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



Design Thinking

Dream, design and Do or Make!

As students develop their own question, they are asked to think deeply and compassionately about their topic.  During our most recent session, students were read the story Turtle Turtle Watch Out by April Pulley Sayre.  We brainstormed questions as we discussed the story, and then compared different types of sea turtles and the issues they face in their ecosystems.  Students then shared their learning on Flipgrid based on their research using WorldBook, Vancouver Aquarium, and safe Google searches using search engines.  

 This coming week we will work on designing a protective solution for turtle babies in their habitat.  I look forward to seeing our students in action next week sharing their amazing creations, their research and their critical thinking!  Part of their sharing next week will include peer feedback based on the core competencies in our standards.  

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Identify and Gather

What Makes a Good Question?

The next step was to discuss the validity of questions.  Ground rules were created to encourage students to ask good questions about each other’s presentations, and to move away from a focus on getting the right answers.  We debated open and closed questions, worked on this at home, and then shared good ideas for why open-ended questions are so much more interesting than closed questions.  We have a strict rule that no question is a bad question, but all good questions lead to more questions!  

It was tough for me to take a step back and wait while students took needed time to shift from answer to question.  Initially, they copied each other’s questions, but slowly the conversation opened up to more interesting questions as I role modeled a few of my own questions.  There were a few students who wanted to give answers, but we had to rein ourselves in and come back to the driving questions around ecosystems.  It was definitely a learning curve to move away from the ‘googlable’ answer to understand what we wanted to research further.  

Students were then encouraged to use Pebble Go as a launching base to further their research and examine more about their topic.  Again, they shared their learning using Flipgrid. Some presented beautiful flowcharts, others used the cool iPad app which comes within the Pebble Go, whilst others made their own dioramas or research reports on the biodiversity of ecosystems in British Columbia and beyond.  Again, the focus was on asking questions about the research, as well as learning from the students who were co-teaching their peers.  We touched on the socio-emotional learning as well with questions reflecting how they were feeling as they researched.  Most students enjoyed the process of researching what they wanted to discover.  Some students shared that making their inventions in the first week was difficult because they could not get the right results.  The time taken for producing was perhaps not conducive for further learning.  I had given a framework of one hour per week to work on assignments, but am discovering we may need more time.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

Virtual STREAM Book Clubs Grade 3


My book clubs are ten week sessions, and we meet virtually using Zoom technology.  My class is limited to 15 students because I want each student to have time to present their learning every other week.

I will share some of the success and challenges of running my primary book clubs online from a guided inquiry, and design thinking perspective.  My intention is to scaffold inquiry and engage students to become active problem solvers, to dream big, solve authentic problems and research with passion!

Facilitator and Presenter Roles

The teacher role has now changed from “sage on the stage” to FACILITATOR, and the student has moved from the role of consumer to one of producer or PRESENTER.  In terms of initiating the teaching parts of the guided inquiry, the teacher needs to hook his or her students in with an essential question or focus.  This year I am using our BC new curriculum grade 3 science standards including the essential question, “What is an Ecosystem?”  My role is to get students excited about the topic and big idea, and channel their thinking into further questions about ecosystems close to home or outside of their community.  I also hope to role model the importance of what makes an essential question in science so important, and praise skills as opposed to content!


How did I do this?  The first week, I worked with parents and students to understand the shift in pedagogy, and invited them to read some of these lovely picture books on Overdrive e library which would create the movement towards creative responses, and growth mindset.  These books were used as “hooks” to bring in the discussion about art in science, engineering and PBL, and being curious about the world, as inventors and creative designers.


