Ho Hum or Way More Fun?

In my time as a school librarian, I have had the unfortunate experience of teaching the traditional countries research project.  Why? Because it was in the curriculum and I was working with a new teacher BGID (before guided inquiry design). And you know what? I hated it about as much as the kids did.  The final product was the regurgitation of information which does not elicit smiles or excitement, but rather the slumped shoulder comments of, “are we doing this again”? I share this because we have all probably been there with a project.  The type of assignment that we dread as much as the kids. And, as much as we try to revamp it, it is tough to totally drop the curricular requirements without being worried or feeling some sense of guilt for not “doing what we are supposed to do”.  

Which brings me to the element of engagement! The sweet spot of excitement and learning.  This instructional element is part of what makes Guided Inquiry Design so valuable for teachers and students. There are collaboration strategies and inquiry groups and reflection components which are integrated into the process and get our kids excited to be researching just about any topic. Even more important is the entire EXPLORE step.  Providing students the opportunity to see what may exist in the realm of opportunity, engages and motivates students in a way that no list of topics can even touch. However, this valuable step is often the one that gets cut for time, because not all teachers see the value, when in reality it is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the process.  That is because it most closely mirrors the type of research which is being done in real life.

One of the ways I have worked with teachers to shift their thinking about the basic curricular report requirement is through the reimagining of the country project.  Students traditionally would share mind numbing presentations about a country, listing facts about population, climate, language, religion, food, etc. Listening to over 100 of them was the motivation to change.  This is where GID was a lifesaver!

The classroom teacher and I decided a change was needed, but how to make this relevant was the challenge.  In the end, after several ideas bouncing around via email, we decided to go with a concept which aligned with what students were also studying in science, natural disasters.  Students were now tasked with creating a recovery plan for a country which had experienced a hypothetical natural disaster. They were given the United Nations Development Program as a real life model and had to EXPLORE which countries were likely to experience certain disasters.  Then they presented in teams at our mini-UN meeting to apply for funding to help this nation in need.  The were rewarded (graded) in dollar amounts! In their planning and research, they had to learn about the culture, which was the original goal of the country report to begin with. But now, it was being done in a way with a real life connection, choice and collaboration which lead to students who were engaged and motivated to brainstorm solutions as a team.  

The 6th grade social studies teachers and I have been working on this updated project for the last four years  and it has made everyone happier and more willing to engage in what had been quite boring research previously. In changing our project not only is it more engaging, but it has also guided students to think more critically and to understand why knowing about a culture could be important in a real world context.  We provided the opportunity to work in groups, not because it is fun, but because the timeline and requirements make it almost impossible to do alone. Engagement was just an added bonus of following the GID process to get our students to fully engage in a research process which extended their thinking beyond what was required in the curriculum.

Cheers,

Sarah Scholl

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

What are you doing in your instruction to engage students in research using the GID process?

You + Me = We: The Power of Collaboration

Greetings fellow friends of Guided Inquiry Design!  My name is Sarah Scholl and I am a school librarian at Havre de Grace Middle School in Havre de Grace, Maryland!  This is my second round of blogging (original postings 1, 2, & 3) for the GID blog and I am excited to add to the amazing postings which have already been added this year.  

Photograph of four teachers holding awards

Mary Gargano, Sarah Scholl (Me), Anni Obenshcain & Sarah Wein: Curriculum Award Winners

I got started with Guided Inquiry when I first attended AASL in 2015 and learned about this research model as well as the CiSSL summer institute.  I then attended the 2016 summer institute to design and develop a GID unit and began implementing our Challenge and Change project that fall.  Our planning team submitted our Challenge and Change project for the county wide curriculum awards that year and we won!

However, it really is not how I got started that is most important, but rather, why I have stuck with this model for the last three years.  As a school librarian, I have encountered multiple research models, but it is the GID model which has brought the most success for my students.  There are three components which I feel make this model stand out against the rest: collaboration, engagement and reflection. My goal is to address each of these aspects in my postings this week.

 

For school librarians to be the most effective, they should be collaborative in their planning and instruction.  This is one facet which GID reinforces as a crucial part of the process. A first step in planning for GID is to identify the team, which is meant to include a school librarian.  It is explicitly stated that a school librarian be involved in the planning since this is a research process and librarians are research experts. It is truly in the best interest for both the teachers and the students to have a librarian involved, who can curate information, guide students through the exploration, identify and gather phases as well as provide support as students begin to learn how to do those things independently.

