Keyword Inquiry Log

In my second post, I shared how Sarah worked with me and Karen to implement concept-based research as well as question-driven inquiry. Now we’ll shift to discuss how students conduct research in the Gather phase.  

I just finished my 4th year working as a school library media specialist, and I was a high school English teacher for 8 years before that. So I have a general idea of how a typical student at my school searches for sources: Google (most likely typing in an entire sentence or question), or at best a cursory glance at a database assigned by a teacher. We are continually striving to make the research phase more meaningful in order to support lifelong learning skills. Librarians crave more time with students in order to introduce them to all the databases available to them. And then databases function differently, requiring time for students to search within them and learn how to find the information they need.

This past February, I read “Doubling Up: authentic vocabulary development through the inquiry process” by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci published in the February 2017 issue of Teacher Librarian. (A new fiscal year is starting soon; be sure to get your subscription to Teacher Librarian!) When I saw this article and read the first paragraph, one word came to mind: genius! I knew I wanted to implement the keyword log introduced in the article because it just made sense, like the GID model. And I found just the teacher willing to collaborate with me on this project.

Jena Smith teaches the Public Speaking elective at my school, and she is a strong supporter of using library resources with her students. We collaborate frequently throughout the semester. Her students came to the library after selecting topics for their researched argumentative speeches. She created a Google Doc for students to record their topics. Sharing it with me helped me prepare mini-lessons targeted toward their chosen topics. It also taught the students to revise their topics as they began to do research, as some realized their topics weren’t going to work or weren’t quite argumentative in nature.

The rationale for using the keyword log, as presented by Maniotes and Cellucci, is to promote academic vocabulary growth as well as knowledge of information searching strategies. Even if students know what a Boolean operator is, they need to have some knowledge of the vocabulary specific to their topic. Luckily, unlike Google, databases provide keyword searches that will give students suggestions. In EBSCO products, you can search in Subject Terms at the top of the page to learn synonyms.

I mentioned ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher database in my second blog post. It’s super easy to search related subject terms for vocabulary development. The subject terms are listed at the end of each article, which students can click on.

I introduced them to the keyword log and modeled a few sample searches using the topic an at-risk learner chose in order to provide some targeted scaffolding. I added a few columns to the log described in the article just to ensure that students were providing detailed explanations.

As intuitive as I thought this log would be, we encountered a few obstacles during implementation. To start, students aren’t used to slowing down! They wanted to rush through the research process. We met some resistance when we told them they would be recording each search they tried. Of course the whole point was for them to discover that the Gather phase should take time in order to discover the best possible sources of information that would help them develop their researched argumentative speech.

Here are some of the first searches I modeled to the whole class (it’s not perfect; I tried to keep it simple at first):

Below is an excerpt from a reluctant learner’s keyword log. I sat with him as he completed his searches to show him different search strategies. In the first entry, you can see that he realized he wasn’t even searching for one of the main parts of his topic: how do violent video games affect children? His reflection in the second entry shows how I asked him to record his true search behavior, and what we know to be true from research: most searchers do not even scroll down on the first page of results.

I also spent a good deal of time telling them to type more in the results and reflection columns. As the research assignment progresses, students will see how useful the log is the more specific and detailed their responses are.

We discovered that we can really learn about how students conduct research simply by watching them and asking them to search how they would if they were on their own. Start with where they’re at as learners to gather information about their current skills and how they think about research. Then address misconceptions and a lack of skills as you see them.

There is an often overwhelming number of research skills that students can learn: how to search the open web using advanced search strategies and limiters; discovering special interests groups, independent groups, research organizations; picking which database fits their information needs; how to search different databases; how to paraphrase; how to cite. Yikes! But this keyword log provided an organized starting point. My goal is to work with more teachers to use this log at the beginning of their classes and tailor research assignments to target specific research skills instead of trying to teach every skill every time.

Most of the students shared in a survey when we were finished that they had never been taught Boolean search strategies and that the keyword log helped them stay organized. They gained a clearer understanding of how databases work. And remember that the GID model works in any discipline. Information literacy skills should be embedded in each and every course if we want our students to truly learn these lifelong skills.

The key here is that authentic learning does take time. Using databases isn’t always intuitive, and students need practice after direct instruction. Partner up with your school librarian to build these skills into your research units. It’s an investment that pays off in the end.

