A great journey!

For most of our students, OPEN, IMMERSE, and EXPLORE were really positive, and inquiry circles were a big hit. As librarian, I visited as many classes as possible during these phases, to listen, brainstorm, coach, and teach mini-lessons at teacher request. This exposure enabled me to share what was going on in other classes, which helped build excitement and a sense of a common goal. A student stopped me in the hallway with: “Mrs. Little, when are we going to work in our inquiry circles again? I really like that part!” Students coming into the library to grab books or headsets were happy to chat about what they’d learned, and where they were going with it. There was a lot of energy, and a sense of pride and purpose.

As we approached IDENTIFY, some students struggled to find a focus, and I was able to tag-team with the ELA teachers, to participate in some of those conversations, either in the classroom or the library; a student would appear, saying: “My teacher said I should come down to talk to you about my research question” (music to a librarian’s ears!). Knowing the ISP helped us to anticipate emotions, and assure students that they were moving in the right direction when they were frustrated or confused.

As our students settled on their research questions, we collaboratively curated resources that might be useful, and shared the Google Doc through Google Classroom. Only teachers could edit the Google Doc, but students could suggest sources, and teachers vetted them.

GATHER had our students diving into books (print and digital), database articles, and websites that we’d found together. At this point, from here on out, through CREATE, SHARE, and EVALUATE,  the ELA teachers definitely felt more comfortable – this was familiar territory!

As mentioned in an earlier post, the ten weeks we’d planned had dwindled to only seven, so SHARE was shortchanged. Our students wrote papers for their final products, but the original plan had been for them to also present their learning to each other in another format – we simply didn’t have time.  So instead, we  ‘advertised’ their work to the school by plastering their research questions to the windows of the library – which is passed by the upper grades en route to gym & lunch. We fielded questions from 7th graders: “What are the 6th graders doing? We didn’t get to do that last year!”

 

For Evaluate, we designed a Google Form to collect student input:

Our team met with our supervisor at the end of the year to evaluate the project. We had no shortage of ideas about how we could improve the project for next year, but there was a lot of enthusiasm for the process. Our end-of-project student reflection showed our students liked working in groups, choice (“learning about our OWN topic instead of a topic teachers picked”), the IMMERSE activities, and found working with their inquiry circles and talking with their teacher/librarian about the project to be very helpful.

For me, GID was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. 

Maryrose Little, Librarian
Edgar Middle School
Metuchen, NJ

A team that rocks and the 2 C’s

Kelsey introduced the Guided Inquiry science unit and the team working on the unit and what a great team it is!   So many years of combined experience and expertise – it is a really energizing to work with these great people.  As I look back on the two planning meetings we’ve had so far, what I see is evidence of the natural alignment that happened with Guided Inquiry.  It was not ‘fitting a square peg in a round hole’ –  it was a natural flow that supports student learning and curiosity. It did help to get the ‘balcony’ view of the lesson with the sticky notes and charts pictured in Kelsey’s post on Thursday – thank you Kelsey for your wonderful obsession with sticky notes.   Being a visual learner myself this helped me see each step of the GI process and how the science content standards will be easily integrated.

As Kelsey shared, One question the team working on the science unit had was ‘how could we encourage collaboration between teachers and librarians while giving teachers what they need to implement the unit in their classrooms’? To me, that is the really great thing about Guided Inquiry – it supports a collaborative culture.  In fact, I believe one key to successful GI units is collaborative work – collaboration between teachers and librarians, collaboration between content area teachers, collaboration between students, and collaboration between teachers and students.  There has to be a lot of ‘give’ on everyone’s part. The GI unit I referenced in the blog last week was developed to allow kids the opportunity to earn multiple credits in different content areas.  A unit of that complexity would not be possible without flexibility and collaboration.  Throughout the nine week unit, the team (English IV teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher, art teacher, and teacher librarian) had to really work together to meet the needs of the kids. For those students earning multiple credits, regular meetings with content area teachers was critical and no part of the unit was taught in isolation. I do want to add that even if there is not  a ‘perfect’ collaborative culture in place, I would not shy away from a Guided Inquiry unit.  You have to start somewhere and those baby steps can help you win the big race.

Student Conference Social Studies standards doc

Ongoing student conferencing to ensure standards were met.

 

 

Science teacher conferencing with student.

Science teacher conferencing with student.

These student conferencing meetings solidified the integration of multiple content areas and helped students focus their project to a depth that met adequate standards, thus earning the credits.

Another perfect opportunity that I believe happens with Guided Inquiry is that of coteaching – a shared responsibility of teaching part or all of a unit plan with teachers.  In my school’s multi-credit unit it was fun to coteach with the English IV teacher and it really provided a great learning environment for the kids. Not only was it fun to coteach the unit but it was so helpful to talk through how the day went, what we felt needed to be modified, and to have someone to just share successes and challenges with along the way!  By the way, if anyone is struggling with getting teachers to collaborate or coteach, my advice is plan a Guided Inquiry unit to help and a helpful article to support this cause is David Loertscher’s Collaboration and Coteaching; A New Measure of Impact.

I’ll close now — thanks for reading and it’s been a pleasure sharing this with you.  What is coming up this week is a breakdown of the 5th grade science unit and the GI process step-by-step.  Kelsey will cover Open to Identify and I will cover Gather to Evaluate.   Take care and keep on!