I encouraged students to be inventors of their own questions and design something right off the get go.  Each student came ready to share the following week either in our virtual class or on Flipgrid.  Flipgrid allowed our students to present using video technology, and also view and comment on their classmates’ work.  We spent a full hour listening and praising work effort with our student presentations.  The socio-emotional learning was very evident when things did not turn out right.  Check out this video of our student Davis sharing his Egg Picker Upper.  He did eventually get it to work using some extra ideas and appendages. One of my students who experienced challenges with sharing orally presented his learning authentically using a sock puppet and shadows.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

GID in a Blended Learning Commons in British Columbia

Pippa Davies

Director HCOS Blended Learning Commons

November 19, 2017

Our book clubs have been a huge success at our distributed learning school, Heritage Christian Online School.  We serve approximately 3000 students all over the Province of beautiful British Columbia as an independent partially funded K-12 school.  Our students learn with the support of an accredited teacher, using the British Columbia mandated curriculum from a Christian perspective.   

We are blessed to work with a large special needs group of students who are also included in our book clubs.  

Presently we have 5 book club moderators who run book clubs from a guided inquiry approach either using Lit Circles, or STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationship, Engineering, Art and Math) as a framework.

Everything we do in our learning commons comes from our vision of “Encouraging Christian community through discipleship, literacy and innovation”.  We believe in high tech with high touch!

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

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

Presidential Stop & Jot

In January 2017, our second grade team approached me about planning and implementing a research unit about presidents and first ladies. This allowed me an opportunity to teach both the students and teachers about the guided inquiry process.

We broke the process into small digestable bites for the students and deliberately modeled the skills needed to gain deep knowledge and understanding. As a class, we read about Harry Truman and conducted a “Stop and Jot”. Over the following week, students immersed themselves in all things presidential. They used the “Stop and Jot” method to explore and immerse themselves in past Presidents, First Ladies or a mixture of the two.

The students made amazing notes and had wonderful Inquiry Circle discussions. Their notes were very thorough and their connections with the subject matter and their classmates knowledge was much deeper and broader than what I have seen in the past. I have included some samples of their notes below.

Tomorrow I will post some pictures of the Presidential collages and poems the children wrote for the Create and Share phases.

Jamie Johnson, Teacher Librarian, Norman, Oklahoma

Greetings from Oklahoma

Howdy, from the Sooner State! My name is Jamie Johnson and this is my first G.I. blog post! I have been an elementary school librarian in Norman, Oklahoma for sixteen years. I started learning about Guided Inquiry in the spring of 2015 when Leslie Maniotes shared her knowledge and experiences with librarians and gifted resource coordinators from across our school district.  I will be sharing a few strategies that worked for me and our second grade team when we used Guided Inquiry to investigate Presidents and First Ladies last spring.

Jamie Johnson, N.B.C.T., M.L.I.S.



The Preservation Project (2) GID in California

Hi again! I’m sorry for the late posting.  Perhaps I should rethink posts during the first full week of classes in the future!

I am going to share the unit, as it was written out during the collaboration between the classroom teacher and me.  The unit begins with an overview, continues with a list of all standards that we addressed over the 20 days, and concludes with a day-by-day description of activities.


In this unit, that is co-taught daily by the classroom teacher and the teacher librarian (TL), students will learn the purpose behind the creation of national parks.  They will begin by learning what it means to preserve something.  They will then visit Kings Canyon National Park and learn about the flora, fauna and geological features that are being preserved within the park boundaries.  This will begin with a focus on preservation of the Giant Sequoias.  However, after learning about this park and what it is tasked to preserve, students will explore other national parks and learn about the unique features they are preserving.  Students will identify a plant, animal or geological structure that is being preserved that they find exciting.  The students will then learn to write a research question about the topic they have identified.  They will then engage in individual, personalized research to learn about the preservation of their topic.  Students will be introduced to a variety of creative presentation methods.  They will choose one of those, create a product to present their topic, and share their research in a gallery walk that will be attended by community members.

Goals and objectives:

  • Content Objectives:

    • Students will explain the purpose of preservation of land, flora and fauna in national parks

    • Students will identify solutions for the impact of humans on the preserved lands of the national parks.