–Jamie Gregory  @gregorjm   Jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Concepts and Questioning

Yesterday, I explained how I spent last semester introducing the Guided Inquiry Design model to a cohort of teachers at my high school. Today is all about showing student work related the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify phases of GID inquiry-based learning. I’m going to extend my discussion about using questioning as part of implementing GID by showcasing a unit my library service learners completed. I’m also going to show how one English teacher in particular worked to implement concept-based research assignments as well as questioning into her curriculum.

I am fortunate that my school offers media center service learning as an elective unit of credit. Students fill out an application and we take teacher recommendations. The students who participate learn about running a library, fielding reference questions, researching the future of libraries, you name it! My fellow librarian Karen Hill and I have developed a unit focused on learning about social injustice. For the Open phase in this unit, our students watched 2 shorter documentaries posted on the New York Times website (Check out the website, you’ll get lost in the possibilities!). We kept a shared Google Doc of questions in order to provide scaffolding at the beginning of the unit. For the Immerse phase, we created a gallery walk with 13 stations featuring various examples of social injustice in the world today. Students read from print books, articles, infographics, watched clips from documentaries, political cartoons, statistics, all sorts of fun stuff! They had to create their own lists of questions about each topic as they rotated through each station.

And there are so many opportunities here for embedding information literacy skills. Have students practice citing sources as they create questions, and have them question the sources themselves. Introduce them to authoritative resources they won’t know about, such as the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States! Once students have experience with the gallery walk approach, start having them select the sources instead of the media specialist!

I cannot emphasize enough how effective we have found the stations activity to be in my experience with implementing GID. Students can move through the stations at their own paces, ideally, or you can use a timer if more structure is needed. Students respond honestly and find topics they are genuinely interested in. The great part about this particular group was that once we entered the Identify phase, only 2 students out of 10 chose a topic that was included in the 13 stations! They branched out and found other topics, which was inspiring to watch.

We had one particularly great success story this past year with a reluctant learner. She didn’t like to read at all, and it was hard each day to keep her from texting the entire class period. She truly blossomed during this project. She chose to research teen suicide because, as she told us, she didn’t know anything about it. She was engaged in her research and in her proposal wrote that maybe our high school should establish a help hotline.

Remember that in GID you do not begin a unit with an assignment; you begin a unit with an open invitation to learn! We didn’t introduce the assignment until the Identify phase. Don’t let students get stuck on the mechanics of the assignment; you’d rather their energy be spent on the content!

Now, back to the awesome English teachers I work with! In our cohort, we focused on designing concept-based research opportunities driven by student-led questioning beginning with the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. One classroom English teacher, Sarah Plant, re-envisioned her traditional Great Gatsby research paper (by the way, Sarah recently had to move away. We’ll be sad about that for a long time). While students might traditionally research aspects of the 1920s, she realized that assignment might fall under the “bird unit” categorization. While it is, of course, still necessary and worthwhile to know and to understand 1920s culture for successful reading of that novel, we realized that there might be more effective opportunities for authentic learning and research by moving to a more concept-based assignment. Plus, students are too tempted to simply copy and paste information with “bird unit” assignments!

For the Open phase, Sarah had the students watch some short videos and they wrote down questions while watching, then sharing as a class. Sarah next came up with 3 concepts related to The Great Gatsby: effects of social media, effects of poverty (and the American Dream), and effects of money on happiness. (While choosing the concepts ahead of time provided scaffolding, students were allowed to research their own concepts discovered throughout this process.) Karen and I then searched through our databases for information related to the concepts. We printed relevant articles, infographics, found print books, encyclopedias, etc. (For example, try “How to Buy Happiness” from the Atlantic, April 2017). We then designed a gallery walk activity for the Immerse phase. Students were given time to visit each station as a group. The groups designed questions based on each station’s focus.

Most of the groups wrote down superficial questions, which gave us an opportunity to model asking effective questions. We also monitored the students while they worked in groups, giving guidance and suggestions as needed.

Sarah shared that moving toward researching concepts required more advanced researching from the students. This move required more synthesis skills from the students, and they genuinely learned something because they chose their topics. She saw improved essay structures and stronger thesis statements because they weren’t just trying to summarize historical information about the 1920s.

Sarah also had the students include questions about their topics and learning goals on the grading rubric:

This part of her project touches on the last stage of GID, Evaluate. I spent a good deal of time in our cohort meetings emphasizing the importance of self-reflection throughout the entire inquiry process. I shared some strategies I used in my own classroom to help students evaluate not only their skills but also their behaviors. Creating specific goals for each assignment keeps students from feeling overwhelmed, particularly the reluctant learners.

