Avoid Cheetah Reports in 8 Easy Steps!

Remember this charming critter from my last entry? My Guided Inquiry Design mascot? This creature is a Pompeii Worm, and the reason it represents the power of GID, to me, is that this animal was selected by one of our Grade 4 students as the subject of his Guided Inquiry project on animal adaptations.

 

Hello. It's me again. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

Hello. It’s me again. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

If you’re an elementary teacher, I’m sure you’ve encountered an animal project in some form. You know the drill… the kids choose an animal and do a little report on it: what it eats, where it lives, etc. This kind of project is a nice introduction to research skills, and because most kids are interested in animals to some degree, there is high motivation. You will find that the vast majority of students will pick pretty standard animals. Wolves. Zebras. Sharks.(Note: when I was in Grade 3, I chose echidnas, thus cementing my nerdiness for years to come. I digress.)

However, it is a truth universally acknowledged that at least 55% of your class will choose cheetahs.

Yeah, we get it, Cheetah. You're very noble. Photo credit: Anup Shah, ARKive

We get it, Cheetah. You’re very noble. Photo credit: Anup Shah, ARKive

Look, I have no problem with cheetahs. They run fast. Their claws are unretractable. They hunt gazelles. They are endangered.  Their cubs are ridiculously adorable.  Cheetahs are LEGIT. I get the appeal. Kids LOVE them.

OMG SO CUTE | Photo credit: Suzi Eszterhas, ARKive

OMG SO CUTE | Photo credit: Suzi Eszterhas, ARKive

But they are so… predictable. I’m sure you’ve marked dozens – nay, hundreds! – of cheetah reports in your professional life. It’s time to move on. Wouldn’t you rather learn about something a little different? A little out-there? For instance… a Pompeii worm?

A cheetah’s got nothing  on a Pompeii worm. (I mean, fine, a cheetah would easily take one down  if, say, a Pompeii worm somehow found itself stranded on the Serengeti. No contest there. I’m speaking more ontologically.)

Team Pompeii Worm | Photo credit: Greg Rouse, ARKive

Team Pompeii Worm | Photo credit: Greg Rouse, ARKive

 

These guys live in the deep sea in hydrothermal vents. The end of the worm that sticks out in the water has to endure near-freezing temperatures in the frigid water of the deep ocean. So? Lots of organisms live in the deep ocean. The really cool thing about Pompeii worms is the end of the worm that’s in the vent has to contend with blasts of hot water that can be as high as 80 degrees Celsius, or 176 Fahrenheit. How does it survive in this environment? Most animals would poach themselves within seconds, yet these worms thrive in such a hostile environment because of bacteria that live on their bodies that help to regulate their temperature!

Admit it: that’s cool. Or hot. (Whatever.)

How did we discover Pompeii worms? Well, Guided Inquiry guided us to them! The whole process was important, but because we leveraged the power of the first three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – for this unit, the students were able to explore some carefully curated resources about animal adaptations and make notes on different adaptations and animals that have them. In this way, the boys were exposed to a vast array of animals that they might not know about, and successfully carry out their research. Rather than designing the project around teacher-led discussion on adaptations, the boys discovered the concept on their own and built knowledge themselves.

The provincial learning objective for this Grade 4 science unit was: “All living things and their environment are interdependent.”  The instructional team – the Grade 4 teachers, our wonderful Inquiry resource teacher and myself – decided that the students should learn about how different environments can affect the adaptations that animals have developed to survive. These would be independent projects culminating in an animal “fact file” with a labelled diagram and paragraph.

 

Fact files on display. Photo credit: me

Fact files on display. Photo credit: me

 

We started the OPEN phase by projecting a panoramic Google maps photo of Dinosaur Provincial Park in our neighbouring province of Alberta. This park looks very different from our own local temperate rainforest, so we had the boys brainstorm and discuss questions about the environment there. What kinds of animals might you find there that you wouldn’t find in Vancouver? Why? We then went out to our wooded area to take photos with iPads. This OPEN activity got the boys thinking about how environments can impact plants and animals.

We timed this project around the boys’ first overnight outdoor education trip, which became their IMMERSE phase. They spent two days at a local outdoor centre, where most of the programming revolved around adaptations of local flora and fauna. Full disclosure: I did not attend. I stayed warm and dry, but from all accounts, the experience was highly IMMERSive!

After they returned from camp, we set up the EXPLORE phase. Instead of letting the boys go nuts on Google, or wreak havoc on my painstakingly arranged 590s shelves, we gave them only one option: a brilliant website from BBC Nature: Animal and plant adaptations and behaviours This site has an exhaustive list of adaptations, with an easy to read description for each and multiple examples of organisms. We put the boys into Inquiry Circles and had them browse the site, noting down on a specially-created worksheet any animals or adaptations that they thought were interesting.

Because this BBC site has such an exhaustive list of adaptations, and because we gave them free range to browse the site, the boys were learning about everything from behavioural adaptations such as swarming, to feeding strategies like kleptoparasitism! Thus, one young man discovered the Pompeii worm, neatly filed away under symbiosis. His curiosity was piqued. What the heck is a Pompeii worm? (Probably what you were thinking at the beginning of this post!)

After a couple of sessions exploring the BBC site, we helped the boys review their notes and IDENTIFY an animal they really wanted to learn more about, and to write a strong research question about it beginning with “Why” or “How”.

From there, we provided more curated resources for GATHER: the BBC site again, ARKive, World Book, and in some cases, reliable websites that I vetted for those boys who chose an unusual animal with scarce information available.

