Emotionally Supporting Students through GID

Hello from Westborough High School, Westborough, MA!  I want to thank Leslie for continuing to offer such amazing Guided Inquiry Design opportunities like this blog for educators!  I am so grateful to participate again this year by sharing some more GID experiences from my Psychology in Literature senior seminar.  (Please see my blogs from last year to read a bit more about me and the GID work from last year. Links are listed below.)

For this blog, I want to focus on and definitely AMPLIFY one student’s GID process and the importance of the teacher’s role in guiding the student through his/her emotions that come with the research process and specifically choosing one’s topic.  Emotionally supporting our students is an important key to the success of our students in the Guided Inquiry Process.

As a reminder, our school’s librarian educator Anita Cellucci (@anitacellucci, @libraryWHS) and I have collaborated together using GID in my Psychology in Literature course for a couple of years now.  The course is a semester long, so for the last quarter of the 16 week course, we are committed to GID. Students choose their own topic to research based on a connection (even if it’s a small one) to our course. The objective is for students to dive deep into the topic of their interest.

The student for whom I am focusing is named Ashwini.  She is a senior honors student who admits to being an inner perfectionist.

While we were in the Immerse phase and conducting some preliminary research in the library using our computers, I noticed that Ashwini had a perplexed and anxious look on her face.  I approached her and asked how I could offer her assistance.  She said she wanted to research a topic personal to her, but she was afraid to start the search.  I asked her what was her interest.  She said, irrational fears.  She said there was one in particular that she experiences, but was afraid to share it with me because she didn’t want to me to think  she was weird.  I told her it was okay, I wouldn’t laugh or make a weird face.  She shared for many years she has had a fear of groups of dots/holes.  To be honest, I never had heard of such a fear, but figured it was a phobia. Ashwini said her parents thought it was a bizarre fear to have.   Ashwini was afraid to start the search in fear of actually seeing images of the dots/holes.  But she said she it was so important for her to learn about her fear–to see if there was anything she could do to move through the fear.  I admired her courage and willingness to take on a topic that scared her.

So I offered to type in her fear and see what came up.  She physically moved behind the computer, so she couldn’t see anything that came up on the computer screen.  When I typed in fear of groups of holes, trypophobia came up.  From my initial read, this phobia isn’t officially recommended as a phobia by American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5); however, it is a proposed phobia as a lot of people share the fear.  When I told Ashwini that there was at least a name for her fear, she said, “So other people have it, too?  I’m not crazy?” She took a deep breath and said she thought for a long time that there was something wrong with her.  I did share that it wasn’t considered an official phobia yet.  But the bottomline was that Ashwini had taken the first step to managing her fear by having the opportunity to talk about it and research it.  She asked if she could explore the topic of irrational fears without looking at her particular one.  I said of course.  Ashwini  was curious and interested in further research. Of course, I was thrilled she was researching a topic to which she personally connected and one in which that was personally challenging.

It truly was amazing to witness Ashwini’s fear of researching her topic melt away having the knowledge that she wasn’t alone in her topic.  She moved through the Gather, Create, and Share phases with more ease as she found out that there are therapeutic techniques to help minimize one’s phobia symptoms. Please see below both her responses to what she shared in her final inquiry circle as well as her final reflection.  I will further comment after both.

Create/Share Final Inquiry Circle

Ashwini’s responses:

As you reread your core sources and review your journal, think about what you have learned about your inquiry question.

I learned . . .
That there is still a lot of research that is taking place about phobias because this is a relatively new field in science. I also learned that as they say, “there is a method to every madness”, there are so many explanations behind irrational fears, some of which I found so interesting and never even thought of.

Write what these things make you think about your inquiry question.

I think . . .

That this is something that should be further researched on because 18% of adults face irrational fears and I think that more people should be aware of this and should start possible therapies. I also think that the mental health aspect of this is something a lot of people are unaware of and I think that there should be more awareness about this topic.  

Read over what you have written and write what you would like to tell your inquiry circle about.