In my next post, I’ll share how I worked with Jena Smith to embed some more in-depth information literacy skills during the Gather phase of her research project, which gave me an opportunity to use an amazing article by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci! Stay tuned, again! (I’m sorry y’all, I have too much to share about GID and I just can’t help myself. Anyone who read this far, I love you.)

-Jamie Gregory, @gregorjm jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Sarah Plant, sarahel2@gmail.com

GID @ the District Level Part 3

AASL states that school library programs should employ an inquiry-based approach to “inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge” (2007). Using GID in my district as our inquiry approach is a way to tap into student’s natural curiosity, and help students develop a foundation using an inquiry process to facilitate all their academic work. GID breaks down inquiry into manageable steps, and gives students an opportunity to Immerse and Explore to better understand a research or essential question. GID is divided to provide specific scaffolds in learning the content and how they learn. GID helps students find gaps in their research and develop plans for how they can close those gaps to produce an effective product they would want to share.

I like how Leslie and I worked with the librarians in developing their sense of understanding in how to use GID. Leslie made sure we modeled the scaffolding ideas in Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School so that they can see how to use them in their own lessons. Another key element was that you didn’t always have to be a part of all the phases in GID. Most likely they would be involved in the Immerse, Explore, Identify, and Gather phases, and that was okay. We know it is ideal for us to be involved in all phases, but time is a precious commodity in schools, and if we scaffold well in the phases we are involved in, then we built the metacognition of students to be able to move through the other phases well. Overall, the librarians in my district see the value of this process and are making changes to input these phases into their lessons to help their students understand and apply what they have learned to new situations.

Lori Donovan, Instructional Specialist, Library Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools

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…

National History Day Project inWisconsin

Recent Project: The GID Process

In the 2015-16 school year, after participating in a Guided Inquiry summer institute, my partners at the Charter School: the social studies teacher, the Dean, and I decided to implement the Guided Inquiry Design Process throughout all content areas. We started with the National History Day Project. I created a student journal that the students used to capture their thoughts. I collected the Journals daily and commented. The student journal is an adaptation of a journal that Leslie had teachers use when we participated her GI Institute. The students commented that they appreciated not always having to use technology to compose their thoughts.  I created PowerPoints for each session. I added all the PowerPoints and other documents to a Google Folder and shared the folder with the students and my teacher partners. I also encouraged the students to email me any time they had questions. Several students, who were not able to make it to all the classes, appreciated that they could keep up with the class lessons in this manner.

The Open session was our most challenging as we never took the time before to open students’ minds: to get them excited about the journey they were starting. After participating in the Institute, we wrestled with different ideas.  In one of Leslie’s posts on her Guided Inquiry Design Facebook page we found some great suggestions. We mentioned the theme, which was Explore, Encounter, and Exchange in History, and that we would spend more time with what the theme meant in the coming days. We viewed the Sir Ken Robinson video Changing Education Paradigms. https://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U. The students took notes using guided questions in their Journal. They discussed in Inquiry Circles how that video spoke to them. How did Sir Ken explain the historical context of education reform today? How did he captivate them while exchanging his ideas? I was surprised at how many students were diagnosed with ADHD when they were younger. They could really relate to Sir Ken.

Historical context is often difficult to understand. One of the suggestions in the GID Facebook page was to have them watch and discuss a more current topic to which they could relate. They watched History of Apple and the First iPhone: RIP Steve Job. https://youtu.be/BG4azxx1XjI . Many students had not seen this video. Time passes so quickly. Most of them had mobile phones and historical context started to make sense. Again, the students took notes using guided questions in their Journal and shared their thoughts in Inquiry Circles.

The reflections in their journal gave us an insight into what they were wondering about at this beginning stage.

The Immerse Stage was also a challenge. Students had never taken the time just to discover content while they built background knowledge. We spent time viewing and discussing a National History Day winning video. The Tiananmen Square Massacre: A Government’s Encounter with It’s People. https://youtu.be/fS6NoRWZv1w. They again took notes from guided questions in their Journal. We also immersed the students in political cartoon analysis. Most students had no background knowledge of the what political cartoons were and how to analyze them. They are excellent primary sources for understanding historical context. Some student’s reflections revealed they were changing their thoughts on topics. That was a good thing.