They CREATEd their fact files and we SHAREd with a big celebratory class session involving small-group informal presentations and a gallery walk of all the files. Finally, the boys were EVALUATEd on the science learning objective as well as a self-assessment on the whole process.

The results? The boys were so motivated and excited each week when they came to the library. The learning was student-centered with each boy striving to answer his own question, instead of following a list of criteria from the teachers. Those pesky note-taking skills were a breeze to teach, and the science learning objective was hit out of the park (ask one of our Grade 4s about any possible adaptation – they know them all!)

Those are all very noble, altruistic goals for the betterment of our darling students. Allow me to be selfish for a moment – of 48 projects completed there was not a single one on cheetahs. If that’s not a career highlight, I don’t know what is.

 

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…

Singing a New Tune

A.B. Westrick here. I’m the author of BROTHERHOOD (Penguin Young Readers). If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing and speaking about GID, I might have said, “Huh? GID, what? Guided Inquiry Design? You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Brotherhood COVER ARTNow it’s 2016, and boy am I singing a new tune. I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. I’d especially have welcomed it in history classes, which I generally found to be dreadful. Having to memorize dates and names of dead white guys and strategies that won or lost wars? Spare me. Please.

But I’m not going to post here about history, not really. Only kind-of. I write fiction—not the first outlet that comes to mind when educators talk about GID. But as it turns out, my novel inspired two middle school librarians and a 7th grade social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA, to plan a dynamic GID unit. Next month—on June 25, 2016—during the AASL Awards session at the national ALA conference in Orlando, that team is going to receive the Collaborative School Library Award. Go, team!

So, how did it come about that fiction inspired their GID unit? Well. Read on. For today, I hope to make you curious, just as GID encourages you to do with students during the “Open” stage. Check out my book trailer (only 53 seconds long):

And if you want the full experience of the “Open” stage of the Carver Middle School unit, read chapter one of BROTHERHOOD. (Here it is at Amazon.) I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the “Immerse” stage and the rest of this GID unit, but if you’d like a sneak-peek, check out this “Blendspace” page. (I also link to the “Blendspace” page from the “Teachers” page of my website.) The Carver team posted everything there, including parental permission forms.

In my next post I’ll go into detail, and you’ll see that the unit was rather involved. The students loved it. But when it occurred to me that some schools wouldn’t have the resources to do the whole unit, I developed a scaled-down version that’s essentially a writing workshop based on GID. And history. Yes, I have to come back to history. (My book is historical fiction.)

WestrickABIn my third post, I’ll talk about the writing workshop, and you’ll see that it’s not about teaching history as much as it’s about getting students excited to ask their own questions about history. What I especially love about GID is the way it encourages students to lean how to learn. More tomorrow…

Final thoughts from Connecticut

Challenges

Right now, there are some challenges that I hope to work on over the next year or two.

First, my schedule is a fixed schedule, meaning that all my classes come one time per week for 45 minutes, without their teacher. I do have a few blocks that are free and I use those for collaboration whenever possible. Also, because I am in one school 3 days a week and the other school 2 days, I often miss team meetings, etc. because I am simply in the wrong building that day. This makes collaborating more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

Some teachers and I have really worked to make collaboration work. We have planned together (sometimes electronically), had me start a unit in the library, they take it from there in their classroom, and back and forth until it is completed. Sometimes we have been able to use my free blocks together and then doing different parts in library and in the classroom. At other times, our tech integration specialist has started the unit in the classroom and then worked with the students and me in the library. It’s really helpful to have one person who can be in both places. This spring, our technology teacher and I are working together, so that I am doing the first phases and he will help students with the sharing part. We enjoy a challenge! But I have frequently talked with my administrators about moving to a flex schedule that would allow for better collaboration and student learning.

A flex schedule would also eliminate the problem I often have of seeing classes only once per week. This makes it very difficult for students to really maintain a focus on what they are learning. Instead, I would love the ability to meet with a class every day (or similar) until the project is completed. Sometimes, like last year when I missed 7 Mondays in a row due to snow days and holidays, I have classes that simply miss entire projects. Again, not impossible, but difficult.

Working with my K-2 students, another challenge is simply that many cannot read or write very well yet. Technology has provided many work-arounds, such as using PebbleGo or Worldbook which will read aloud to them, using pictures and having me dictate their words, and our latest love – Seesaw.me which allows students to type or draw a picture and then record their thoughts. I do want to be sure that they are having a balance of using both print/paper and technology, so that is constantly on my mind.

 

Further wonderings

Makerspaces and STE(A)M are very much a part of many librarian conversations these days. I very much want to carefully consider how Guided Inquiry Design can support student learning.

In addition, with the new NGSS and Social Studies standards being adopted, our curriculum director and the rest of our technology and information literacy specialists are looking to see how GID complements them.

Finally, I wouldn’t be a librarian if I didn’t talk a little about the books to use! This morning on twitter, the post was about a 2nd grade teacher’s Top 10 Picture Books to Introduce Units of Study, and I thought, “How perfect!” There are some books that just beg to be used to get kids thinking. Curating lists of books like this is another way that I can help get an inquiry unit off to a terrific start!

It has been such a pleasure reflecting on my own learning and work with Guided Inquiry Design this week. I am very much looking forward to reading the future posts! I will be attending CISSL summer institute this summer with a team of teachers (woo hoo!) and am thrilled to be able to really dig deeper myself into GID and how to create the best learning opportunities for my elementary students.

Many thanks —

Jenny

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.

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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!

Looking Forward in Connecticut!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come later this week and Go HUSKIES!
Jenny

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

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