Marrying G.I. and MakerSpace

One of the best things about Guided Inquiry is that it allows teachers to allow students to “think outside of the box”. Common Core and many other education initiatives eliminated the ability for students to learn at their own place and in their own way. Guided Inquiry allows for creativity, and self-paced research with the child in the driver’s seat of their learning. With this model, the teachers and librarians guide and encourage students to feed their curiosity and creativity. When we allow students to inquire and create in this way their engagement and learning skyrockets.

The second grade students and teacher at the school where I serve as librarian embraced the Guided Inquiry process when they were investigating Presidents and First Ladies. The student engagement was incredible. Some students said they had never read, learned, and written as much as they did during this unit of study!  The inquiry circles allowed students to share what they found interesting and inspiration about our past Presidents and First Ladies. They shared similarities between the Presidents and made connections that might not have been made if a traditional research approach had been used for this unit.

Once the students had completed the Gather Phase for this project, I read What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanock Piven. We discussed the collage-like illustrations and made connections with the materials he chose in order to create several of the President’s portraits. The students used the ideas from this text to brainstorm a list of objects that connected with the President or First Lady they had learned about during the unit. Many students brought things from home, however, I provided many miscellaneous items for them to use for the Create Phase. Our MakerSpace tasks for the month of March was to create President/First Lady portraits. Guided Inquiry and MakerSpace are a match made in heaven. I was very pleased with the growth I saw in students throughout this unit. They learned to take notes instead of copy information from a resource, and they learned how to discuss and share what they had learned with their classmates.

Students could choose to create a collage or pen an “I AM…” poem about their chosen historical figure. Several students chose to complete both tasks. Their products illustrate a small portion of their learning. Below, you can see some examples from the Create Phase of the Presidential Guided Inquiry Unit.

Jamie Johnson, Elementary Librarian, Norman, OK

Looking Forward in Connecticut!

There are a lot of things I am looking forward to as March begins here in central Connecticut. My daughter’s 9th birthday comes tomorrow. College basketball’s March Madness. SPRING – can we really get through this winter with only 2 snow days? But one of the things I most look forward to is having a nice chunk of time to do some focused learning in the library with my students.

My name is Jenny Lussier and I am an elementary school library media specialist in Durham and Middlefield, CT. I work in two schools, a PreK through grade 2 school (next year it will be up to grade 3) with about 200 students and a Kindergarten through grade 4 school with about 240 students. My library classes are on a fixed schedule, with each class coming once a week for 45 minutes. Before becoming a librarian, I was a classroom teacher in grades 5 and 6 for 11 years.

I have always been a reader (you will always find me sharing book ideas with anyone who will listen). Technology has also been a major interest for me, beginning way back with the first Apple computers and continuing today as I love exploring new things, like robots! Growing up, my family culture was always about learning and discovering new things. But as a teacher and librarian, I found research to be the most challenging area with which to help students.

Since I started in the library 8 years ago, I was convinced that elementary students, especially our K-2s, could do research, especially through the inquiry process where they were asking their own questions. Isn’t that what young children do? I remember the “Why? Why? Why?” phase of my own kids. So why was it that when they arrived at school that we stopped letting them?

Fast forward to the Common Core being introduced. Imagine my excitement to see the expectation of research included in the standards, including the importance of “short and sustained research projects”. But I was still looking for the best methods to use with my students. While attending American Association of School Librarians (AASL) national conference in nearby Hartford, CT in 2013, I began to hear about Guided Inquiry Design and how effective it was. The November/December 2014 issue of AASL’s publication Knowledge Quest featured the topic of Inquiry, including a number of articles featuring Guided Inquiry Design. I began to informally add Guided Inquiry into the research my students were doing in library class and sharing with teachers. The resource I used and still love is Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Harvey Daniels and Steph Harvey, which has some terrific ideas. I also worked with a middle school colleague Laura D’Elia on a presentation for AASL 2015 called Get a GRIP!: Guided Research Inquiry Process, sharing our experiences with Guided Inquiry Design.

A colleague and I attended a webinar with Leslie Maniotes in September 2015 and were simply blown away by this model. We were so excited that we brought the library and information technology specialists together along with our curriculum director to create a learning community to learn about various inquiry models, but especially the Guided Inquiry Design framework. We also ordered and read Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. In November, I attended the AASL conference in Columbus and went to every session I could find about Guided Inquiry Design. (I got to meet Leslie too!) I brought many ideas and resources back to our PLC.

So now, I am looking forward to using my library time in collaboration with what classroom teachers are doing this spring. I look forward to learning more about and trying out GID with my students. I am also looking forward to more of this collaboration about GID with some amazing educators!

More to come later this week and Go HUSKIES!
Jenny