I would like to tell about . . .
How I discovered my fear and how I was comfortable knowing that there are people out there that face the same fear. Just like any mental health issue, this should be dealt in a similar manner because there are so many symptoms that can cause increased stress levels and anxiety. I also would like to explain to my peers about the genetics and science behind it, in addition to the mental health aspect, because I found that very interesting.

Anything else you would like to share…
I found it very interesting to research something that I can easily relate to. I loved finding coping mechanisms because now I can put that into effect, as I have never even thought that simple breathing techniques can reduce high stress levels due to these irrational fears.
About the powerpoint itself, I would like to add that I found ten minutes less to explain my topic. I know that Ms. Stoker and Ms. Cellucci may not have that much time, but I found it hard to squeeze in all my information and my “story” into ten minutes, so I had to rush at the end. But, thank you for all the support! 🙂


And Ashwini’s final reflection:

What is your inquiry question?

My inquiry question was “How, if so, do genetics play a role in developing irrational fears and phobias and how does these affect an individual’s psychological sphere of their life?

Describe the process of how you developed a specific topic within the inquiry question?

I knew that I wanted to do something that related to me. I wanted to know more about the science behind phobias and irrational fears, but I wanted to also research the psychological aspects behind it.

Which keywords did you find to be most effective for your search?

Phobias, fears, anxiety, insecurity, nervousness, physical pain, irrational fears, facing fears, treatments

Which part(s) of the LibGuide did you use?

I used the State Databases in the LibGuide, mainly focusing my searches in the health sections.

Identify at least one difficulty you encountered during your inquiry?

During my inquiry, it was hard to link the genetics and science to the psychological part of what I wanted to research more on. However, I found only a handful of quality articles that involved both.

How did you overcome the difficulty?

To overcome this difficulty, I kept searching for more and more within the databases, specifically trying to add more keywords and phrases relating to the mental health aspect.

Identify what new questions you have about your inquiry. What questions came up as you were doing your research?

What can be done to completely remove someone’s fear?

Is it possible to tell that someone has a fear just by the way they act in normal situations?

If two people have the same fear, do they behave the same way? Does it affect them in the same way psychologically?

Describe how you felt about working on this inquiry project a) when you first started, b) as you were gathering information and c) as you worked on the final product.

  1. I was nervous because I did not know how much research was done on this topic and if there would be even anything that I could find
  2. I felt better about it because I learned that a lot of scientists and psychologists have in fact research in depth about this.
  3. It felt a lot more satisfying, especially to learn that there is a possible, rational reason behind the phobia I have.

After conducting your research, do you have a better understanding of the class connection you cited in the beginning steps of inquiry? For example, if you were further interested in what survivor’s guilt was because of Conrad’s struggle in Ordinary People, do you now have a deeper understanding.

Yes, I have a better understanding of the connection. I definitely could understand more about the mental health aspect of characters and to know that they are not really all that different from anyone else facing the same situation. There is always help out there and we need to acknowledge our problem and try to find help. Especially because we have the understanding of doing an inquiry project, if we want to research something later, we have a good process in hand which can be used to effectively research a topic we are interested in.

My final thoughts on working with Ashwini:

Ashwini was excited to share her research with her classmates as in the Inquiry Circle because she had discovered so much useful information that is literally life-changing for her.  In a lot of traditional types of research projects, teachers assign a topic and then send their students off to research.  With GI, it is critical for teachers to be involved in the whole process, but especially the immerse and explore phases. Often in the traditional phase, teachers never see the internal emotional struggles students have in choosing a topic or having an assigned topic. It is essential to conference with the students about their emotions and thoughts during the process, especially in the beginning.

Co-teaching GID with Anita, she and I are able to really give the students individual attention.  Instead of me trying to touch base with 20 students, she and I really try to divide and connect with ten students each. We don’t necessarily stay with those same ten students throughout the whole process, but by starting with those students provides them with individual attention.  And as we move into the Identify stage, we touch base with all of the students so they have two teachers checking out their inquiry questions.

Knowing that Ashwini has both the GID skills to conduct meaningful research as well as the content knowledge and tools she learned for her personal growth are so rewarding as she will graduate in June with these life skills.

