on together last spring. But before we jump into that, let me tell you what I’ve been up to since the last time I posted here, just about one year ago.

When I first wrote on this blog in 2016, I was a newish elementary librarian just diving into the wide world of Guided Inquiry. Since then, I became a GID Coach and then a GID District Trainer for my district, Norman Public Schools in Norman, OK. I moved from elementary to middle school in and worked in GID into my practice at the new school (sometimes successfully, other times not so much). I have learned so much about Guided Inquiry through the units I’ve been a part of in the last five years and especially through teaching the GID institute to other teachers in my district.

I have had the chance to learn and grow in my GID practice especially because for the last two years, my school has been a part of an IMLS-funded research grant with the University of Oklahoma and Norman Public Schools. The grant researchers are studying how students at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels learn when Making is embedded in Guided Inquiry. In the 2017-2018 school year, I worked with two 7th grade Language Arts teachers to complete four GID units, and it was an intense but amazing experience. I learned so much about GID at the middle school level, how to structure units for student success, design thinking, and more. The classroom teachers were wonderful and very dedicated GID practitioners themselves, but I think all of us were worried that four units in one school year was too much. Turns out, it made for great learning for our students, and this year they are still planning to do three units.

This year on the grant, I am working with two new teams: 6th grade Social Studies and 8th grade Science. As I write this, we are just beginning the Create phase with 6th graders, and I can’t wait to see what wonderful products they dream up. Maybe I’ll come back in a few months to share our results!

I also had the opportunity in the spring of this year to try something completely new for me: a cross-curricular GID unit, where 8th graders were looking at the concept of activism through the lens of the Civil War time period. Through their Language Arts classes, students experienced Civil War-era activist literature, music, art, and poetry, while simultaneously immersing themselves in the same time period through Social Studies. The classroom teachers worked together to create an engaging, intensive unit of study that achieved the standards of both courses.

The learning team was comprised of two Language Arts teachers, one special education Language Arts teacher, two Social Studies teachers, our gifted resource coordinator, and myself. When the team sat down to collaboratively build this unit, we knew it would be a logistical challenge to make sure that all students had the learning experiences we desired for them while still allowing each content area teacher to use the strengths of their subject to enrich the curriculum for students. For example, one of our challenges was that one student’s schedule may have Social Studies before Language Arts, while another had Language Arts first in their day. Because of this, activities could not build up one another within the same day. We needed some kind of tool to keep students organized and create a day-by-day guide for what was expected of them in each class.

As we designed the unit, I was reminded of a session Paige taught at Get Fit, our annual in-district professional development conference. In this session, she had participants work with a tool that I thought would be perfect to meet our needs for this unit. I will let her share more about that tomorrow… I hope it changes your teaching life the way it did mine! I’ll be back on Thursday to share how Paige and I worked together to implement this tool and make my cross-curricular unit successful.


Kelsey Barker


Guess Who?!

It’s me again, Guided Inquiry Friends! I’ve introduced myself to you before (here and here!) as Paige Holden. This time I’m coming to you as Paige Littlefield (52 days of wedded bliss and counting!).

I’m so excited to be blogging again. What’s even more exciting is that I’m sharing the blog this week with a colleague I have SO much respect and admiration for- Kelsey Barker, middle school librarian (library mastermind, I like to call her) and district Guided Inquiry Trainer. Oh, and did I mention she’s also my bestie?!

We’ve done a lot of collaborating over the years, and we’re excited to share with you something we worked on together. She’ll be around tomorrow to introduce herself- you will LOVE her! But first, here’s what you need to know about me.

I’m in my seventh year of teaching, all of which have been spent in Norman Public Schools in Norman, Oklahoma. For five years (and both of my other blog posts), I taught eighth grade Language Arts at Whittier Middle School. Last year and this year, I’ve worked as an Instructional Technology Integration Coach (iTech Coach for short!) at Norman High School. This is a brand new position- our district implemented a 1:1 technology initiative last year, and now every student in grades six through twelve has a MacBook. iTech Coaches were hired at to support that initiative at each of the six secondary sites. I share an office with our school’s onsite tech specialist, but my goal is to be in the classroom seventy-five percent of the time, helping teachers implement technology in meaningful and innovative ways. If you’re interested in what exactly that looks like, I’d love for you to check out my Instructional Technology Coaching Menu.

Leaving the Language Arts classroom was difficult, and stepping into a newly created position hasn’t been without growing pains. I went from a middle school of 60 faculty and 1,100 students- only 120 of which were mine to worry about- to my new high school, with its 150 faculty and 2,300 students- every single one of whom I have a share in the responsibility for. It was quite the transition to make, but something that’s really made it worth it for me is that now I have the opportunity to share the things I feel passionately about with a MUCH wider audience- things like differentiation, collaboration, creativity, student choice, reflective practice, professional development, ,AND- you guessed it- Guided Inquiry, which encompasses every single one of those other things!

Before writing today, I took a few minutes to re-read my past blog posts. I hadn’t read them in a long time, and it was SO interesting to see how my relationship with Guided Inquiry has evolved over the last three years! I went to my first Guided Inquiry Institute in the November 2015, and I implemented and blogged about my first unit- Natural Phenomena– in February 2016. I was so proud of that unit- I knew then that I was a Guided Inquiry convert! As much as I loved that unit, however, my grade- level team and I knew we could do better. We attended another institute in our district that summer, and implemented another unit in the spring of 2017- this one about World War II. Instead of creating a unit out of thin air just for Guided Inquiry, like we had before, we took an existing unit and turned in on its head. Our goal was to embed research into our curriculum, rather than make it this huge event, and it was a huge success.

When I moved into my new position, I knew I would no longer have my own classroom in which to plan and implement Guided Inquiry units. Instead, I’m able to work with teachers across grade levels and content areas to design and implement their own units. Our district has the very first District Guided Inquiry Trainers, and I get to attend every secondary institute they teach- three each year- to work with multiple teams from my school. I have opportunities to support teachers in instructional design, student questioning, and the implementation of technology, and I love every minute of it. None of this would be happening at Norman High, however, without one person in particular.  I’m not sure GID could flourish in a school without a teacher librarian at the helm, and I’m fortunate enough to work alongside the one and only Martha Pangburn. She was fanning the flames of Guided Inquiry long before I came along, and we couldn’t do it without her!

This summer, I took my relationship with Guided Inquiry to a new level. I attended a Guided Inquiry Institute at Rutgers, not as a participant, but as a step toward becoming one of the first four National Guided Inquiry Trainers. It was the professional development experience of a lifetime. I was able to observe SUCH diverse teams from all over the U.S. as they began their journeys with Guided Inquiry, and I learned so much about teaching and coaching from Leslie and from my fellow trainers in the making.

I know this is supposed to be an introductory post, but as I look back over the last few years, I can’t help but reflect on how much Guided Inquiry Design has shaped my professional growth. I’m a better teacher, a better colleague, and a better coach because of my experiences with GID, and I’m so happy to get to share a little piece of that with all you this week.

Kelsey and I are taking turns, so you’ll hear from her tomorrow and I’ll be back Thursday. Thanks for reading!


Paige Littlefield                                                                                                                                                                                          Instructional Technology Integration Coach                                                                                                                                                Norman High School                                                                                                                                                                                            Norman, Oklahoma