Hello again from Westborough, Massachusetts – In the Arena

I’m excited to be blogging again for 52GID.  Last year I posted about some of my adventures with Guided Inquiry Design and I’m happy to say that teachers from my school and district have also joined in to write about their experiences. Overall, it’s been a lot of fun over the past several years creating GID curriculum, co-teaching, uncovering new ways of using the process and learning with colleagues and students.

Our town is in central Massachusetts, we have 1140 students and I am grateful to be the teacher librarian at the high school.  This year is my 8th year in Westborough.  I am proud of all that we continue to accomplished with GID.  As a teacher librarian, I rely on trust within my relationships with teachers in order to bring new ideas to the table.  GID is quick to point out what’s working well in the classroom and where there is room for growth.  I am happy to say that the majority of the content teachers I work with are knee deep in the growth mindset of education. And although it’s sometimes messy and uncomfortable, there is always time to reflect on what we may want to do better as well as how we can integrate our teaching styles, our  teaching philosophy and our personalities.

Here are a few things that I am mindful of with GID collaborations:

  • Meet teachers where they are:  Trying new things while we are in the midst of another wildly busy school year is scary, overwhelming and time consuming.  I listen to what the content teacher is saying – their projected outcomes, their hopes for their students and their worries about making a mistake. GID can look different from class to class, and that’s okay. I reassure, model, jump in where necessary and remain positive.
  • Leave my agenda at the door:   Collaborating with content teachers isn’t about me or what I may want to accomplish, but instead it’s about that individual teacher and their classroom of students. I don’t pretend to know their students better than them. I am not an expert – we are growing together – and we do. Every time.
  • Keep it real: Teaching is challenging and all consuming.  We can get caught up in how much we want our students to learn, what assessment must look like and how everything should be. Even in high school, kids need to know that we care about what they are interested in.

 

Over this week, I hope to share some examples of what I’ve learned from GID collaborations with high school teachers and students.

Image result for brene brown quotes about growth

Anita Cellucci, Teacher Librarian 

Westborough High School

Follow me on Twitter – @anitacellucci @librarywhs

BCPS Shines with GID

Greetings fellow Guided Inquiry Design fans!

I’m Kelly Ray, a Library Media Resource Teacher with the Office of Digital Learning at the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). It’s my pleasure to share again this year about how GID is transforming student research and inquiry-based learning in BCPS, the 25th largest school system in the U.S. and 3rd largest in Maryland. Please visit my June 5, 2016 post on this blog, GIDesign @ BCPS: Our Journey Begins, where I shared how BCPS first began using GID in 2012 after attending the CISSL Summer Institute at Rutgers. In that post, I described how BCPS has been using the GID model to structure our Online Research Models (ORMs) for extended, in-depth research across the curriculum; we have also been trying to incorporate some elements of GID (such as Third Space) into our Slam Dunk models for brief, focused research (a model from Dr. Jamie McKenzie that we adopted in 2004).

BCPS Online Research Models & Slam Dunks portal screenshot

 

We will continue to use GID this month at our annual BCPS Summer Curriculum Workshops, where a team of our library media specialists will collaborate with content curriculum writers to design new Online Research Models and Slam Dunks aligned to various content curriculum units. Have a look at the first ORM we designed using GID in 2012, An American Student in China (High School World Languages), which is used by students who visit China to complete the required research component for our BCPS Chinese Cultural Exchange program. See also an Elementary example, Act Now, Supplies Limited! (Grade 5 Library Media/Science) and a Middle School example, Native Dreams: Contemporary Native American Music (Grade 8 American Music) which was created in Summer 2016. Our BCPS ORMs and Slam Dunks were showcased at last week’s 2017 ISTE Conference at the Librarians’ Network Playground: Information Fluency, Creativity and Innovation.

Photo-BCPS ORMs & Slam Dunks station at 2017 ISTE Conference Librarians' Network Playground Tweet advertising BCPS Online Research Models & Slam Dunks at 2017 ISTE Conference Librarians' Network Playground

 

As you may have heard, BCPS was named the 2017 National School Library Program of the Year by AASL! Our system-wide use of Guided Inquiry Design was an important part of the body of evidence that earned us the NSLPY award. As our Superintendent said in the Award announcement, “… through collaborating with other educators or working directly with students, our school librarians help students gain in-demand 21st-century skills including constructing meaning through research, problem solving, creativity, and communicating new knowledge.” Accepting the Award at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference on June 24, our Coordinator Fran Glick explains in this Knowledge Quest blog post how our school library programs continue to evolve along with BCPS’s multi-year transformation of teaching and learning known as STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow). As a student-centered inquiry model, Guided Inquiry Design has been a natural fit with our school system’s broad instructional transformation.