The other stages: Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate had challenges also since this was my first year implementing GID within the National History Day Project. I was determined to implement the process with fidelity. However, to do that we needed to take the time during class. They spent time looking at exemplar National History Day past winners. They also spent time Asking the Experts in the Google+ Hangouts. These sessions were invaluable during the Create stage. Determining which category they were going to enter, in order to share what they learned and how to write up the Process Paper were a challenge they had not encountered in previous research projects. They studied the judging criteria, which set the expectations.

National History Day requires an Annotated Bibliography. The students who used Noodle Tools had no problem with this requirement.

The students shared their project several weeks ago at a Parent Open House. Homemade punch and cookies were an added appeal. Later on in the BLOG I will share the parent’s reflections. The students shared their thoughts throughput the entire process through reflections and dialogues in Inquiry Circles and with the entire Inquiry Community. They also gave input during the final Evaluation Session. Common themes were:

  • Students learn more by listening, communicating, and working with peers;
  • They relish input from their peers;
  • They desired to dig more into their topic because they chose the topic based on a theme.

Next year the theme is “Taking a Stand”. I am already looking forward to working with the students next year. Every year I learn and the next year benefits from that learning.

For the next project I will be working with the seniors on their Global Issues Capstone Project. They choose an international problem and after thorough research they present solutions from their informed point of view.  They will follow the GID process. They will connect with an expert mentor in the field as a resource. They will write a paper. Then they will present in a creative and meaningful way to an authentic audience who gives them input. Often times their expert mentor will also give them input during the evaluation component of their final project. Voice and Choice are key actions for personalizing learning. Voice and Choice are also critical motivators for them to stay engaged through an extended timeline.

If you questions, I am happy to reply in the comments section. In the end students commented they were never prompted to think and share their thinking with their peers before. They gave this project very high rating when they communicated on their successes at the school. This project provides rigor within a guided process.

Kathy Boguszewski

A high school math inquiry project

The email started like many we receive: What dates are the library computers available to bring down classes for research?

We check the schedule and start to email a response when it hits us …a math teacher…wants to do research? What?! We quickly respond with dates as requested and offer to help in any way we can.

Then Ms. White, my librarian colleague, and I start chatting from our desks to one another.

“Have you ever done research with a math class?”

“No, but this could be so cool!”

“I wonder what their product would be – a research paper? Presentation?”

Ding…then another email arrived with an attachment of the math research project Ms. Zehnder had done at a different school but she wanted to make it better and asked for our help, perhaps using the Guided Inquiry Process. And that is how we became part of another Guided Inquiry Design (GID) unit at HCHS. The three of us began collaborating to design a student-oriented research project and by late fall, students began their inquiries, and for many of them, this was the first math research project they had ever been assigned.

So, what did it look like?

Open – Students were asked to think about ways they use math in the real world. With a little prompting from the classroom teacher, the examples started pouring in. Perhaps the most powerful point about this phase was once they started thinking about math in the real world, they understood it was all around them. To help with this phase, as librarians, we brainstormed a list of ways math was relevant in their world and gave it to Ms. Zehnder although it wasn’t really needed. The list came in handy later though as we worked to find resources to flesh out the Explore phase.

Immerse– Using a high interest article in the classroom, the class found as many math related concepts as they could within it. Afterwards, as a group, they discussed how one might use it as a springboard to come up with inquiry topics for a research project. As school librarians, our role was to find a handful of possible articles and gave them to the Ms. Zehnder so that she could determine which one(s) she wanted to use. Having the classroom teacher model the process of reading articles and talking about real life experiences, then brainstorming how math was relevant to it, was a great way to scaffold the class for the Explore phase.

Explore – Next, students came to the library and participated in exploration stations to make connections with mathematical concepts used in the real world and think about how math affects their daily life. There were 4 stations: books, magazines, computers and manipulatives. Students spent 9 minutes at each of the stations looking through whatever materials caught their eye and filled out the Exploration handout as they went. There was enough time at the end of the period for students to return to any station(s) they wanted to explore longer. At the book station we had over fifty resources scattered around for students to pick up and flip through. Topics ranged from specific sports, to nutrition, to world records, to teen spending practices and more. A complete bibliography is below in case you’d like to look at it further. The magazine station included the local newspaper and a variety of magazines like: Transworld Skateboarding, Popular Science, Outdoor, Time, National Geographic, ESPN and others. By far the two most popular stations were manipulatives and computers. At the manipulatives station, we set out the Cracker Barrel peg game, Suduko sheets, mandala coloring sheets, the Banagrams game, dice, etc. Watching students at this station made me so happy. Not only were students trying their hands at origami, wrestling with math brain teasers, playing Connect Four, etc. they were having real conversations about math and enjoying it! The computer station was very engaging too. Ms. White spearheaded this station by creating a Symbaloo webmix housing a variety of websites for students to explore and determine how math was involved. Check out the Explore link below when you have time because the mix of videos, websites and tutorials gave students plenty to consider in this station too. The beautiful thing about this portion of the GID unit was that I learned a new technology tool out of it too!