But, collaboration can be a challenge.  With differing class schedules, meetings, etc., TIME can be the biggest barrier to doing honest to goodness team planning.  However, when you take the time to make it happen, it is worth every spare minute you were able to devote to the work you are doing and in the end it benefits all parties involved.  Ideally, you would have a half day or even a whole day to sit down and plan, but that is not the reality!

So how do you start?  As a librarian, I often begin with an email or quick hallway chat to gauge interest.  From there, I often jot down ideas and try and plan a time when we can have a quick chat about whether we are headed in the right direction.  I also make sure I am familiar with the content teacher’s curriculum so I can reinforce the ultimate goal of “not creating more work” and show him or her where this can potentially align with what may already be happening instructionally.

After that, I try and schedule at least one hour of time to sit down together with the planning team to generate a rough outline, starting with the GID steps and what students will learn in each step.  We develop a goal or objective and set up the outcome or student product. Often the conversation will include some backwards planning, thinking about what the end product may be; even if the end product is something simple, with more of the focus falling on the process itself.

Finally, we divide and conquer, each taking the portions we are responsible for and developing the daily lessons which will be taught.  There will be the occasional hallway chat or five minute catch up time where we share what we have excitedly created, but more often than not, we rely on collaborative technology like shared Google drive or Office 365 folders, OneNote or regular old email to maintain our collaborative conversation.  Then we check in the day before to make sure all is prepared prior to the first lesson and we continue the daily conversations, making small modification as we co-teach through the GID model. Now, I do use that co-teach term to represent just about every form of co-teaching you can imagine with this process.  Sometimes we are co-lead teachers, sometimes I lead, sometimes the classroom teacher leads, it all depends on what is decided beforehand but, more often than not, the person who designs the lesson leads and then the other assists until they become comfortable with the material and is okay with stepping in to co-lead.

This is by no means, the only way to work through the difficult process of co-planning or working collaboratively with the GID model, but hopefully it will be some reassurance that it can work, even with the most time strapped teachers!

Cheers,

Sarah

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

How do you manage time so you can co-plan using the GID model?

 

Previous Postings

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/01/in-good-company/

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/04/lets-start-at-the-very-beginning/

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/06/wrapping-it-all-up/

Teach Out Loud

This past week, as I was searching for new innovative ideas to bring to my classroom, I came across the sayings, “Shut the door and teach!” and “Open the door and teach!”  While I get the point of the first, I wholeheartedly advocate for the second. Teaching should not be an isolated event. We need to come together to improve learning for students. In addition, if you are doing amazing things things in your classroom, share it.

Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to share GID with passionate educators at an Edcamp event I helped facilitate. If you’ve never heard of Edcamp, it’s an event that is driven by participant interest. Participants post questions and topics of interest at the beginning the event, and then sessions are determined based on those topics. One of the topics happened to be inquiry based learning, so I was thrilled to have another opportunity to share ideas. Not only was I able to share my GID unit on Earth’s Systems, but I was able to pick up ideas as well. One idea was using the website Thrively to administer a survey to gather students interest. One teacher shared how she learned that a lot of her students were interested in biology, so she replaced a prior unit she had planned with one based on their interest. What a powerful way to give students a voice and choice in the classroom. If I had never searched out other educators to collaborate with, I would likely have not heard about this powerful tool. I encourage you to build your personal learning network and grow. Twitter is a great way to connect with passionate educators from around the world. When we teach out loud and link arms with passionate educators, we have the potential to transform learning for our students.

Writing this blog and sharing a little bit about what happens in my classroom has been a pleasure. It has allowed me to reflect on my practice, as well as given me the drive and commitment to finish the year strong. Thank you Leslie Maniotes, for providing educators this space to share their experiences with implementing GID in their classrooms.

Rebecca Wilkin

Selma Unified

@beccalmorris83

Immersed in Learning

In my current GID unit, my 5th grade students are exploring the world around them. Over this unit, students will gain knowledge  of Earth’s four spheres: hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmospheres. The goal in this Next Generation Science Standards inquiry based unit is to lead students to an inquiry project about human’s impact on the environment.

Currently, we are in the Immerse phase of GID. This phase is all about building background knowledge, connecting students to content, and guiding students toward those inquiry based questions. Throughout this unit, I have specifically selected technology tools and resources that are highly engaging, fosters critical thinking skills and promotes communication with peers and experts. 

