Reflections

Reflection

I love reflecting. I reflect after every lesson I teach, after a full day’s worth of lessons, after finishing a project, after finishing a parenting task, after everything. I truly believe that I can use reflection to improve my teaching and to improve student learning. Here are my “Big thought” reflections on the guided inquiry process.

Collaboration: Collaboration is key. While at the GID Institute, at CiSSL this summer,  I was able to plan with a regular education teacher and the school media specialist. We worked very well together. We all three wanted to be there and had a goal in mind. When you make your GID team, you need to make sure everyone has bought in. You will struggle. We struggled. The regular education teacher had to take the perspective of teaching 150 students per day and what she could do with that. I had to take the perspective of the special education teacher and play devils advocate for my students who may not be comfortable with some of the activities or ideas that we had due to their disability. The media specialist was able to give us a completely different perspective and moderate conversations. This make up was key. We were able to give each other different viewpoints and constructive feedback. We worked no less than 45 hours on this unit, that would only last two weeks.

Challenges: We started this unit on day 4 of school. We started this unit with freshmen. It was very easy to get them hooked. They wanted to write and discuss the concept of balance and how things related. They liked exploring with the stations and working in the room as well as the library. It was great to be able to give them non-math tasks. The students were excited to choose their own topics for researching and making connections. Honestly, the first 7 days were great and going just as planned. Once they had their topic, they struggled. All of the students were able to connect balance to their topic, but found it very difficult to connect it to math. The media specialists, myself and my co teacher all had to work with students one on one questioning them through their progress. It was exhausting. These were probably some of the most inspiration and draining days of my teaching this far. Students wanted us to give them the answers. They expected us to lead them in the right direction. We held strong and let them work through their frustrations. It took an extra day or two for them to actually get facts and information gathered and their thoughts together. Once that happened it was presenting time. We left the options for presentation open, and this lead them to have a lot of anxiety. Many did not want to present. Many did not want to complete a project. Many were so tired of the loosely structured classroom that they were unwilling to persevere. They did though and we came up with some great products.

Rewards: We had several students who would not have been interested in math rapping about math. One student was so very excited that he could use this as an excuse to learn coding skills to talk about a career in coding and how it relates to math and balance. We had students coming out of their shells and presenting. We also had students who were not usually interested in math, that were now excited to come to class. So while the concept wasn’t grasped by all, it had a huge positive impact on the students.

Recommendations: I would recommend this unit to any math teacher. Balancing equations can be used at almost any grade level. I do not recommend doing it in the first week of school. I would say you need to have structure, routine and respect in place before moving on and starting this lesson. Having a “background” of structure and allowing the students to get to know us for longer would have helped tremendously.

Amanda Biddle

High School SPED teacher/ Assessment Coordinator

Fayette, KY

Our Project- Solving Equations

Hello again, and happy Wednesday.

We started our GID unit on solving equations on day 4 of this school year. We knew we wanted to complete a unit on solving equations, and we knew we wanted to set the idea of GI in the student minds from the start.

We introduced this lesson with two co-taught algebra 1 classes. Each class was made up of 26-30 students, with around 10 special education students in each. The class was co-taught by myself and another teacher whom I’ve been co teaching with for three years. We were comfortable enough with the flow of the class and with trusting each other, that we knew we could try this. If you want to try GID with a co-taught class, I highly recommend it. I also recommend it be with co-teachers that are great at planning and communicating with each other.

gid-solving-equations

I have attached ( I hope) the link to the power point that was used for this unit. I started to explain to you guys exactly what we did each day and what made it different, and then realized you should be the ones experiencing it. You should be the ones to look and see if anything catches your eye or interest. Within the powerpoint you should be able to see the notes at the bottom of each slide. These notes kept my co teacher and I on the same page throughout the lesson. These notes also allowed for us to have a place to differentiate and change the plan , like a working document, throughout the entire unit.