Last year’s blogs:

“I’m Not a Teacher, I’m an Awakener!” Greetings from Massachusetts!

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection–Oh My!

GID and “Real World” Use for Students: Valuing their GID work inside and outside the classroom

Kathleen Stoker

English/Journalism Teacher

Westborough High School

Westborough, MA


twitter:  @stokerkathleen

blog: http://awakenededucator.blogspot.com

Theme of 2017: AMPLIFY the Positive in Education through GID

Excellent Educators! We need good news! 

Guided Inquiry Design is part of the good in education that is happening across the country in many schools. With GID students K-12 are engaged, thinking critically, asking great questions, digging deeper into their research, and creating amazing products to share that learning with others. Just read some posts on this blog as examples!

But, unfortunately, we don’t often get to hear this message about the best things happening in our public schools.

With the national conversation on education highlighting some negative rhetoric, our very own president labeled  our educational system as:

“an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge” Donald Trump, Inaugural address 2017

We need to amplify the excellent work that you are doing in our public schools.

Doing the good work with our students in our schools is part of our action, but now it’s just not enough.

So, I am asking for your help. We need to flood the networks with all our examples of GID and the impact its having on our students. This is not as much about Guided Inquiry as it is about schooling in the US. If we want to shift the narrative to a positive we have a responsibility to take action and show every example of great learning in US public schools as we can.

We need to amplify this positive message about the good in education.  GID is a best practice having a very positive impact on student learning and critical thinking everywhere it is being implemented. Do you agree? How is it having a positive impact on learning at your school? On your professionalism? For your students?

Just like Heather Locklear showed us back in the 80’s…

Just tell two friends…



But more than telling two friends- we can amplify the positive messages about learning through social media.

How can you help? 1.2.3

  1. Sign up for a week on our GID blog. Three short posts is all you have to do.
  2. Use your facebook account to share good news. Tag Guided Inquiry Design and I’ll help you to amplify your message to a larger audience there.
  3. Use your twitter account to share the great things happening in your school everyday. When GID is part of it, tag @InquiryK12 and I will help you amplify. Share photos, and short examples like this.
  4. Make presentations to your local Board of Ed about your work and share with your local newspapers about the positive outcomes of GID in your school

People want good news, let’s give it to them! Won’t you join us in this effort to share the world class education we provide our students everyday, and how GID is helping you to do that?

Start by taking action, today.

Thank you!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Creator of Guided Inquiry Design


PS Here are some Tools to help you Amplify your message:

Twitter tips for AMPLIFYING.

  • ALWAYS tag your twitter posts with hashtags. Hashtags work to amplify your message to a much larger audience. Your post will reach other educators beyond your followers to more people interested in education.
  • Some hashtags you can use:
    • #inquiry #edchat #FutureReady #education #inquirybasedlearning #edtech #tlchat

Further Reading: Read these posts for more ideas about education hashtags:

Haven’t signed up for a twitter account yet?

(This post was also published as a GID Newsletter.)

Libraries are Safe Inclusive Spaces for Learning

The last post of this week is on Library as a safe space in schools.

As you know, this week I’m taking a look into the connection between GID and Colorado Department of Education’s rubric for highly effective librarians.

STANDARD 4 : Environment

A.  Safe and Inclusive Environment – safe, respectful & inclusive learning environment for all students 

Guided Inquiry Design helps librarians to foster a caring relationship with students in the learning context. Through the third space Librarians and teachers look for places where students are connecting their experiences outside school to the content of the course.

The structure of the Inquiry Tools gives students regular practice with working on engaging in respectful and open dialogue about ideas and content with other students and the librarian and teacher. Through regular practice habit take hold and students learn what respect looks and feels like in the GID context, at school and in the library.

B. Welcoming Safe Space– open, warm welcoming, and flexibly designed to meet a wide variety of needs

The library space is created to teach at point of need. GID workshops and institutes help foster an awareness of the importance of student interest in learning.  We also address using the inquiry Tools as formative assessments so that librarians and collaborating teachers have the data they need to make on the spot decisions about student learning, enabling them to teach effectively at the point of need. For more see these posts on our blog from 2016

Making it personal

I’m not a teacher, I’m an Awakener!