  • Content Standards Addressed:

    • RI 1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

    • RI 5. Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

    • RI 9. Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic

    • W 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. a. Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension. b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details. c. Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information. d. Provide a concluding statement or section.

    • W 6. With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

    • W 7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

    • W 8. Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.

    • SL 1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to

    • SL 4. Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. a. Plan and deliver an informative/explanatory presentation on a topic that: organizes ideas around major points of information, follows a logical sequence, includes supporting details, uses clear and specific vocabulary, and provides a strong conclusion. CA

    • SL 6. Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.

    • L 2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    • L 3. Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening. a. Choose words and phrases for effect.* b. Recognize and observe differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English.

    • History 2.3.  Students explain governmental institutions and practices in the United States and other countries.

    • History 2.5.  Students understand the importance of individual action and character and explain how heroes from long ago and the recent past have made a difference in others’ lives.

    • Science 2-LS4-1:  Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

  • Process Objectives:

    • Students will utilize a variety of resources in researching a specific topic.

    • Students will collect and synthesize data.

    • Students will use presentation tools to share information with others.

  • Model School Library Standards Addressed:

    • 1.2 Formulate appropriate questions:  a.  Identify a problem that needs information by asking how, what, where, when, or why questions.

    • 1.3 Identify and locate a variety of resources online and in other formats by using effective search strategies:

      • i.  Identify types of media and digital delivery devices.

      • j.  Use guide words to locate information in a reference book.

      • k.  Perform a keyword search of a topic by using an approved search engine or database.

      • p.  Locate information in text by using the organizational parts of a book in print or digital format (e.g., title, table of contents, chapter headings, glossary, author notes, dedication, index).

    • 1.4 Retrieve information in a timely, safe, and responsible manner: a. Demonstrate a basic understanding of intellectual property rights and the difference between sharing and ownership

    • 2.1 Determine the relevance of the information: a. Select information appropriate to the problem or question at hand. b. Determine whether the information answers the question. 2.2 Assess the comprehensiveness, currency, credibility, authority, and accuracy of resources: a. Identify copyright and publication dates in print resources.

    • 2.3 Consider the need for additional information: a. Locate facts and details to support a topic sentence and paragraph, and record the information.

    • 3.2 Draw conclusions and make informed decisions: a. Compare information from more than one source to draw a conclusion. 12 grade three 3.3 Use information and technology creatively to answer a question, solve a problem, or enrich understanding: a. Organize information chronologically, sequentially, or by topic.

    • 4.2 Seek, produce, and share information:

      • b. Select appropriate information technology tools and resources to interact with others for a specific purpose.

Guiding Question:     What do national parks preserve?

Learning Activities: 

Day 1:  Students will be introduced to the idea of “preservation.”  The teacher and TL will show them the pictures of “preserved” items that grace the home page of this KBC.  The teacher and TL will also bring in realia for the students to view. Students will look over the pictures and work with their table group to figure out how the seemingly disparate items might be connected.  After students have worked on this, the teacher will bring them back together and allow groups to present their suggestions.  The teacher and teacher librarian will show the class a peach and ask “why do we can these instead of just eating them like this (fresh)?”  The expected response is that we can them to keep them from rotting so we can eat them later.   The teacher and TL will then discuss the other two items (old pictures and mummies), working toward the same outcome:  we preserve them to so that they will be available to us later.  The pictures represent keeping memories of loved ones alive.

The teacher will write the word “preservation” on a poster board that already contains examples of the canned fruit and old pictures. The TL will direct the students to Google Classroom where they will write a journal entry explaining why preservation is important.