The beginning of a student ThingLink Inquiry Journal

Throughout this inquiry based unit, students are keeping digital inquiry journal. This will be a place where they will record their ideas about what they are learning and their questions that will guide research later on.  There are many options for student digital inquiry journals. I work at a Google Apps for Education district, so a majority of my students’ work is housed in Google Docs and Google slides. For this GID unit, I wanted to introduce a new web tool. I decided to use ThingLink. I love this website! Students were able to take this image of the four geospheres and create an interactive image. Within the website, students can add images, videos, and audio to images and videos. Through this activity, students they are learning how to organize ideas, synthesize information, and create. In addition, they can take this with them as they move to ahead in their education, where they will develop even deeper knowledge of our world. That is way more powerful than a notebook that most students will throw away at the end of the year.  

The most powerful technology tool that I have used, thus far, has been Skype for Education. A few weeks ago, my class was able to Skype with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. He spent a half hour talking to my students about the geology and wildlife of Yellowstone. While being in Yellowstone would have been an amazing experience for my students, facilitating a field trip for thirty-two 5th graders Wyoming would be nearly impossible. Just because we can’t bring our students to the experts, doesn’t mean we can’t bring them to our students. Skype for Education is completely free for educators, and there are experts in just about every field who want to share their passion with students.  This was the second Skype we did this year. The first was with author, Christina Farley, who spoke with us for almost an hour about the writing process. The process is so easy. Each time, I received a response in a matter of days. All you need is computer with a camera and microphone and a free Skype for Education account. It’s that simple. 

My students may not remember every lesson I carefully planned, but I know they will remember the day we talked with a real Yellowstone National Park Ranger. They were completely glued to every word he said and had a ton of questions at the end of his presentation. Immersed in learning…I think so.

 

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified
@msmorris2013

Greetings!

As the guest blogger this week, I will share how technology is infused with Guided Inquiry Design to enhance the learning experience for all of my students. In addition, I will share FREE technology tools to really hook students during the Open and Immerse phases of GID.

For most of my teaching career, I have taught in the 5th and 6th grades. Some may say I’m crazy, but I love teaching students this age! They are really starting to develop critical thinking skills, independence, ideas, and opinions about the world around them. Guided Inquiry Design is an excellent way to hook these preteens into the learning process, especially when they are typically more concerned with playing video games and Snapchat.

The “sit and get” method of teaching rarely inspires students, but Guided Inquiry does! I often hear kids talk about how fast their day went when engaged in GID. Little do they know, it’s because I’ve purposely and strategically designed a learning experience that will foster student engagement.

I was first introduced to GID last year. I have never considered myself a “textbook” teacher, and have always loved developing lessons and units of study. So when I received the invitation to attend a workshop that designed learning experiences for all students using inquiry based learning, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. While I’ve used inquiry based projects in the past, I’ve been able to revamp these lessons with GID and provide my students with the support they need to go further.

I’m super excited to share how I have use GID in my classroom. My next post will be on how to break down the four walls of your classroom and bring experts in all subjects to your students, even when they are thousands of miles away.

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified School District
@beccalmorris83
Find me on Instagram! @beccawilkin

The pride in my heart

Students discussing their research and filling out evaluations for each “presentation”

I am immensely proud of my students’ work during this Guided Inquiry Unit. For my final post, I wanted to share a few things that warmed my teacher heart.

My goals for this Unit have always been to increase student engagement and scientific discussion in my classroom. This Guided Inquiry unit hit the nail on the head.

As students began their research, they were constantly running up to my desk or stopping me as I meandered about the classroom with a “OMG Mrs. J did you know…?”. One student brought to my attention (long before I found it on my own) the article of an astronaut whose DNA is now different from his identical twin because of space travel.

One of my student’s project – their question was “How could genetic engineering be used to help bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction?”

Since we knew that the research my students would be attempting would be very high level, we made sure students were looking at other resources for information, such as: videos, literature, podcasts, and artwork. One of my students cited A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in her research as an insight to what could go wrong if we slip into   genetic modifications. I was blown away by this!

Originally “powerpoint” was not on my list of approved projects, however, this student did a TED Talk style presentation and I just could not say no to that!!