Please look through the powerpoint and ask any questions. We have had another class, college prep math, complete this same unit. I would love to answer questions so that you can become comfortable implementing this design in math classrooms. Any questions asked will be answered in Friday’s final post with my overall, super honest, reflection about the unit.

Have a wonderful tail end of the week!

Amanda

 

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

Making it Personal (Part 2)

In my last post I spoke about the value of Third Space at the Identify stage: allowing the personal interests and passions of the student to find synchronicity with the curriculum. Allowing students the opportunity to select an area of personal interest, and to allow them the choice of presentation mode goes a long way to ensuring engagement, a quality product and a wonderful sense of achievement and improved self-esteem for the student.

So can “Third Space” be applied to the Open phase? At this beginning phase, surely the “Hook” to engage all students with an item of personal interest would be impossible to find. And isn’t that the aim of Immerse and Explore: to allow students time and space to find their area for study? So, is “Third Space” relevant during Open?

To me, finding the “Third Space” during Open is all about asking students to become personally involved with the topic. They are not asked to find a specific area of interest yet, but engaging activities in this phase still employ the same principle: of connecting the student to the topic, and making it “relatable”. I have tried to employ this principle when working with a Year 5 (10 years old) class who were studying the Gold Rush in Australia in the mid 1850s. The objective of the unit was to consider the effects of the Gold Rushes upon the people involved: the miners, their families, those who plied a trade on the fields, the government etc. This clearly required a level of personal empathy; as this was somewhat out of their immediate experience (!), I tried to think of how to engage them with their heart, and not their head. So I devised an activity where they would adopt the role of a miner. We provided groups with a map, and a box of goods. Some boxes contained useful items, others not so; some contained a miner’s licence, others not. We spray painted some rocks gold, and “buried” them in an area of the school (in long jump pits, inside tyres, behind posts etc. They were then given 20 minutes to try their luck! I posed as the Licence Inspector; those without licences were sent to gaol! Some found little, others a lot; some stole in order to get rich! (just like the real thing!) The students were amazingly engaged, and most of all, during our de-brief, they demonstrated that they had a very good understanding of some of the difficulties the miners encountered, and the feelings that they might have experienced. They were now ready to learn!

open-gold-rush open-gold-rush-2

 

Making it Personal …

When sitting down to consider what I would write for my blog posts this week, I realised that the topics I had chosen, all had one thing in common: an emphasis on “making it personal”. So for my first post, I’d like to reflect upon the importance of Third Space.

I believe that the concept of Third Space is so critical to the GI approach. How often do teachers hand out “generic” / whole class assignment tasks?  How often is it a task that will elicit only a small range of “correct” responses?  How often have the learner’s needs been factored into the construction of that task and valued more highly than the need to address curriculum content and requirements? I cringe when I think back on some of the tasks which I have set in the past: uninspiring, unoriginal and definitely working at the lower end of Mr Bloom’s taxonomy! Recognition of Third Space within a Guided Inquiry approach offers students something very appealing: the chance to find the intersection between what needs to be taught and their personal interests. For many, this opportunity is also a challenge. Particularly for those in the Middle and Senior years, so used to being given a mandated task with limited choice, students may sometimes baulk at this opportunity for choice. Sometimes ill-prepared for individual and innovative thinking, the chance to find their own avenue of interest may be difficult. To me, this is Guided Inquiry’s most necessary and crucial Zone of Intervention: helping the student to find that intersecting space.

Third Space In Action!

For the past three years, the Head of Inquiry Learning at St Paul’s (Des Hylton) and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with the Health and Physical Education Department on a Guided Inquiry unit for Year 10 students. This unit was developed initially after one of the Year 10 PE teachers had attended a Professional Development course which Des and I conducted at our school. The teacher had seen the value  of a GI approach and could see clearly how it could be applied to a unit which they were about to teach. After many conversations, plenty of tweaking, lots of learning, plenty of “to-ing” and fro-ing”, and a healthy amount of trepidation, we were ready to give it a shot!