C. Current and Responsive Space – diverse, equitable, current 

because GID embeds technology into the course and content- the learning through the model provides that platform for current tech use to engage, act, and create.  Collaboration is at the core of the planning, design and instruction of GID and requires student collaboration in a positive learning environment.

Guided Inquiry is a huge support to librarian and teacher effectiveness TOGETHER!

Even though I made explicit connections to the Colorado standards, I hope that this connects to your own district and school’s view of effective libraries and teaching and that this weeks posts have been a useful bridge to those documents that live in your professional life.

Comments welcome- as always!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-creator of GID

Conferencing Throughout the Process

It is the last day before winter break, and like many of you my brain has been working in overdrive.   However, I know that my final post is probably my most important, because it is about listening to students discuss their learning throughout the inquiry process.

As a former English teacher, I always understood the importance of conferencing with students during reading and writing, but I had never thought of it for research. It wasn’t until I became fully immersed in Guided Inquiry Design that I understood how essential conferencing is at every stage of the inquiry process.

Students need the opportunity to reflect on their learning. Conferring with students allows them to express questions they may still have and determine what tools will help them accomplish various tasks necessary to the process.  The key to conferencing is being a good listener.  In other words, you do not tell them what to do, but instead listen to them and guide them to the strategies and tools they may need.

Once I understood that conferring with students was just as important in the inquiry process as it is in the writing process, I built essential conference time with my students into every GID unit plan. When students are exploring resources for interesting ideas, conferencing helps the learning team determine if students are examining new ideas instead of accumulating facts. In the Identify stage, conferencing helps students narrow their topic.  During the Gather stage, conferring with students can often ensure that a student does not go off track while they collect detailed information.  Giving students the opportunity to articulate what they know is crucial to their learning, and essential in the inquiry process.

It has been wonderful sharing some of the things I have learned over the years using GID. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and the best 2017!!!


Patrice Lambusta


Passage Middle School

Newport News, Virginia

Building a Foundation for Inquiry


As stated in my prior entry, the first unit I taught as a librarian on inquiry was on pop culture. Students and teachers were excited about this unit because pop culture encompasses so much which allowed for student choice on topic.  The problem occurred with the old NNPS Inquiry model.  It became abundantly clear that “Starting with what you know” and moving directly into creating questions was not working.  My students were struggling with creating questions as a first step to inquiry, because they had nothing to base it on.

Passage Middle School is an inner city school.   We are now close to 70% free and reduced lunch with an eighteen percent special education population.  A lot of our students have not been out of the neighborhood, much less the state.  Because of that, we need to create a strong foundation for learning by building background knowledge.  GID gives us the platform to do this.

In the summer of 2012, a team from my school (which included my principal, reading specialist, science teacher and me) were fortunate to attend the CiSSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University. It was while I was in attendance there that I had a major “ah-ha” moment.

Our team created an inquiry unit on forensic science. I have written about that unit in our book, Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School. The unit was highly successful and allowed our students to collaborate in teams as they explored careers in forensics.  However, it would never have been as successful if we hadn’t spent so much time on the design and implementation of the Open, Immerse and Explore stages.  (In the NNPS model these three stages are rolled into one and called the “Explore” stage, but it is closely aligned to the GID model.) These beginning stages incorporate hooking students, immersing them in information designed to connect them to the topic, and helping them to explore interesting ideas and begin formulating their inquiry questions.  This is huge!!!

Once I discovered the importance of these stages, my teaching changed. I began developing lessons that scaffolded the learning but also engaged students in the learning process.

A Librarian’s Journey to Guided Inquiry Design

Hello from Hampton Roads, Virginia!

My name is Patrice (Patty) Lambusta and I am a middle school librarian at Passage Middle School in Newport News.