Math topics

Resource: Math Related Topics Bibliography (PDF)

Symbaloo

 Resource: Explore Symbaloo Webmix (link)

Explore

Resource: Explore Stations (entire PDF)

 

Identify – During this phase, we as librarians visited the classroom to lead a mini-lesson with each class. With their completed Explore Station handout in front of them, students selected a mathematical concept they found interesting to focus on for the rest of their project. While students were not required to select a topic from the Explore phase, many of them did so and having a series of possible topics in front of them, allowed everyone to have something to work on during this lesson.  After we modeled how to take a topic and brainstorm possible inquiry questions, we gave the students time to complete theirs. Note there are two graphic organizers. We did this knowing some learners are linear thinkers and others are not. Our hope was that a student could select the one that best helped them organize the topic and potential keywords and related inquiry questions related to the main idea. We modeled both types of graphic organizers with the students. Ultimately the topics students selected were quite varied including:  how math drives the game of hockey, why an understanding of math helps mixed martial arts fighters get an upper hand in a match, why the number zero is relevant, why do we need to understand the concept of infinity, just to name a few.

Inquiry graphic organizers

Resource:  Identify Graphic Organizers (entire PDF)

Gather – The next time students came to the library, we (librarians) demonstrated how to take notes on relevant resources as it related to their inquiry. Students were required to use both print and web-based resources to research their mathematics concept. As librarians, we created and provided an Inquiry Log template including links to citation help where students could answer their inquiry questions as they researched. Before turning them loose to conduct their own research, we modeled the process using the template. During the student research time in the library, Ms. White, Ms. Zehnder and I circulated around the room to assist students with locating potential print and web resources, and generally helped them stay on task. In reflection, it was clear students loved talking and sharing what they were learning about their topics and were eager to share that with anyone who would listen. Students who did not complete this phase during allotted time in the library were required to finish it independently.

Gathering

Resource: Gather Sources Inquiry Log (entire PDF)

Create – Students were eventually tasked to create a presentation where they would explain the mathematical concept they chose, provide examples of how it is seen or used in real life and find relevance for its mathematical study. As librarians, we helped students think through possible presentation types. When PowerPoint was mentioned, we tried to talk about the pitfalls of a traditional presentation format and how to avoid it. Suggestions included not reading from the slides directly, embedding pictures or videos, and how to narrate using audio clips. At first students seemed frustrated by the lack of specific requirements given for the presentation. They wanted to know which presentation format was best, how long it should be, etc. In hindsight, I would definitely not change this aspect of the project because it helped students truly consider which format would be best for their particular topic and their particular audience. The varied results spoke to the wisdom of leaving the presentation format open. On the final day of class time given to work on the presentations, we did create and give students a Presentation Planner Checklist to help students organize themselves and know at a glance what else needed to be done or strengthened to ensure success.

Presentation Planner

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire PDF)

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire Word doc)

Share – Students ultimately shared their presentations and were graded based on whether their visual and verbal presentation addressed the mathematical concept, clearly defined and explained it, gave examples of the concept in real world and discussed the relevance of studying the concept in general.  The diversity of the final products was greater than I had originally expected. Sure, there were still a lot of PowerPoint presentations but not exclusively. Interestingly, if Ms. White and I got sidetracked in the library during one of the presentation times, it wasn’t unusual for a student to inquire where we were and ask to call and remind us to come up. How cool is that? We were absolutely thrilled to be part of the process from beginning to end.

Ms. Zehnder not only invited us as school librarians to the Share phase, she invited all building math teachers and administrators too. Students were both pleased and proud to have additional audience members. We even invited a Communications person from the district office who wrote a feature article on the district website. Check it out!