Entitled “Safe Choices”, the unit asks students to consider an Overarching Question: “In a world full of opportunities, how can we encourage adolescents to make safe choices?” Their responses were to be uploaded to youtube, hoping that an authentic audience would assist them to produce a work of which they would be proud, and one which could help adolescents and others, to make safer choices. Students were led through interesting Open, Immerse and Explore phases, and then invited to find that Third Space….. where did their personal interest lie? It was here that the team approach, so important to the success of a GI unit, was really helpful. With four teachers working with the group, talking to students, posing questions, probing and challenging, we eventually (for some this took quite a few lessons!) found that third space for each student. Some found it difficult to become the “asker” rather than the “answerer”; others found it difficult to find enthusiasm and focus; yet in some we saw  a spark that was truly wonderful.

For one girl, in particular, this task offered her a chance to produce a work that was most definitely situated in the Third Space. Fuelled by personal interest and a strong desire for societal change, she chose to investigate the choices made by victims of domestic abuse. The choice of  presentation mode also allowed her to work in her Third Space: her artistic ability was able to be employed as a tool to add effectiveness to her presentation. I believe her video is a wonderful testament to what can be achieved when students find that Third Space.

Judy Bolton

 

Adult Connections

Hello!  I hope that you are all enjoying the beginning of summer.  I am Marci D’Onofrio.  I work at Westborough High School in Westborough, MA teaching ninth grade science.  Up to now, the course has been Physical Science.  Next year, we are changing the curriculum to a project based learning course titled Natural Science and Engineering.  

 

The Teachers of GID

 

Most often when I think about GID, I think of the relationships and personalities of coworkers involved.  This type of project requires a large amount of conversation while coaching students through a sometimes confusing and definitely challenging journey.  In my opinion, the rewards of this type of work far outweigh the meaningful struggles.  What really strikes me about this process is that the teachers and students alike experience the emotions of this journey; it is confusing, challenging, and rewarding for all.  

 

In conjunction with Anita Cellucci, I have been working on the Science Inquiry GID project for four years no.  Each year, the group of science teachers working together has changed.  And, since we all learn differently, my explanations and conversations have had to evolve.  It quickly becomes clear when I am not communicating well, when the process is unclear, and when the project piece is clearly understood.  I have learned that vulnerability has to be part of the experience as I become aware of the strengths and weaknesses in my communication of the GID process.  

 

I have often commented to our school librarian, Anita Cellucci, that GID brings out the individual learning styles of both the students and teachers.  Personally, I feel that my strengths and my weaknesses are in clear view.   So, my first blog needed to briefly reflect on the teachers themselves.

All the colors of GID

One of my favorite aspects of GID is the creativity that is built within the process. I see endless possibility in the ways in which Guided Inquiry Design can be intentionally designed for any discipline.  Like an artist’s pallette, there are infinite colors possible. Looking at the process in this way allows me to really think critically about how the process can help students be motivated to learn, engage in the learning process and develop empathy for other learners.

Over the past four years, I have collaborated to design projects in Science, various English classes, Fine Arts and History.  This past school year, I worked with Academic Support classes and their teachers, Molly Lonergan and Anita Breeze, on a project entitled “Understanding Your IEP”.  Students read and reflected on their individual IEPs and were given activities and strategies that would enable them to read and focus on the parts of the legal document to help them within their daily lives.

As I met weekly with these students, I was able to reflect on the process, their learning, and the barriers to motivation, personal growth and most importantly trust within the classroom.  It was clear to me that before we could engage in research, we would need to create a safe space and the opportunity for curiosity.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that students on IEP’s arrive in the high school in a very different emotional space than is intended.  Many times, these students have not been asked to share their thoughts about their learning, but are often told all about their learning style, the modifications that will best serve them and often – how to think.

Because of these factors, we began the Guided Inquiry design process with activities and lessons based on the habits and attitudes of mind research of Angela Maiers. The GID phases included activities about self-awareness, interest inventories, transition planning, self-disclosure, and crafting personal statements. These activities were done through online inventories and surveys, reading materials to gain knowledge, and self-reflection in the conference room of the library.

