Using GID Inquiry Logs with Elementary PBL Projects

When Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) decided to embrace PBL, we worked with the Buck Institute for Education ( for training and implementation. BIE shows that PBL is a way to engage students, improve learning, helps develop critical thinking skills, promote creativity, and improve communication and collaboration among students (and teachers!). Librarians are essential in making this process work because of the elements within Buck’s framework, especially the Sustained Inquiry element (


One of my AMAZING elementary librarians has embraced PBL and GID in her school. She uses LibGuides as her platform for all student PBL projects ( – look under the Projects tab) so all their work to help with all 8 elements are there for students. Tracey uses resources from Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when students are researching in the library. Leslie adapted the Inquiry Log for a PD she did on student engagement using GID as an example of how to really build students’ metacognitive skills. Tracey (and other AMAZING librarians in CCPS) are using these tools to help enhance and support student inquiry for PBL and other research projects.

Tracey’s school is one of our first who were trained in PBL, so she and her fellow teachers have had lots of practice and reflection on how to make their PBL projects engaging and have the rigor and relevance for the subject matter part of the project. Here are some examples of how students are using the Inquiry Log:

And what do the students say about these GID tools?

C – The inquiry log is helpful because you can look at different sites without taking notes.

N – The inquiry log is helpful because it helps me decide which sites I should use to find the information I’m looking for. It also helps me pick a subject to use. Another way it helps is it helps me decide which facts I can use.

K: The inquiry log helps because many people can’t remember what they read in the websites. Instead of forgetting, you can put the facts on the inquiry log and remember what you read.


Success is when students feel successful and encouraged to dive deep into what they want to learn!

Lori Donovan is a National Board Certified Librarian and is the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA. She holds a master’s degree in education with a specialty in school library media programs and a Graduate Professional Endorsement in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. She has published several articles in Library Media Connection and co-authored Power Researchers: Transforming Student Library Aides into Action Learners by Libraries Unlimited. She can be reached at or follow on Twitter @LoriDonovan14.

Other blog posts:;;

NAMI Speakers “Open” Students to GI

For my final blog this week, I would like to discuss the importance of the OPEN phase which is defined by the GID process as:

*invitation to inquiry

*open minds

*stimulate curiosity

For the past three semesters in my Psychology in Literature senior seminar, my GID collaborating Librarian Educator Anita Cellucci and I have invited guest speakers from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI; to share their lived experience with mental illness.  And each semester students continually offer positive feedback on how the speakers educate and inspire them.  By having our guest speakers Eliza and Megan share so candidly about their experiences with their own mental illnesses, students are invited to ask questions,  open their minds to erase the stigma of mental illness, and stimulate their curiosity to engage in a Guided Inquiry topic of their choice related to our course.

After Eliza and Megan visit, we ask students to engage in some reflective writing.  Below are the questions we ask and I’ve included three different students responses.

Please write a 1-2 paragraph reflection that expresses your thoughts, feelings, opinions about the visit from NAMI yesterday.

How did this visit and the presenters/presentation:

* validate your thinking?

* clarify mental illness/mental health issues?

* erase stigma?

* create empathy?

Please include any other thoughts you have on the topic.

Student 1:

“I thought the visit from NAMI was extremely helpful and enlightening. I had already known a lot about mental illness, mostly from my Psychology classes. After listening to Eliza and Megan, all of the missing pieces that hadn’t been clarified were clarified. Their presentation also changed the way I think about many aspects of mental illness, specifically stigma and treatment. Their stories were more impactful.  I used to view depression very negatively because every time I read or watched something about mental depression, it ended badly. I also had a family member who killed himself because of depression. From the NAMI presentation, I now know that it is possible to get “cured”, and that negative stigma has gone away. I also now feel a great deal of empathy for those affected by mental depression, and for those who are affected by someone else who is battling depression.