 

We are fortunate to have a certified library media specialist at every elementary, middle and high school in our large school system. In addition to implementing the Online Research Models in collaboration with their teachers, our school librarians have received professional development on GID and are encouraged to co-design their own projects. At the beginning of our GID journey in 2012, we purchased a copy of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry at Your School for every school library. Our 160+ K-12 school librarians engaged in a year-long book study, sharing ideas and strategies for using GID at our quarterly professional development sessions. Recently our office has purchased the Guided Inquiry Design in Action books for both Middle School and High School; both books are a treasure trove of GID lessons and implementation ideas! We will be using resources from these great books as we design new Online Research Models and revise existing ORMs at this year’s Summer Curriculum Workshops; we are particularly interested in incorporating some of the excellent tools and strategies for student collaboration, reflection, conferencing, and assessment found there. We also plan to use lessons and resources from these books at our 2017-18 quarterly professional development sessions for secondary school library media specialists, as they work to refine their practices for planning and facilitating learner-centered instruction aligned to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. We are anxiously anticipating the release of the revised AASL Standards at the 2017 National Conference in November, and confident that there will be many points of alignment between the new Standards and GID.

Guided Inquiry Design book covers

 

In my next post, I will share more examples of how GID continues to transform teaching and learning in BCPS.

Kelly Ray

 

Musings on GID vs DT

Last post, I talked briefly about the relationship between Design Thinking and GID.  Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that relationship and look at how these two models can complement each other.  As we will see, each model has its strengths that can support the other assuming that the context is right.  One thing to keep in mind through this discussion is that the origins of each model are significantly different and so the emphasis is different in each.  Guided Inquiry came out of the recognition that student research projects were ineffective and often caused students a range of unintended emotions.  Carol Kuhlthau’s research looked at identifying how (or if) students were engaged at various points of the research process and looked at ways of increasing that engagement.  Almost exclusively, the typical medium for demonstrating one’s knowledge was the research essay.  The Design Thinking model came from an attempt to understand how folks who make new things work.  This looked at trying to codify the often messy process that someone building anything from a car engine, to a lemon juicer, to a prosthetic might use.  While these are very different processes – and one might argue that the way one person operates within a research or design process might be very different from another carrying out the same task – there are enough parallels to make the discussion fruitful.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  After all, it is a very good place to start!  Both Design Thinking and Guided Inquiry begin with open collection of information.  This begins with a broad spark from some experience that kicks the process into gear (Open in Guided Inquiry, the design brief in Design Thinking).  Guided Inquiry breaks this process into three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – and allows students a period of loosely guided wallowing in the topic in order to build genuine connections and interest.  We recognize that the topic is likely brought down from on high by the teacher, but every attempt is made to ensure that the student sees a real connection with their own life.  Likewise, Design Thinking uses an Empathy phase.  This is a very human-centred process that builds understanding of the needs of the users of whatever is being designed.  This will include interviews and other forms of research that simply build an understanding of the problem.  While this phase is typically human-centred, I find that there is also an element of research here as well.  To understand other’s needs and to truly understand the problem, there is likely some straight-up book or web research that digs into the concepts behind the issues.  For example, if one is building a prosthetic hand for someone else, one needs to understand how the hand is going to be used (an office worker might have different needs than a rock climber), how materials affect the way the hand can be used, and perhaps what other designs may have been used in the past to address similar issues.  Of course, an understanding of the bone and muscle structure of a normally functioning hand would be immensely useful!

Next, comes the definition of the problem.  In GID, this comes in the phrasing of the ultimate question being addressed and may look like a driving question, a research question, a thesis statement or any number of carefully wordsmithed structures.  In Design Thinking, this is the definition statement and can come in the form of a question that starts with, “How might we…” or it can look more like a statement that reads “User X needs Y because of Z.”  In both models, we spend time building broader understanding in order to come to a point where defining the problem is effective.  There are plenty of stories of designers who, after an effective empathy phase, define the problem in a way that the end user had never thought of, but on reflection, addresses the true nature of the problem better than the use ever could have.  The solution is something far different than was originally expected.  Likewise, a teacher might have an idea of what directions a student might take a GID unit, but until the personal connections with the topic are made, the ultimate direction of the projects can be surprisingly different!