Like many librarians, I am a former English teacher who loved to teach reading and writing, but would grow sick at the thought of teaching another research unit. I absolutely loathed Science Fair because I was responsible for the paper, which meant I was also responsible for the research.  Like many before me, teaching thirty ‘tweens how to create questions, locate and evaluate information, and synthesize that information into a paper on a topic assigned to them by the science teacher, was more than I could handle.  Index cards became my nemesis.

I had a wonderful librarian at the time, who tried to get me to collaborate on an “inquiry” unit. I remember running from her in the hallways, because I thought she was just using a fancy word for another traditional “research” project.  It wasn’t until I became a librarian that I realized “research” is embedded into the inquiry process.  It is the process that supports student learning.

I was fortunate that my district library program had already created an inquiry process model and was in the process of integrating it into the district curriculum. At my school, I had created an inquiry unit on pop culture using Newport News Public School (NNPS) Inquiry Process Model.   Students were allowed to pick any pop culture topic they wished.  Although students were highly engaged in the unit, they struggled with the first stage of the original model, creating their own questions.  During 2012, while librarians (myself included) were trying to create rubrics to support the process, we discovered that there were issues with the process itself, namely having students create questions from the very beginning.

As we struggled with how to fix this issue, district librarians began professional development on Guided Inquiry Design with Dr. Leslie Maniotes. We also read the publication Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School, coauthored by Leslie.  Through the professional development sessions and the book study we were able to adjust our Inquiry Process model so that it was more effective.  Our model is now closely aligned with GID.

In the coming two days, I will focus on the importance of the Open, Immerse, Explore stages and conferencing with students throughout the process.


Little Kids and GID?

Yes, Guided Inquiry is a design that you can use with the littlest of kids. The first GID unit we implemented in my building was kindergarten! That being said, there is a little extra planning and preparation that comes with using GID with primary grades.

Challenges that come with primary grades:

  • Writing independently
  • Needing more movement and hands-on engagement
  • Needs more background knowledge
  • Reading independently
  • Providing choice without loosing structure

Those are some pretty big challenges if you don’t think about them throughout the planning process. If you keep these challenges in mind while planning, you can easily integrate various supports that will allow your primary students to find success and love learning with the Guided Inquiry Design!

Possible solutions:

  • Find opportunities to use centers
  • Use drawing as a writing option
  • Use interactive notebook strategies for the inquiry journal
  • Spend more time during the immerse phase if they need background knowledge
  • Find resources that will read to them
  • Work in small groups as much as possible!


For our first kindergarten unit, we focused on the social studies essential question of ‘How Can I Take Care of the World?’ This is a pretty big concept for kindergarten! The learning team (myself, the gifted teacher, and classroom teachers) planned an incredible unit that included inquiry journals, inquiry logs, writing, hands-on centers, guest speakers, and art. It can be done!

  1. Open: In the first page of your inquiry journal, draw a picture of you taking care of the world. That was the only prompt we gave them. Then we reviewed various photographs and students discussed whether it was taking care of the world or not. For example, trash on the beach, putting out fires, teaching children, oil spills, etc. We made sure to include photographs representing the scientific/environmental way of taking care of the world and the community building/relationship way of taking care of the world. After going through that as a class, students had a picture sort in their inquiry journals using a mixture of those photographs and others.
  2. Immerse: We invited various guest speakers to give a 10 minute speech about what they do and how they take care of the world. After each speaker, students drew a picture and had a sentence stem in their inquiry journals. Speakers included fireman, small business owners, water conservationist, recycling person, veterinarian, and public librarians. Again, we made sure to include science and community.
  3. Explore: This was probably my FAVORITE lesson out of all the phases. I had pulled many nonfiction books that were kindergarten level about the science and community aspects of taking care of the world. I taught the students how to browse a book by flipping the pages, looking at the pictures, and trying to read bold words. We talked about how we can get so much information from a book just by browsing. Students worked in pairs and rotated through tables. At each table, there was a book, red crayons, glue sticks, and pre-cut tiny images of the book cover. Students had 30 seconds to browse and then 10 seconds to glue the image onto their inquiry log. Then they either colored a heart or an x to indicate their preference of the content. When explaining the directions, one student said

    What if we only kind of like the book? Should we just color half the heart?