Day 2:  The teacher will show students a peach that is starting to decay.  She will tell them that this is the peach they saw the day before. It can be a different, older peach.  The kids just don’t know that.  The TL will ask:  Since we didn’t eat the peach yesterday, it has begun to rot.  What can a farmer do with the peach right now so that it will still be useable next week?  The expected response is that the farmer could can the peach to preserve it.  If the students do not provide the term “preserve,” the TL and teacher will gently remind them by pointing to the poster that was created the prior class session.  The teacher will then tell the class that there are actually many other things that can and should be preserved.  Today they are going to hear a story about someone that worked very hard to make sure that land was preserved in our country.  The TL will provide a picture of John Muir for the class at this point.  She will ask the class if the picture looks like something they have seen before.   The expected response is that it looks similar to the old pictures from the last class session and from the poster at the front of the class.   The TL will say that, yes, this is a picture of someone who isn’t alive any longer, but we preserve his memory with his picture and through books.  Today they are going to hear a story all about this man, John Muir.  At the end, they will understand why we preserve his memory.  The teacher will then read The Camping Trip that Changed America to the class.  After the story, the TL will direct the students to their Google Classroom where they will find a graphic organizer (GO) in the form of a Google Document.  The students will work with their elbow partners to complete the parts of the GO.

Day 3:  The teacher and the TL will provide students with printouts of their GOs from the previous session.  They will then ask students to stand and use the Give One, Get One model for reviewing and sharing information.  Music will play and students will move randomly around the classroom.  When the music stops, students will pair up with the person closest to them.  The teacher will tell the class that the student with the shortest hair will go first.  That student will share one piece of information that they have learned about preservation with their partner.  The partner will look at their GO and add the information if it is not already on their page.  The partners will then switch and the longer haired student will share while the partner adds information to their own GO.  This will be done two more times so that every student speaks to at least three partners.  The students will then return to their seats.  They will open Google Classroom and respond to a quick write journal in a Google Doc.  The prompt will be:  Three things we often preserve are:  food, memories, and  land in national parks.  What are some reasons you think these types of preservation are important?

Day 4:  The TL will share a slideshow of pictures from Kings Canyon National Park with the class.  Several of the photos will focus on the Giant Sequoias, the keystone plant species of that park.  The teacher and the TL will take turns returning to those slides and demonstrating awe at the size of the trees to generate interest in the students.   They will tell the students that the trees are larger than they can imagine.  In fact, they are much larger than the trees at school.  They will then take the students outside to look at the size of average trees in the landscape. Each student will be provided with a piece of yarn that is exactly one foot long and a graph on which to record the measurement of tree girths.  One column of the graph will ask students to measure how many students it takes, holding hands, to circle the tree.  They will be broken into teams of four based on their table groups.  Each group will be assigned to one of the trees that border the playground.  The teacher and the TL will model the use of the strings to measure around the trunk of the tree.  They will show the students how to estimate ½ foot measurements.  They will model writing their measurement on a poster-sized chart like the ones the students have.  They will also model measuring around the tree by holding hands to circle the tree.  Students will then work in teams to measure the girth of their tree and record the measurement on their charts.  The teacher and TL will circulate, assisting students as necessary. If time allows, each group will measure and record two trees’ girths.  Once back in class, each team will share their measurements and the teacher and/or TL will add them to the poster-sized chart.

Day 5:  Students will visit Kings Canyon National Park for the day.  Their tour guide, a National Park Service Ranger, will provide them with general information about the park.  S/he will also provide them with information about the park’s preservation efforts.  The students will be introduced to the concept of the preservation of the Giant Sequoias in the park as well as the preservation of other species of flora and fauna that are found within the park boundaries.  The students will have the opportunity to see Giant Sequoias up close.  They will have the opportunity to stand on the stump of one that was cut down before the park was formed.  The students, teacher, and TL will hold hands and attempt to encircle the entire stump.  They will record how many people it takes to do so and this will be added to their measurement poster back at school.  (Interacting with an Expert Model)