Once we have our definition, the paths of the two models diverge a little.  In Guided Inquiry, this is where we get down to the work of gathering and digesting information for our research.  In Design Thinking, we can think of the Ideation phase as a process of gathering as many possible solutions to the defined problem as possible.  In GID, the ideas come from others; in Design Thinking, the ideas come from ourselves.  You might think of Gathering as focusing your thinking while Ideation as a process of widening your thinking, although that would only be partly true.  The purpose of Ideation is to consider all possible solutions and then pick the “best” one for the next phase.  While the process is somewhat different, it points in the same direction.

The fun begins in the Create/Prototype phase.  Both of these are where the learning manifests itself into some creation, whether that be a written paper or physical product.  Both involve the playing with ideas that are a result of the previous phases and articulating thinking in a way that will ultimately be shared with others.  It should be pointed out that in both models, the apparent linear sequence is somewhat of a fallacy and I would say, no more a fallacy than between the gathering of ideas and the articulation of them.  An essay writer will find that there are remaining questions that need to be answered and will go back and gather more information as much as an engineer might get to a certain point with a prototype and realizes that the idea simply won’t work and needs to go back to the ideation phase.

Finally, the work needs to be shared and reflected on.  In GID these are the Share and Evaluate phases.  In Design Thinking, we test the prototype and that process, in all likelihood, involves testing against the users’ needs and sharing it with those users.  GID promotes the idea that this sharing should not be the private handing in of an essay to the teacher but sharing learning back to the community of learners in order to extend and deepen everyone’s learning.  In Design Thinking, that sharing is more dependent on the situation.  If the design problem has been presented by a single person, then maybe the sharing is back to that individual.  Usually, there is a larger user group that the prototype is tested with.  The essential point in this is that the purpose of sharing is different.  GID shares to deepen community understanding while Design Thinking shares in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

It strikes me, as I write this, that GID is might be typically good for thinking about concepts while Design Thinking might be good for thinking about things.  I’m sure that this is a drastic over-simplification, but there is some truth in it.  GID can be used to solve problems by building something, but the nature of the research is primarily conceptual.  You might be trying to understand people’s perspectives or the reasons behind something.  The results of that conceptual research might be manifest in writing, physical objects or virtual simulations, but the concepts are at the focus.  In Design Thinking, the thinking is more about how we make something to solve a problem.  It can be a subtle distinction, but the emphasis is important.  The kinds of things one thinks about when building a solution to a problem might be what materials are best to use, how we connect those materials, what function our object needs to perform and how the design serves the function.  Clearly, there are concepts underlying all of this, but the concepts serve the process where in GID the concepts are the process.  Again, this is likely a drastic generalization and many examples can likely be brought forward that show the weakness of this argument, but I think that there is some use in at least exploring this comparison.

Once we understand the strengths of each model and how they relate, we can use that knowledge to build even more powerful units in particular areas.  Of course, there will be situations where one model stands on its own brilliantly and would likely be made weaker by forcing ideas of the other into it.  But there are situations where the combination is even more powerful.  The research ideas behind Open, Immerse, Explore and even Gather can underpin the Empathize piece for those Design Thinking processes that require more academic underpinnings.  Likewise, the ideas behind Empathize can support more socially based GID units.  Of course, given that Design Thinking is often about building a solution to a problem, some of the prototyping ideas can help similar Create phases of GID.

Next post, I’ll look at some questions and issues that I’m having with both models.  It seems that the more that I explore, the more questions I have!

 

Marc Crompton

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…

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!   

 

Starting Small

This year has been a learning year for me in regards to Guided Inquiry Design. Throughout this year, I have been trying out the beginning phases, Open, Immerse, and Explore. I am certainly not doing them perfectly, but I felt that this year it was important to begin to try. I used to get very stressed out that my primary students were not completing whole projects. In the last year or so (thank you CCSS), I have stepped back and instead, tried to include lots of smaller opportunities for using different parts of the research/inquiry process. I am going to share some of these throughout this post.

In October, as part of their study of mammals, my first graders and I read a fiction story about a bear and students began to wonder about whether bears would actually do the things written about in the story. I’m not sure if this is OPEN or IMMERSE, but either way, it got us thinking. We took time to think about what they already knew about bears. First graders think they know a lot. Bears eat people, hibernate, eat fish, eat berries, have brown fur, that sort of thing. It was amazing that once we got some of the basics out of the way, they were ready to learn more.