  4. Identify: Before we moved to this phase, the teachers and I worked together to split the students by what they were interested. It ended up being about half and half. One half really liked all the science books and guest speakers, and the other half really enjoyed the community-building resources. I took one inquiry community and the classroom teacher kept the other one. This is when we used a guided discussion to identify our inquiry question. Yes, it was a struggle to get to a higher level question with kindergarten. But that is where the guided part of Guided Inquiry Design comes to play. We used various brainstorming/mind-mapping strategies.
  5. Gather: This can be especially challenging with kindergarten students because they can’t read independently and they can’t take notes. So what does the gather phase look like? We decided the make it a center. For a week, I was one of their literacy centers, which lasted about 15 minutes. They came to me with their inquiry journals. I introduced them to our PebbleGo database, which is an incredible resource for primary age students. There were different sections that had several articles in each that were related to our topics. For example, there was an entire section full of 8-10 articles about community helpers. There was also an entire section full of 8-10 articles about helping the environment! PebbleGo reads the articles aloud in a non-robotic voice, so I let the students click around and get information. At the end of the center, they drew a picture in their journal about something that was interesting to them or something they learned.


  6. Create: Students created a more detailed illustration to answer the question of ‘How Can I Take Care of the World?’ This is a great opportunity for you to capture students explaining their art with video, then you can compile them all into one exciting video for your class!
  7. Share: Share the video, share the drawing, share the experience!
  8. Evaluate: What did you like about these lessons? What was your favorite part? Look back in the inquiry journals to help with reflection since that can be challenging for primary students. The main question we focused on for this phase was ‘How was your last picture different from your first picture?’ Teacher translation: describe your learning experience and how this Guided Inquiry Unit impacted your learning.

I’m a believer!

My name is Kelsey Gourd and I work in Norman Public Schools as an elementary teacher librarian. As you’ve read here before, Norman Public Schools have embraced the Guided Inquiry Design and has trained MANY of our teachers, and all of our curriculum directors and librarians!

I’d like to tell a couple stories to share with you why I am such a believer in the Guided Inquiry Process.

In 3rd grade social studies, students are expected to learn about 9-11 specific famous Oklahomans according to the Oklahoma Academic Standards. Previously, this unit has been a bore. I’ve tried to approach teaching it with centers, choice boards, and online classrooms, but still students did not retain any knowledge about the people we were studying. They just didn’t care- much less did they grasp why we were learning about these people.

This year, we transformed this unit into a Guided Inquiry Unit, and although we are only in the Identify phase, I have already seen such a difference in student’s engagement and learning!

Open: We started this unit right after our Mock Election, so we opened this unit by reflecting on the leadership characteristics we discussed from the presidential mock election. What types of leadership characteristics are important? Students wrote about a trait they had with examples of how they show it. One student, who hardly speaks, wrote about how he is humble. I mean, this is third grade! I wrote a note in his journal about how impressed I was with his writing and his trait. I told him how his self-awareness is also a strength. Two days later, this student, who I have known since kindergarten and he has only spoken to me twice, started emailing me in the evening. Just to chat!


Immerse: We dove into learning about Woody Guthrie, a famous folk singer who is from Oklahoma. He is most famous for being the “voice of the people” and writing This Land is Your Land. We read a couple books about him, watched a couple videos, wondered about him, and finally wrote in our journals about what leadership traits he displayed.

Students were beginning to grasp the higher level thinking that I always wanted them to reach, and it was because of the way the instruction was designed. By using the Guided Inquiry Design, after only 2 lessons, students were analyzing biographies  with the skill and reflection of having 20 lessons with the old way of instruction.

Students were leaving with questions, rather just facts.

Explore: This is where we really took our time. We spent one session learning how to use an inquiry log while browsing print materials. We spent a second session continuing the inquiry log with digital resources. Then we decided to go on a field trip to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame! During each session, students were encouraged to wonder, and reflect on leadership characteristics found in these various famous Oklahomans.