Our Share phase was probably the day I was most proud of. To present our research, I decided to approach it as a gallery walk. What I enjoyed the most were the exchanges I saw between students when they visited with each other. Students had debates about the ethics of GMOs, giving each other praise and being genuinely curious about what others learned. I heard such great conversations as I walked around, but I didn’t stop since I knew they wouldn’t talk if I stood there. Hearing them speak with knowledge and confidence put a huge smile on my face and sent me skipping down the hallway.

I loved watching my students grow during this process and become excited about research. They all recognized that it is difficult but extremely gratifying when they find what they needed.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Oklahoma House of Representatives hoping and praying our schools get funded so I can get back to the students I miss and the job I love.

Thank you for letting me share my GID experience with you!!

Fight On Tigers!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

Questions? Questions? Anyone have any questions??

We introduced Guided inquiry to our biology students using the DNA unit. DNA was the perfect choice because it offered different avenues to explore: from DNA analysis to the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

Since Guided Inquiry motivates students to develop their interest into a research topic, it only made sense that we start with teaching students how to write upper level questions.

First, we watched a video on how to write Level 1, 2, and 3 questions. Then we practiced bringing level 1 questions up to level 3 questions in groups of three using carousel writing style. For example, a student may write the level 1  question: “What is the function of DNA?”. The next person changes it to the level 2 question: “How is the function of DNA similar or different to the function RNA?”. The next person has the most difficult task, changing the question to level 3: “How would exposure to radiation (UV, gamma, x-rays) affect the way DNA function?”  We did this twice on separate days to get them used to the different types of questions and to learn how to increase the rigor of their question.

Second, to get them ready for the Identify phase, I had students practice taking level 3 questions and breaking them down into level 2 and level 1 questions. I gave each group a large piece of paper with a thinking web containing a level 3 question in the center. I then asked the groups to think about questions that would help answer the level 3 question. Students took a moment to think, but began to branch off simpler questions (“What is DNA?”) and questions that could be answered by looking in their notes or simple web searches (“How do DNA mutations affect proteins?”). By breaking down their question into simpler questions, they had formed a starting point for their research.

Third, once students had identified their research question, I set up a “question verification process”. In this verification process students needed to receive four signatures and comments: 2 signatures from other students, 1 signature from a different teacher, and 1 signature from me. After each signature, students reviewed the comments and made edits to their question. Why did I love this process?? Well for one thing it got students talking to each other and practicing identification of level 3 questions. Also, it cut down on edits that I would have needed to make on each student’s question. By having them review their comments and make edits, all I had to check for was the subject content.

DNA analysis and Genetic Engineering can be difficult topics for adults to undertake, so it was important that we did not make it too hard for our students to understand. Since this was our first Guided Inquiry Unit and they are not used to writing questions (many of them explained to me how much harder that was compared to just answering questions), I knew that structure and scaffolding would be key to their success!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

A Year of Firsts!

Hello everyone! My name is Rachelle Johnson and I am the guest blogger this week. I am a Secondary Science Teacher in Norman, Oklahoma. I teach Biology and Zoology at Norman High School (GO TIGERS!). Not only is it my first year doing a Guided Inquiry unit; it is also my first year at NHS and my first year in Oklahoma, needless to say this is turning out to be a very fruitful year!

In the past I have struggled with student engagement and am constantly met with the “why is this important?” question. So I love finding new ways to engage my students in meaningful scientific discussions. Guided Inquiry sounded like the solution to all my problems. It offered an opportunity for my students to discover why the things we learn in Biology are important to them as  individuals.

I first learned about Guided Inquiry through our Librarians during a professional development day in the Fall. Not really understanding what it was and just hearing the word “research” I instantly thought: Not for my Freshmen. That was definitely closed-minded thinking on my part. Luckily my district values student lead learning and sent me along with other colleagues to training early this spring.

The first thing I learned is that any student can do this. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach or whether you have English language learners or you have a group of special education students integrated in with your general ed kids. Everyone is capable. The second thing I learned was that I was already doing some of the stages in Guided Inquiry! Minor changes to my tried-and-true lessons and they fit right in.

And here it is the cherry on top of an already irresistible sundae — it helps students delve into ideas they are interested in, things that we wouldn’t normally have time to cover in class.

I am definitely sold on the effectiveness of Guided Inquiry. I love it. I can’t wait to share how our unit went!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School

Breakout Box

My goal this week on the blog was to share my experiences and thoughts about making time for critical learning experiences in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning. Analyzing our own attitudes toward how we decide to spend our time in our classrooms is the first critical step. Then remember that you are not alone! When classroom teachers and school librarians collaborate, we can create some truly exciting opportunities for our students!