IMG_7967IMG_7965IMG_7966IMG_7964

 

Next we spent a lot of time looking at lots and lots of print books and digital resources such as PebbleGo and WorldBook Online to learn more (EXPLORE). After each library time, we added new questions to a class list. Take a look at some of the types of questions that these 6 year olds had now! I believe that taking the time to let students do this kind of learning led to much deeper thinking and questioning.

During another 1st grade lesson, I was interested in the students’ ability to generate questions about a topic. I showed a quick Youtube clip of Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil. This added a little humor to the lesson! I then asked the kids what did they wonder about Tasmanian Devils? I collected their responses via a Google form (I did the typing). Questions had a wide range (What do they eat? and What color are they really? to Do they really look that angry in real life? and Why are they so weird?) I was only using this as a quick assessment, so we did not take it any further, but I can imagine that the questions would get better and more in-depth if we had spent time in the EXPLORE phase.

A favorite book I like to read with Kindergarteners around this time of year is Possum and the Peeper by Anne Hunter which is about a spring peeper frog who is making a LOT of noise. They are astounded to find out at the end that it is such a tiny little animal which is making a gigantic noise! This is a perfect way to IMMERSE students as they begin to think about the new season of spring and the changes that happen in the world around them and to the animals living in those habitats. Once we read the book, I begin to use a variety of resources to build more background knowledge. Nationalgeographic.com has a terrific section on spring peepers, complete with the sound it makes! It also has photographs of the peeper next to a paperclip. I feel that connecting these 5 year olds with things they can relate to is so important. A goal I have this year is to try and use inquiry circles by having the students choose an animal from the spring peeper book to find out more about.

While not a phase of GID, another activity that I have done this year with the Ks is based on an idea from Daniels and Harvey’s Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action. Students work in small groups and myself to browse through books or digital media about a topic. We used the topic of rainforests since they were learning about evergreens in their classrooms and I wanted to connect the different types of trees and animals they might see in each type of forest. As they were reading and looking at pictures, if they found something they were wondering about, they would circle the words “I wonder” on their paper. If they learned something new, they circled “I learned.” Beneath this, they would draw a picture and I scripted their words. I want even my littlest learners to understand that both pictures and words can help you to ask questions and learn new things.

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THE CURRENT PROJECT

At this point in the school year, I often want to do inquiry or research with my students. They have used their library, class and tech time to learn about all kinds of resources, become better readers and thinkers, and good questioners. I also look for opportunities for my students’ learning to be shared not just among themselves or our school community, but to the wider world as well. I am taking advantage of a collaborative effort between librarian Shannon Miller and Cantata Learning called Celebrations Around the World. It is a global project in which students learn about and share in whatever way they choose, about celebrations of their choice. This works well for me since I teach at two schools, whose curricular focuses are slightly different.

I also wanted to have students investigating something besides animals or states, but that would still be really interesting to them. 1st grade classes have a One World focus in their classrooms and will be selecting a type of celebration such as Valentine’s Day and investigating how it is celebrated in other parts of the world. The 1st/2nd graders have been studying Brazil with their classroom teachers and we will be exploring similar celebrations in other South American countries. The 3rd/4th grade classes will be researching National Parks which are celebrating their centennial birthday this year.

OPEN – All grades began by listening to and singing along with the Happy Birthday interactive book from Cantata Learning. The words were sung in English, Spanish and also shown in sign language. Because it is a song that everyone knows, the kids just joined right in. Including the different languages was a great hook, because it got them thinking about other cultures and celebrations other than just our traditional U.S. holidays.

 

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IMMERSE – Each grade level is reading a picture book that starts getting them thinking about their topic. This week the 1st & 2nd graders read the book I Lost My Tooth in Africa, which is a true story about a girl who loses her tooth while visiting family in Mali. Instead of what my students are used to (money), the girl in the story receives CHICKENS! This really intrigues my students and even more so after reading the author’s note explaining how the story came to be. My classes of 3rd/4th graders will be reading The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barbara Rosenstock. This is a fictionalized story of the camping trip that President Roosevelt and John Muir took in Yosemite in 1903, which eventually led to the establishment of our National Park system. I expect to have some terrific conversations about why this happened and it’s impact.

With the 3rd and 4th grade mixed classes, I will be using a form of inquiry journal to begin to have students record thoughts and ideas.