Identify: Today, as a whole class, we worked on identify. The teachers and I decided since the students have never created inquiry questions before, that this would be a great opportunity to model the process. Together, we brainstormed a list of questions. Then we revised it with the following thought process:

  1.  Can we answer this question with a yes or no? Eliminate!
  2. If we typed it into Google, would a simple answer pop up on the screen? Eliminate!
  3. Are there any questions that are similar and we can combine?

We went from a list of 8 questions to 3 high quality questions. But they weren’t big enough. This is where the guided part of Guided Inquiry comes to play. The teachers and I guided the discussion until together we came up with the giant overall question: How did they impact me?


Image result for 3 marshmallows different sizes

I had three marshmallows lined up. ‘How did they impact me?’ was the big giant marshmallow. The one you can barely fit in your mouth. The other 3 questions that were up on the board (What inspired them? What mistakes or challenges did they face? and How did they become famous?) were the jumbo marshmallows- the medium ones. They are hearty and good questions. Finally, all the little questions we had eliminated were the mini marshmallows. You know, the typical ‘when were they born’ or ‘were they married’ questions. We talked about how those answers were still important and how they contributed to the answer of the big marshmallow.

During each one of these lessons, students left groaning, asking when do they get to come back! This has NEVER happened during our Famous Oklahomans unit. And to think, had we taught this unit like a typical research unit, we would have just skipped right over these steps. The Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the Guided Inquiry Design are probably my favorite part!


Special Education and GID- About Me!

Hello GID fans!

My name is Amanda Biddle. I work at Henry Clay High school in Lexington, KY. Henry Clay is the largest high school in Kentucky with about 2, 400 students from grade 9 to 12. I am currently the building assessment coordinator, however I was, and will be again, a special education teacher in our building. I have two lovely little boys, 6 and 2.

I have experience teaching special education in all subject areas in elementary school, special education in middle school, and special education algebra and geometry in high school. I have a passion for working with students who are struggling learners and finding ways for them to learn how they learn best. I believe that each student can be successful if they are given the right tools and encouragement.

I was introduced to Guided Inquiry through my husband, who is a social studies teacher. While completing his masters program in library science, he had the opportunity to study and implement Guided Inquiry. He started with advanced classes and worked his confidence in to the general education, co taught classes. It was through long nights of planning his lessons and unit together that I started to understand how this model of teaching and learning could benefit, my then language arts students who were in special education. I was able to take his knowledge and work with him to form a unit on guided inquiry. That was three years ago.

After my year as a middle school special education language arts teacher, I transferred to Henry Clay high school, and started teaching math as a special education resource teacher and a special education co teacher in math. My first year as a high school teacher, I rarely thought about GID and did not implement any units or lessons as I wasn’t comfortable with how it would be implemented in the math classroom. However, my second year, I was introduced to another math teacher who was implementing at least one GID unit each semester. It was amazing. I was also very motivated to make this work for my students. I attempted my first math GID unit at the end of last school year. (May 2016)

Once the librarians, other math teachers and I started working together and really looking in to GID and how it could benefit our students, we were able to sign up for the GID Institute at Rutgers this summer. We formed a team of 1 math teacher, 1 English teacher, 2 librarians and me, the special education teacher. Going to the institute and working 45+ hours on one unit was exhausting, but worth every minute. I was able to come back this school year, ready to start the year by giving students a new perspective on how they can learn and explore math.

I am excited to be a part of this 52 week challenge.

See you tomorrow,

Amanda Biddle

Natural Phenomena – Students Questions from the Middle

As Hermine approaches on the east coast this Labor Day weekend we have a relevant post about student questioning from the middle school level on the topic of natural phenomena. Yesterday, I shared some examples of high school student questions from two different content areas. Today, I’ll be continuing our discussion of student questioning in the Guided Inquiry Design process as we move down the grades to examine some examples from Middle School.

At any level, student questions in Guided Inquiry are a cornerstone to the approach. Inquiry based learning can be defined as an approach to learning where students ask their own questions. Guided Inquiry is uniquely positioned to support teachers to design instruction where a path is paved that supports student questioning through the early phases of the process. 