Over the past few months I’ve had more negative emotions than normal. I’ve felt scared to tell someone because the environment around me makes it seem that feeling negatively makes me an outcast. These thoughts make me feel lonely, like no one understands how I feel. After Megan and Eliza shared their stories, I realized that I’m not the only person that has negative thoughts and feelings. For that, I am grateful that I got the opportunity to listen to the NAMI presentation. It has also helped me to acknowledge the support system that is available. I think this presentation should be available to not only the Psychology in Literature classes, but all Psychology-related classes and any other seniors who would be interested.” Zak

Student 2:

“In respects to the visit from NAMI during class yesterday, the topic of mental illnesses and disorders seem to be more of a comfortable topic to recognize. Having others come in and present about this topic that people usually are afraid of or try to avoid really helped me recognize the fact that we shouldn’t be scared of mental illness. Continuing to ignore the heavy topic won’t help those who unfortunately suffer from the different mental illnesses. From sharing the dark days, to coping skills, the presentation helped further support the fact that we should be talking about this problem. I strongly believe that removing the stigma surrounding this issue is essential for the progression of help for those who suffer from mental illness. With more presentations like NAMI presented, as well as availability for classes such as psychology in literature, there is hope to erase the stigma and go in the positive direction for awareness of mental illness. As well as eliminating stigma and broadening education around the topic, the NAMI presentation successfully opened my eyes into the real life of those who struggle with mental illnesses.” Tara

 Student 3

“The visit from the National Alliance on Mental Illness yesterday was an amazing opportunity for all of us, living with mental illness, or have had some kind of contact with people who have any mental illness, to connect with other people and understand their story and how they came out, or still trying to come out, of a very dark hole. One thing that kind of soothes my soul is knowing that I am not alone and that someone somewhere is going through the same kind of thing I am going through. For me, “putting a face to the story” is more than just a connection I make. It is physically existing with another person who is cut out from the same piece of cloth as me and not only listening to their story, but walking with them completely till the very end. To me, this presentation was like looking in a mirror, but instead of seeing my dark thoughts, I’m seeing familiar storylines that have the “alternative ending” and that makes me happier than I can ever say. I think presentations like that are extremely helpful and vital especially to younger kids. In nature, children are easier to be around with and to talk to; they don’t have any preconceived notions and they are more likely to be empathetic. When we don’t do anything to feed that spark of theirs, to encourage them to do more and get better at it, we are slowly pushing them to fail and alienate anyone who is different. It is not a surprise that a lot of people think of mental health illnesses as excuses, “getting sucked up” and that they are totally irrelevant and not real; hence it’s all in your head. It saddens me that to this day people still think that we are making things worse for ourselves and that we can easily snap out of it. You cannot snap out of anything. Sometimes it’s like getting sucked up in a dark hole and even though you’re trying, really trying, you still cannot find a way out. For a lot of people the faint light comes from the outside and for some of us you have to shine that light for yourself. And that is totally fine…” Nadine

The students’ reflections are by far the most personal responses of the semester.  The NAMI speakers literally OPEN up our students to analyze, reflect, and prepare for the last part of our course:  Guided Inquiry. When we first began GI, I created a cool power point presentation for the OPEN phase that reminded students of all the literature we explored throughout the course as a way to spark their interest in a topic.  And although, the power point was a decent option, inviting the NAMI speakers is by far a better Open to stimulate students.  I have often enjoyed brainstorming anticipatory activities to introduce a project and the fact that GI emphasizes the importance of the Open phase is so validating. The Open phase is a motivating, empathic, and energizing way to being Guided Inquiry.

I will end with one more student quote.  Maddie shared the following about the Open in an end of the semester reflection.

“The NAMI speakers were a really powerful part of this course and certain things that they said are notions that I will carry with me for a very long time.” Maddie

Kathleen Stoker

English/Journalism Teacher

Westborough High School

Westborough, MA

twitter:  @stokerkathleen


The Imperfect Educator and GID

So as much as I would love to say all of my GID students’ stories are successful like the one I shared in my last blog post, they aren’t–especially when you take into consideration no two students are the same when it comes to their social emotional learning.  Then there are external factors such as high and stressful expectations from the school and family community that can negatively impact students’ learning.  Oh and yes, there is the imperfect teacher factor.