Day 6:  Students will look over their note-taking sheet from the field trip.  They will be given time to add items that they might have thought of since returning from the park.  The teacher and TL will each share some of their own thoughts as examples for students who struggled to complete the handout.  The teacher will then tell students that now that they’ve experienced Kings Canyon National Park, they will get to learn more about preservation in this or another park.  Today will be the first day of a multi-day exploration research phase.  The students will have access to a variety of library print resources that the TL provides.  They will also be sent to Google Classroom to access a Symbaloo that the teacher librarian has created.  The Symbaloo will provide direct links to a variety of national parks that each preserves a specific flora, fauna, or geological feature.  It will also include links to information about some of the flora and fauna being preserved within Kings Canyon National Park.  Lastly, for the purposes of lower the affective filter of our newcomer (immigrant) students, there are links to national parks in both Mexico and El Salvador, the newcomers’ countries of origin.  The students will spend Days 6 and 7 exploring all of these links, looking for the national park preservation topic that interests them the most.  In order to keep them focused, the students will fill out a GO that is aligned to the Symbaloo links.  The teacher and TL will monitor and assist with technical issues if they arise.

Day 7:  Students will continue to explore preservation topics using the Symbaloo.  They will continue to fill out the GO as they explore each link.  The teacher and the TL will monitor and assist with technical issues if they arise.

Day 8:  Today is the final day for exploration using the Symbaloo links.  Students must turn in their completed Symbaloo GO at the end of today’s exploration session.  During the final ten minutes of the class session, the TL will direct the class to Google Classroom.  They will complete a Google Form in which they will identify the flora, fauna or geological structure around which they want to focus further research.

Day 9: Turning interest into a research question.  Teacher and TL demonstrate and provide sentence starters.

Day 10:  Today the students will begin their individual research.  The teacher and TL will provide a document on Google Classroom that contains additional resource links related to the specific research topics that the students have identified.     The students will use the split-screen strategy to keep the Research Journal document open on one side of the screen and

Day 11:  Research continues.  The teacher and teacher librarian will continue to add resources daily that they find to the list on Google Classroom.

Day 12:  Research continues.  Individual meetings with teacher or TL to verify that research can answer a question or to revise the question.

Day 13:  Research continues today.  The TL will review strategies for Google Searches.  This is something the students have done all year, so it will be a very brief review.  Although the teacher and TL have been providing links to specific sites for students to use, today is a day that the students can branch off and search on their own using Google.

Day 14:  Today is the final day for students to complete their individual research assignments.

Day 15:  Students will use Days 15 – 18 to create a presentation about their individual research topics.  Today the teacher and the TL will present examples of the project choices to the students.   The students will be allowed to choose from a variety of projects for their creation.  The creation must highlight the need for preservation of the chosen topic.  The teacher and TL will provide materials that students can use to create a poster or a diorama.  The students could also choose to create a video about their topic using Flipgrid, an online video making tool to which the TL has account access. The final project that the students can choose from is a Google Slides presentation.  The teacher and the TL will both assist students as needed.

Day 16:  Today the students will continue to create their project.  The teacher and the TL will both assist students as needed.  The teacher and the TL will continue to bring in needed supplies as they are identified.

Day 17:  Students will continue to create their project today.  The teacher and the TL will both assist students as needed.

Day 18:  Today is the final day for the creation of projects.  All projects will be due at the end of this session.

Day 19:  The students will present their projects in a gallery walk format.  The site administration and parents will be invited to the event.  Invitations will be sent home via flyers as well as through announcements on the library’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.  Students will display their projects and answer questions as the guests walk through the room.

Day 20:  Today the teacher and the TL will introduce the Big Think question.   Students will work in their table groups to respond to the solution prompts.  Although students researched different items being preserved, all of them are in some way affected by the human population.