Paige Holden, a middle school language arts teacher with her team designed an inquiry unit using the Dust Bowl as the starting point for study about natural phenomena.

The overarching question for the instructional design was, “What are the social, environmental, and economical effects of natural phenomena?”

In the design, the team of teachers and school librarian collaborated to determine a concept and overarching question that drove the instructional design. Next, a learning sequence was determined to address the content as students become curious and connect the content to their own lives and interests in the third space. In this unit, Paige and her team examined the standards and focused the inquiry path on social, economic and environmental factors of natural phenomena. They wanted all students to have a grasp of those components.

You can read more about the entire unit from Paige in her posts here and here and here.

The students identified their questions after substantial investigation through the first three phases of the design process. As you read the students’ questions you’ll notice their connection to

  1. Natural phenomena and
  2. One or more of the aspects in the Learning Team’s overarching question. (social, economic, and environmental factors)

Students Questions

What past theories have been developed to explain the Northern Lights, and how have the lights affected tourism in areas where they can be seen?

How did the formation of the Ice Age Impact the Earth and humans?

How do bioluminescent waves affect the ocean and its inhabitants?

How have the discovery and exploration of blue holes impacted different fields of scientific research?

What myths about the cause of the rainbow are evident in cultural and religious traditions?

What is the relationship between disappearances at sea and the Bermuda Triangle?

TAKING LEAP – the Inquiry Trust Fall

Inquiry based learning requires moving away from covering content and opens up to a more facilitated approach, where the teacher acts as a guide. Letting go of covering content is a shift for many educators for a variety of reasons,

  1. The testing climate (we teach so that our students can perform on a test)
  2. The perception of a need to control what students learn
  3. The pressures from outside related to content (curriculum and pacing).

We know that covering material doesn’t ensure students will learn it. Even so, have you ever heard teachers say, “We went over that!” “We covered that, I don’t know why they don’t know this!”

People using an inquiry learning model have taken a leap to trust the inquiry process and their students, that they will learn the content through the process. These questions show this is possible.

Interest has staying power with regards to learning, where material coverage does not. These students’ questions are a fine example that although each student won’t learn deeply about each one of the factors that the Learning Team indicated as essential, they will learn deeply about at least one as it relates to something they are truly interested in.

Let’s look at the student questions related to each factor. Keep in mind that although each student isn’t addressing them all by way of their own question, they are all part of this learning community (or Inquiry Community). From these questions we know that each student will walk away with two important understandings

  1. what a natural phenomenon is.
  2. natural phenomena do not occur in isolation and that it will have an effect on other things

Once the students gain an understanding of those key ideas as related to their own interest they come back together as an Inquiry Community to share their own learning. As they have gained expertise on their question, they will listen to what others have learned with a new layer of knowledge. Their own research will allow them to understand and connect to the other students’ content and be able to apply their own understanding to new content in all three areas. (Think transfer task!)

So how much of these questions will address what the teachers were looking for?

Social – Four of the six sample questions had a social element to it.

  • Tourism is a social activity,
  • impact on humans implies social connections,
  • cultural and religious traditions are socially constructed,
  • and human disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle has social implications.

Economic – It seems one student addressed the economic factors in the question about tourism.

Environmental – Each of these questions being around a different natural phenomenon will provide opportunities for every student to learn about the environmental factors as they learn about the phenomena itself.

The questions about the Ice Age and bioluminescence were centered in the environmental factors.

It’s clear that the learning team allowed students to branch off into areas of interest as long as it was related to natural phenomena and one (or more) of these factors. The variety of questions shows a commitment from the Learning Team to students finding their own interests within the content.

Asking real questions around the content through an inquiry based model while closing down time for covering content, opens up time for deeper learning and applying what students have learned to other essential learnings in authentic ways.  Thanks Paige for the great work and material to reflect on again.

More tomorrow on questions from our smallest inquirers!

Leslie Maniotes

Author Guided Inquiry Series