Resource: Everyday math takes a bow at Henry Clay High School” feature article

Evaluate – The classroom teacher, Ms. Zehnder, evaluated each project based on the rubric that specific class had made. For example, every class was evaluated on incorporating five math facts, citing their sources and discussing the concept’s relevance but she had also allowed each class to individualize their rubrics. Some classes added a creativity component, others bonus points for audience participation, etc. We intended to have students complete a self-reflection on the project using a Google form  but due to lack of computer availability, this wasn’t possible. Instead, students debriefed in a class discussion. In the future we hope to use the Google form, as it is a great way to collect and analyze data in a timely manner.

Resource: Self-Evaluation Google Form

The positive press by the district combined with teachers hearing about our project by word of mouth has led others to express interest in developing a GID unit of their own in collaboration with us. Perhaps by the end of the school year we will have more units to share.

Wrapping it all up

Previously, I shared the beginning stages of our GID project, Challenge and Change.  At this point, students are now in the process of gathering information about their topic, hence the GATHER title for this stage.  This is the part where I as the librarian am the most valuable resource to our students.  As a part of this process, I am also able to meet the demands of my own curriculum though the implementation of mini-lessons.  Each mini-lesson addresses things like database use, keyword searching, Google searching, citing sources and even basic note taking.

After gathering, students begin the steps to determine how they want to share out their information in the CREATE step.  We provide the premise to students that they will be presenting an award to the person they selected for their research.  They are to come up with the name of the award and their research will support the reasoning behind it.

The most practical thing we did in planning for this was to make a very specific requirement.  Their award presentation had to have a VISUAL and a VERBAL component, and they could not be one and the same.  This prevented the painful situation where we sat and watched 100 PowerPoint presentations in a day.  In fact, this year I have banned the PPT completely!  The only option for PPT of any kind is that students could use a single slide to create a digital poster board, or award.  Otherwise, students could create or present however they want.  They can create a poster and give a speech, have a single award PPT slide and read journal or diary entries, they could write a song and make a CD cover for an album, create a webpage and read a poem…the possibilities are endless.  These final projects are then SHARED in our Challenge and Change awards ceremony.  Finally, we have students reflect on the process as a whole, in the EVALUATION step.  Here students respond to a digital survey through Google Forms which asks them to reflect on the process and provide feedback.  We are not that far in our current project, but here are some sample responses from last year. They have not been edited 🙂

What was the BEST part of the project for you?

“I enjoyed researching Bethany Hamilton because she is such a huge inspiration.”

 “My Favorite Part was wrinting the Speach. I like to write. So when I was able to Express my opinion on Malala Yousafzai It was really fun to write.”

 “I liked how we had the freedom to pick what we wanted to do for our project. We could make like actual awards and word clouds to express our freedom with this project.”

 “Putting together the project!!! I liked it because you could put it together and then you could admire it. I hope we can do it again VERY soon!!!”

 What was the MOST challenging part of the project for you?

“When we had chose our 6-7 questions then answer them. Cause if we did not have a response to that question we would have to think of another question.”

 “The most Challenging part was when I had to find the research to match my questions so I would have to read a lot of texts to be able to get the information I need .”

 “The most challenging part was probably writing the speech. I learned so much information that i had to pick and choose what i wanted so i didn’t have 4 pages of stuff!”

 “Choosing my person so many people have inspiring storys and I wanted to explore all of them but sadly i could only could choose one”

As you see in the graphic below of the process, it may seem odd that the steps are not in an evenly spaced track from bottom to top, or even a nice neat row, but it is quite intentional (based on the research of Carol Kuhlthau) and accurate when you look at how students respond to the process as a whole.  You can think of the placement of each block as the excitement level of your class as you being the process.  Personally, my students start off apprehensive, get more excited as we begin the immerse stage and then get overwhelmed a bit when they start to explore.  However, once they narrow their topic their motivation and excitement increases and grows throughout the completion of the assignment.

As the subtitle of this site specifies, this truly is a way of instructing that will change how you teach.  I am so happy to have been able to participate in blogging this week and to have been exposed to the GID process with instruction and guidance from Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes and Ann Caspari.  Each of the research projects which I now develop with teachers, all mirror the process above.  I know that changing how teachers teach a project can be difficult to influence, however my strategy has been to slowly incorporate elements, piece by piece each year.  As teachers see the motivation and excitement of their students grow, as well as the quality of their final product improve, they are more willing to let me slide in a new step.  It is not just the steps which are so valuable, it is also the small strategies and tools which are present in the process which also work to empower students and provide them with the opportunity to reflect on their own thinking and learning, which is truly a life skill.

Good luck to each of you as you being your own journey of discovery with Guided Inquiry Design!

Cheers,

Sarah