On Wednesday, I shared an idea to invite local community members to your library during the Immerse phase and plan gallery walks to expose students to lots of different types of information sources during Explore. Another fun idea to try during the Immerse phase is a breakout box activity!

Modeled after escape rooms, a breakout box activity can take many different forms and can be used in any classroom and level. Students can work as a whole group, in small groups, with a partner, or individually to solve clues, unlock locks, and discover what’s hidden in the locked box! Even our high school students get active and enthusiastic. One teacher said, “I see some of my students participating who usually do nothing!” One school librarian in my district planned a breakout activity for the faculty during an in-service day before school started.

We have successfully designed 3 breakout experiences: library orientation, book censorship, and the beginnings of the Cold War. We began by purchasing a box set from Breakout EDU which was $100. However, you can buy your own boxes and locks for less than that. The advantage to buying from the website is that you get access to hundreds of lesson plans. The set includes invisible ink pens with a special flashlight, which is incredibly fun for the students to use to solve clues. Also included is a small USB drive. I made a short video of myself giving a clue, saved the video on the USB drive, and hid the drive in a book.

To begin, create a scenario that is exciting for students. For example, when we use the breakout for library orientation, we play music from Mission Impossible while reading aloud the following:

“You and your friends have been investigating a biochemist on suspicions that he is making bioweapons. His evil plans are locked in a black box in order to prevent you from finding them and destroying them. You must find the evil plans and destroy them or this mysterious villain will unleash a deadly virus in 30 minutes!”

For book censorship: “A group of parents is angry about some of the books available for checkout in the library. Specifically, they are complaining about To Kill a Mockingbird, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter. They have locked the offensive books in a large, black box and are planning a book burning ceremony in order to get rid of these controversial books! You have 30 minutes to save these books from an untimely and unjust end!”

For the beginnings of the Cold War: “World War II has officially been declared over with the unconditional surrender of Germany. While people around the world celebrate, another conflict has been brewing between the Allies, even before the war ended. The new world superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States are battling for territory and influence after the Nazi threat is defeated. As the United States is concerned about the imminent spread of communism, the Soviet Union also begins its own nuclear program. This new cold war has the potential to end in total devastation. You are the superpowers, the Americans versus the Soviets, working against the clock to prevent a world-ending nuclear holocaust. Be the first country to unlock the nuclear codes and get them out of the hands of the enemy. If you fail, your opponent will acquire your country’s nuclear codes, and a mushroom cloud may be in your future. You have 30 minutes to overcome Cold War mistrust and tensions to save the world.”

For the Cold War activity, we passed out paper copies of Soviet Union and American flags to students as they walked into the library, dividing them into two teams. This idea helped create an atmosphere to mirror the tensions of the Cold War (obviously on a smaller scale!). Each team worked to solve clues, but the box wouldn’t be completely unlocked unless both teams were successful. 

Design the clues so that students must access a variety of library resources in order to solve the puzzles and unlock the locks. For example, we use print books, eBooks, databases, infographics, and more. When we use this for library orientation, it’s a great way to test if they know how to use an index. And if they don’t, they’ll figure it out quickly because they become competitive and don’t want time to run out!

Here’s one clue from each of our activities so you can see examples if you haven’t created one yet. Library orientation: Those pesky librarians are always changing things around…this time, they have adopted a new way to use online resources called MackinVIA. Apparently they have given each student their own login. Go to schoology and open the MackinVIA link. Open the Opposing Viewpoints database. Some people call me a bully (imagine that!) and I want to know just how many news articles are available for me to read under the bullying topic.” Book censorship: “It’s not easy to stop people who want to burn books! For the first step in finding the key, figure out which book is number 6 on the list of books most challenged in 2016 as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.” The Cold War: “You must find the type of uranium used in the center of the secondary fusion device to accomplish the most powerful explosion from the nuclear bomb before the other team. What is it? (Hint: Find Matt Bougie’s Strategic Inventions of the Cold War.)”

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Use a free website to create fake text messages. I created the following conversation between Truman and Stalin as part of what was in the locked box during the Cold War breakout. You can get really creative with a breakout activity! Use QR codes. Maybe your principal could play a role or make a guest appearance.