The culmination of the project was a Google slides presentation that students were then able to use within their IEP meetings to successfully advocate for themselves as well as a Disclosure statement that can be used post high school.  Students were given the “space” to experience their feelings within this process – GID allows this through the reflective aspect within each phase as well as the ways that each phase acknowledges the emotional aspect of the process.

Like other GID projects at Westborough High School, Inquiry Tools were embedded throughout the project to assist students in moving through the phases, as well as staying organized within the project.  With this group of students, the Inquiry Community became invaluable to the learning as students gained trust with the adults in the room as well as their peers. The collaborative aspect of this learning process was facilitated through the phases of the process.

The  Guided Inquiry Design Process Model was implemented to help students find a course of individual study that would allow them to think about their plans for their post high school lives.  It enabled them to engage in research that is based on their needs and individual growth.

Student work:

af

Student Example: One person on a student’s “Dream Team” – Angela Maiers speaks of the importance of creating a personal “Dream Team” of individuals that influence your thinking and who’s behaviors you would seek to emulate.

Student reflections:

  1. Today, I thought that the Inquiry Process ran very smoothly. Unlike most people my age, I enjoy each step of the process and take time to consider each part before writing. Last year, I found that the Inquiry Process was very successful in helping me to boost my curiosity regarding a topic that I had very little interest in. For these reasons, I appreciated and still continue to appreciate the Inquiry Process.
  2. My feeling on my IEP: I really don’t like my IEP. I hate how it has disabilities in it. It makes me feel like I am less then other kids that don’t have them. I do recognize that I struggle a little in some classes but i don’t think i need an IEP. I feel like that an IEP is just stating the problems you have, recognizing what  I lack in classes. I think I have a good memory, my reading skills are getting better. I think it can be helpful sometimes, but other times it’s very annoying. I hate the 50% more time on test and things. I just don’t need it. But I love being able you use a calculator.  I want to be treated like normal kids in normal level classes. I don’t want to get all this special baby treatment on how I need more help then all the other students. If i need help i will find help, I don’t need someone constantly helping me with things I don’t need help with.
  3. My IEP is very outdated and not accurate to who I am now. I am a much better student than the old IEP says that I am.
  4. I struggle most with advocating for myself.
  5. Today in class curiosity was investigated. there are many things that had made me think in the Personal curiosity inventory. But none made me think more than the question about what are my questions.

Working with GID in this way, allowed students to access the curriculum in a way that fit their individual needs while giving them valuable information literacy, technology and the process skills to dig deep into an emotional topic. In our follow up meeting, the teachers and I  decided to move forward with GID next year and continue to add depth to the project.Students gained valuable awareness about their own learning as well as traits and qualities about themselves that are sure to help them through the rest of their school career and post high school plans.

I am grateful that the special education teachers were willing to take the time and put the effort necessary to provide this experience for our students.

 

Anita Cellucci

Library Teacher

Westborough High School

The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.

St.Johns.Church.people

During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!

The 2016 Collaborative School Library Award

Yesterday I invited you to experience the “Open” stage of the award-winning GID unit developed by two librarians and a social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA. They based the unit my book, BROTHERHOOD, and posted all of their materials on this Blendspace page so that others can recreate the unit in their schools.

Set in Virginia during Reconstruction, BROTHERHOOD is the story of a white boy who joins the Klan, meets a young black teacher, and comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. The book raises all sorts of questions about identify, race, peer pressure, gangs, etc., and doesn’t provide easy answers. So it’s great for kicking off classroom conversations on a variety of topics.

During the “Immerse” stage of the GID process, in order to connect to the content of daily readings, the students at Carver wrote a tweet a day.

daily tweet.52GID blog

Historians from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society visited the school, bringing samples of items mentioned in the book, such as swatches of cloth and a copy of a page from an 1867 newspaper. The time period was beginning to come alive for the students.