EXPLORE – For all groups, the next step will be to browse through many different resources as they begin to develop their inquiry questions.

When this inquiry project is finished, we will be adding the student shares to the Celebrations Around the World Google Slides. Not only will we be learning a lot, but we will be able to share with participants from around the world. I am really excited to see where the students go with this!

Reading this post over, I can see that I have been learning a lot over the course of this year and still have a lot to learn. It is a process for sure, but it is a great challenge too!

Views to Finnish Education system from Guided Inquiry point of view

In my first blog post I introduced myself and in the second I told you about the GI projects that I have had. In this blog post I want to reflect the educational change we have going on in Finland.

As you know, Finland has been on top performer in PISA for quite a while now. It feels here in Finland, that we were gloating in the sunshine a little too long and didn’t notice how other countries were actually running faster. I do not mean that this is a race, but there are definitely signs that are getting Finns worried.

The latest development has been that especially the growth in number of low-performing children in Finland has been dramatic (OECD, 2016). The change in reading skills started already in the PISA results in 2009, but then it was not yet statistically significant but merely indicating (PISA 2009 at a glance). The same source tells us, that another alarming thing is that the gap between boys and girls and top performers and low performers is betting bigger.

IMG_1861The issue of reading has been on the news just now. Every fifth fifteen-year-old boy is a poor reader. Less than half of ten-year-old-children reads a book at least once a week. We all know, that reading fiction is the key to reading itself. The same news article notes that a reading teenager has a word vocabulary of 70 000 words as a teenager that is not keen on reading has a vocabulary of only 15 000 words.

The new core curriculum is supposed to be the vitamin injection for Finnish education. The new core curriculum is strongly going ahead with learner first pedagogy, supporting and encouraging the student and also including coding to subjects. And it is emphasizing how to teach instead of what to teach (presentation in English) . The core curriculum presents seven cross-curricular themes that are as follows:

  1. Growth as a person (a strong reference to thinking skills)
  2. Cultural identity and internationalism
  3. Media skills and communication (including a strong reference to multiliteracies and information seeking)
  4. Participatory citizenship and entrepreneurship
  5. Responsibility for the environment, well-being, and a sustainable future.
  6. Safety and traffic
  7. Technology and the individual (a strong reference to information skills)

Some of the terms that are implemented are multiliteracy, integrated projects as of phenomenon based learning, and “the third space”, as it is known in Guided Inquiry. These issues are worth a closer look.

I am at the moment doing a discourse analysis of the new core curriculum. Preliminary results indicate that this is a more ‘information intensive’ curriculum. Phenomenon based learning is leaning to teaching strategies of problem based learning. Multiliteracy is requiring a change in thinking of literacies all together. More emphasis is set to individual work that students have to be doing. The requirements of information seeking skills are piercing through the core curriculum, but not with the same ‘weight’. I will be reporting more about the results later on during this year. What the Third Space will mean in the Finnish context will remain to be seen.

But the bottom line is, that we absolutely need to set more emphasis on teaching the students about information seeking and especially, working with information. This is where I consider Guided Inquiry Design would be meaningful in the Finnish curriculum. My earlier analysis of the 2004 core curriculum showed that the process thinking of information literacy is weak and it led me to think that do we understand what happens in schools between finding information and learning? IMG_1853

Guided Inquiry would bring thinking skills into information seeking. Personally, I claim that is what is actually missing. It is not the lack of information seeking skills as such, but lack in thinking skills. Information seeking is more considered as a means to an end, which is a finished homework or an assignment. Guided Inquiry and inquiry learning would change this and the information process would more be looked at as a learning process than merely seeking facts.

One thing in particular is important. Teachers are, at the moment, under a lot of pressure because of the new curriculum and are in a dire need of more tools to manage then new ways of thinking learning. Especially when the information skills are playing a more important role, could Guided Inquiry give tools considering for example the phenomenon based learning.

This is why I have been promoting Guided Inquiry during my presentations in Finland. Both teachers and librarians have been taking part to these occasions so Guided Inquiry is already known. Now Tampere University is starting a research project and it makes me so very happy that so we will have some actual research results about GID in Finland. I am for one an eager promoter!

I hope that through my blog post you have learned something new. I do also hope that this project could lead to a network for the people implementing Guided Inquiry. I want to extend my thanks to Leslie and also to Carol Kuhlthau and to all of you!!

Have a great spring!

Anu