Breakout experiences are effective during the Immerse phase because students become exposed to lots of information through solving various clues. Design the clues so students use content area knowledge to solve them. After the breakout experience, debrief students. Have them share answers to clues if they worked on solving different ones. From here, students can choose which aspects they encountered during the breakout to investigate further in the Explore phase.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts for this week. I truly believe in the importance of educators making time for what matters and modeling their own curiosity and excitement to learn for their students.

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

An Invitation to Learn

In Monday’s blog post, I asked everyone to dig deep and analyze their own attitudes about time. Today, let’s think about how we present the learning process to our students (which definitely relates to time). In short, is learning a drag, something to merely tolerate? Or is it a process of discovery?

When you want to learn more about something, do you reach for a textbook or Powerpoint presentation? Or do you ask a person, do some research, watch a film or video?

 

What can educators do to establish a warm, inviting, exciting mood for learning? In Guided Inquiry Design, the first three phases of inquiry learning (Open, Immerse, Explore) are critical. Kuhlthau et al establish again and again how important it is not to rush students because establishing a learning purpose affects successful implementation of the rest of the inquiry process.

Educators learn from studying the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning that they should not begin a unit of study by handing out an assignment. No learning context has been established! Just yesterday a student told me, “We just started reading a speech in English class today and answering questions about it, but I have no idea who was giving the speech and why.”

In my school, students can take an elective called Media Center Service Learning. We have had success implementing a unit on social justice. When we start talking about it, they all inevitably ask, “What is social justice?” That question shows me their lack of previous knowledge, so imagine how ineffective it would be if I simply handed out an assignment sheet or packet on the day we began the unit.

Units of learning should begin with an open invitation to spark students’ curiosity. Students should be curious about lots of things because they typically haven’t had many life experiences yet, so there’s a lot they don’t know. What would make you curious to learn more about something? (Probably not a textbook or PowerPoint presentation.)

At the high school level, I’ve had success using the New York Times Op-Docs website for short documentary clips to engage students and get them thinking. For the example of our social justice unit, here’s one clip we used, featuring an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Students wrote questions during viewing on a shared Google Doc which we discussed after viewing. The clip prompted some great discussions among students who before viewing the clip didn’t know the meaning of social justice. They were astonished to discover some of the information presented in the clip. Some students went on to research the school because they were curious, naturally leading into the Immerse phase of GID.

In Immerse, educators need to give students opportunities to encounter the breadth of the topic. Building background knowledge is critical if students are going to have enough information to eventually narrow down a topic in the Identify phase of GID. During my unit, the students continued their discussion about the clip. I also arranged for some guest speakers to visit my library. A representative from a local organization which works to help victims of human trafficking attended as well as a representative from a local community center and a public librarian. These three individuals spoke with students about how their jobs involve issues of social justice. This event helped show students the breadth of social justice issues around the world but also in our local community. Students took notes and also participated in discussions in inquiry circles. They were particularly interested in the human trafficking organization (SWITCH).

At this point, students have already encountered a great deal of new information as a group. As we transition into the Explore phase of GID, “students browse through various sources of information to explore interesting ideas and prepare to develop their inquiry questions” (Kuhlthau, 2012). In our unit, we prepared 13 stations each featuring an issue of social justice. Students rotated among the stations, writing down questions. We included books, articles, political cartoons, photographs, video clips, and much more. Remember that students should only be browsing, skimming, and scanning at this point. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and now is not the time to be bogged down in detailed note-taking. As Kuhlthau (2012) states, “when students rush through exploring, their thoughts about their ideas have little opportunity to evolve or develop. As learners slow down and relax, they can read and reflect on the information they are exploring” (79).

Here is proof that GID works: some of my students ended up choosing a topic that was not featured in the Open, Immerse, or Explore phases! These same students who began the unit asking “What is social justice?” had progressed enough to find their own topics. I could not have been more proud of them. And yes, some of these students were reluctant learners.

As an end product, students wrote a letter to a local representative, organization, or newspaper explaining the social justice issue and proposing a solution or course of action. Their end products were much more effective because they were given time to explore issues that interested them and that they cared about. They gained a much clearer, detailed picture of social justice because they moved through the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. Imagine if I had merely provided them with an assignment sheet including a list of possible topics. The students would not have developed an emotional connection with the unit.

All of these activities took time. Use your fellow teachers and school librarians to collaborate. Branch out into your community and see which learning opportunities are available. Ideas provided in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases can make learning so very exciting!

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net