During the GID stages “Explore” and “Identify,” students continued to read while researching the post-Civil War era. Then they went on a field trip to Richmond, VA, and walked the streets the characters had walked. In advance of the trip, the librarians asked me to audio-record myself reading selections from the book. I posted the audio files online, and during the trip, students stopped at key locations to listen—via QR codes—to me reading. This was an innovative way to use technology, and got the students all the more engaged. Click on this code to hear one of the recordings:

QRCode.FarmersMarket

I visited the classroom and talked about how I came to write BROTHERHOOD—a presentation that includes mention of the Noble Lost Cause ideology, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement. On another day, the school’s safety officer came and presented information about gangs. The class explored reasons why a person might join the Klan or any gang—any group vying for power, control or influence.

During the “Gather” stage, each student’s essential questions led him/her to choose a gang to research further. Students divided into small groups, and for the “Create” and “Share” stages, each group did a presentation about a gang and how they (or society) might stop the spread of that gang. In this way, they progressed through the 7th grade curriculum. For prohibition, for example, one group did a presentation about the Mafia running liquor. For World War II, another group showed how the Nazis gained support by blaming Germany’s ills on the Jews. By the time the curriculum brought them to the present day, they already knew from yet another student presentation that Al Qaida is motivated in part by a rejection of capitalism. I visited the school again, and was blown away by the high quality of the presentations, both from struggling learners and from gifted students. The GID approach excited them all.

Along the way students participated in the GID stage, “Evaluate,” asking questions such as, what surprised me today? What was clear? What was confusing? I love the fact that when you do GID, you don’t leave evaluation to the very end. GID encourages self-reflection at every stage.

This GID unit was pretty involved, and it hit me that some educators might want to add BROTHERHOOD to the curriculum and use the GID approach, but they don’t live near Virginia and can’t easily do the field trip. And that thought motivated me to design a GID-based writing workshop that can be done in any classroom, anywhere. I’ll tell you about it in my next post…

Singing a New Tune

A.B. Westrick here. I’m the author of BROTHERHOOD (Penguin Young Readers). If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing and speaking about GID, I might have said, “Huh? GID, what? Guided Inquiry Design? You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Brotherhood COVER ARTNow it’s 2016, and boy am I singing a new tune. I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. I’d especially have welcomed it in history classes, which I generally found to be dreadful. Having to memorize dates and names of dead white guys and strategies that won or lost wars? Spare me. Please.

But I’m not going to post here about history, not really. Only kind-of. I write fiction—not the first outlet that comes to mind when educators talk about GID. But as it turns out, my novel inspired two middle school librarians and a 7th grade social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA, to plan a dynamic GID unit. Next month—on June 25, 2016—during the AASL Awards session at the national ALA conference in Orlando, that team is going to receive the Collaborative School Library Award. Go, team!

So, how did it come about that fiction inspired their GID unit? Well. Read on. For today, I hope to make you curious, just as GID encourages you to do with students during the “Open” stage. Check out my book trailer (only 53 seconds long):

And if you want the full experience of the “Open” stage of the Carver Middle School unit, read chapter one of BROTHERHOOD. (Here it is at Amazon.) I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the “Immerse” stage and the rest of this GID unit, but if you’d like a sneak-peek, check out this “Blendspace” page. (I also link to the “Blendspace” page from the “Teachers” page of my website.) The Carver team posted everything there, including parental permission forms.

In my next post I’ll go into detail, and you’ll see that the unit was rather involved. The students loved it. But when it occurred to me that some schools wouldn’t have the resources to do the whole unit, I developed a scaled-down version that’s essentially a writing workshop based on GID. And history. Yes, I have to come back to history. (My book is historical fiction.)

WestrickABIn my third post, I’ll talk about the writing workshop, and you’ll see that it’s not about teaching history as much as it’s about getting students excited to ask their own questions about history. What I especially love about GID is the way it encourages students to lean how to learn. More tomorrow…