I want to share the emotional process I recently went through in reflecting on the successes and failures of last semester’s Guided Inquiry in my Psychology in Literature senior seminar course.  For this blog, I am focusing on the failures.  Now when I use the term failure, I am using the definition “the omission of expected action” versus “lack of success.” I also want to make it clear that the failures aren’t related to the phases of GID as much as the human factor brought to GID.

So my Psychology in Literature students were nearing the end of the Create phase when I began to acknowledge that I had made a lot of inaccurate assumptions with this particular group of students with whom we were working.  The students with whom Anita (our school’s librarian educator) and I were working were overall a high functioning group–this is true.  And therefore, I felt I didn’t have to worry about them completing their individual assignments for GI.  However, I realized when I checked the note-taking app that our students use for their research called Noodle Tools (which offers a 30 day review of an individual student’s work flow) that a lot of my students waited to the last minute to complete their research and final product.

I felt duped and taken advantage of.  I felt like I failed the mission of Guided Inquiry–I hadn’t sufficiently guided my students.  They had continued to engage in their old research habits of procrastination.  So gratefully Anita and I had a heart to heart, thoughtful reflection on what I had assumed:

*I assumed that because I had developed a safe, mutually communicative relationship with my students over the semester that the openness would transfer to GI.  I assumed the individual students would approach Anita and me with questions versus us going to check in with them.

*I assumed students would balance their time between GID and an independent book group I had assigned at the same time.

*I assumed students would utilize their time to complete their final project which was a google presentation using screencastify.

*I also assumed because a lot of the students were stressed with their overall academics that we should extend their research time–assuming that they would benefit from more time to engage in their deep dive of research. However, even with an extension, some of the students still waited until the last minute to gather their research.

Well I was wrong on all of my assumptions.  Hence, the imperfect teacher factor.

And admittedly, I began to get very teary-eyed discussing with Anita how I felt not only did my students fail in terms of not meeting what I perceived to be our expectations, but I had failed as one of their teachers of this process.  Anita and I then discussed:

1.  Maybe I had become too comfortable with GI that I assumed my students would naturally be comfortable with the process as well.

2.  Maybe I got lazy. (I said this comment, not Anita.)

3.  Maybe I hadn’t expressed fully to Anita that I wanted her to truly have as much input in the GID process as a lead teacher–meaning for us to honestly share for example that we needed more guided check ins with our students.

And then Anita gently reminded me–

4.   Maybe I was forgetting to be reflective in the fact that some students take longer moving through the social emotional phases of inquiry, so perhaps maybe some students’ procrastination was in fact part of the GI process.  And this point did register as we’ve had at least several students during each course hesitate because their GI is very personal; and therefore, it takes them longer to digest the information.  Anita pointed out a lot of the psychology-based, topics students choose to delve into over the course of approximately four weeks are very emotional for the students to process.

As I read through our students’ final reflections, I did note that every student shared that he/she learned a lot from the GI process.  This information gave me reassurance to not go to all or nothing thinking about this round of GI with our students–to really see their experiences as learning opportunities for me as their teacher.

Anita also encouraged me to be gentle with myself as this imperfect teacher can suffer from internal perfectionism.  She and I started a shared google doc to record our thoughts, feelings, experiences on what we want to do differently next semester.  For example, we plan on going back to more frequent guided check-ins with our students. I also will not assign an additional reading assignment during GI.  And we will stick to our initial due dates, because although we recognize the other academic pressures students are facing, we are confident in the allotted time we give them to move through the phases.

And of course we will continue to acknowledge that each student moves through GI at his/her own social emotional learning pace…and I have learned we teachers also move through GI at our social emotional learning pace as well.

Kathleen Stoker

English/Journalism Teacher

Westborough High School

Westborough, MA

twitter:  @stokerkathleen




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


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.