Kristi Mulligan

Teacher Librarian
Selma Unified School District

Step One of Implementing GID

Guided Inquiry is a concept that I was first introduced to last year.  Our amazing librarian Jenny Lussier arranged for first grade teacher Jessica Loffredo and myself, Carole Sibiskie, to attend the GID Institute.  It was an absolute privilege to be able to participate in the CISSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University last summer.   As someone who has engaged in Project Based Learning for over a decade, it was a curious process to see where GID and PBL overlapped and where they differed.  Through the institute, our team worked on a Social Studies unit to implement with a multi-age first and second grade classroom.  

Jessica Loffredo, Leslie Maniotes, Jenny Lussier, Carole Sibiskie, and Carol Kuhlthau at GID Institute Summer 2016

The Family Heritage unit is one that we have covered in the past, but at the institute we were able to “redesign” with a collaborative inquiry focus.   Our team made changes to fit the unit into the design template and to strengthen the framework.  We extended opportunities for the open.  It was clear that one area that needed to be lengthened was the process of immersion for the students in the content.  The largest change came in adding the explore area.  Prior to our introduction to Guided Inquiry Design, this was an area that was missing in the process. Time was added for the children to develop their own areas of personal interest in a much more meaningful and purposeful manner.  The GID Framework encouraged us to also dig deeper into the phases of identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate. There was so much more to consider than in the past.

The reality of implementing the plan hit during the school year with many celebrations and many challenges.  The biggest challenge was to find time to collaborate.  Snippets of time were found during the day, and there was electronic communication, but it is an effort to find extended amounts of common time.  Also, as the classroom teacher, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to reach out to connect.  We made sure to connect for the important aspects, even though we weren’t always able to be with the kids at the same time.  Additionally, several of the experiences and opportunities moved from open to immerse and vice versa due to time constraints,  connections to other curricular areas, and the lack of large chunks of time to give undivided attention to this work.  It wasn’t exactly the way we laid the plan out on paper, but it worked nonetheless.

The highlights were the moments with the students fully engaged in the process, and they were many!  When we finally found the large block of time to integrate “the open”, a simulated Ellis Island experience in the classroom, the children had already developed a lot of background information related to Ellis Island through read-alouds.  This actually made the experience more relevant to the students as they cheered, “We are at Ellis Island!” upon entering the classroom.  When the first student was marked with chalk, they exclaimed, “Oh, no he is sick.  He might not be let into the country.”  So it seems we had a “soft open”, that enriched the actual open!

One of the most powerful explore areas arose as the students planned a school assembly share.   They decided to represent each of their family heritages through folk music and choreographed invented folk dances.  YouTube was used to select the “just right” songs using democratic practice.  There were many whole class conversations about how music and dance impact a culture and vice versa.  Students studied related flags, texts, and maps as they planned this share.  Students greeted the audience in their “native” languages and danced for each of their countries of origin around the tree they decided to create using photos to represent ancestors on the bottom and generations at the top.  Several of the children had more than ten countries of origin!

Students also worked with resident artist Sally Rogers to write and create a family heritage song and old fashioned cranky to illustrate their song.  The students decided the song would be about immigration.  This process helped them move from the explore to identify phase as they collaborated on this project and found their personal interests in different areas.  Students also had old photos of ancestors which they wrote an invented realistic fiction story which they produced on Seesaw to share with classmates and their families. Their research and information from read aloud texts came through loud and clear in these pieces.

Individual research occurred with much support from families to provide needed background information. The students learned about geography, languages, music, dance, genealogy, history, foods, and numerous other aspects of culture.  Additionally, respect was developed for the diversity and variety of cultures including the 19 countries of origin for these children!

Each student developed an independent project to share their family heritage with the class.  Students used “passports” to reflect upon the learning in the unit.  The students were more driven and clear with their path than prior years. The GID process enabled us to build an inquiry stance where all of our community members developed a more purposeful mindset.  This first attempt at Guided Inquiry Design was far from perfect.  We are building on this experience and are currently rolling out another GID inspired STEAM unit.  Stay tuned…

Carole Sibiskie

John Lyman School

Regional School District 13