Aldine ISD Online Resources Cultivate Guided Inquiry!

This year I am attempting a new Guided Inquiry project.  I meet with fourth graders in the computer lab two days a week for an hour for inquiry based lessons that are planned with the Guided Inquiry Design model.

The first lesson I have designed and implemented is one stemming from a State of Texas 3/6 grade reading list called the Texas Bluebonnet program.  The Texas Bluebonnet Program publishes a new list of books from a wide range of genres each year.  Students in 3-6 grades read at least five books and then vote on their favorite at the end of January.  The winning author is honored at a luncheon at the state library conference and a group of students are invited to present the author the award.

One of the books on the list this year is Space Case by Stuart Gibbs.  The introduction in the book is a letter to the reader that welcomes them to the first permanent human habitation on the moon.

I used this letter/introduction as the Open to our first GI project.  I then had students spend a few minutes thinking about what it might be like to be sent to live on the moon.  We opened a Google Doc and students jotted down notes, thoughts, ideas, and questions.  Must not forget the questions!

Boy were the questions, thoughts and ideas good ones!  As was the enthusiasm from the students.  At first the students weren’t sure what to write and so, one by one questions started coming out.  I would answer their questions by saying something like “Wow, that is a great question, write it down!”  I also did some of my own wondering on my paper; things like I wonder what it’s like on the moon…do they have a day and night.  I only put a few on my Google Doc and that sparked the ideas, thoughts and questions.  I also was sure to say, “These are my thoughts, I’m sure most of you have different thoughts than mine.”

I then introduced the students to 3 of our district online resources such as Britannica, Scienceflix and PebbleGo.  I had them look at the sites; explore what was on them about the moon.  It was so thrilling to see the students excited about using the online resources rather than “Googling it.”  I fully support Google; don’t get me wrong, but our fourth grade students need a place to go to find legitimate, readable sites on their level.

I can’t tell you how often the students get stuck in Immerse and Explore phases when they use Google, at first.  I watch them Google a phrase, often misspelling it, find thousands of websites and proceed to open then close them without reading the first word.  They move on to open, close, open, close over and over and then get frustrated.  Or, I see students immediately go to images to learn about, say natural resources and spend hours looking at photos without actually learning any specific details.  Therefore, it was exhilarating to see them excited about their searches and the information they were oohing-and-ahhing over.

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The next class period, I introduced three more district and state sponsored online resources and allowed them to continue exploring to see what they could find about the Moon and potential life on the moon.  On the third class meeting, I showed the students a clip from Discovery Education of a modular unit that has plans for use on the moon.   I allowed students then to continue exploring other video clips about life on the moon, life in space, space travel, etc.

We again logged into Goggle Drive to take notes and document questions and thoughts as they were exploring.  Students were motivated to ask if they could go back to a previous website, or if they could try new ones, and were excited over the details they were finding.  I had students ask if they could use specific information databases they knew about that I didn’t introduce, or explore others listed on our district online resources page.  The energy for this project is high, even for students who don’t necessarily gravitate toward space or space travel topics.  Equally exciting, when I gave them 10 minutes of “free exploration time in district sponsored games and resources” for working so hard, more than half of them chose to stay in the online resources tab to either explore other interests, or continued exploring space topics.

When reflecting upon the lesson with the first group of students, I added a step or two here and there with the next group.  I wanted to have students record their thought processes and add a reflection piece as well.  Therefore, we had a mini-lesson about logging into our district Google account, opening a document, brainstorming thoughts, adding a title, etc.  Students used a Google Doc to jot down thoughts, ideas, questions, and reflections before, during and after exploring online resources.  So, see I do support and use Google for education!

We have not finished this unit, our next step will involve a minilesson on academic honesty and citing sources.  We then will begin to actually search for answers to our questions, now that we have a good idea of which databases and online resources will be most helpful.

Tara Rollins on twitter

GID-Making a Difference in Teaching & Learning

My name is Kathryn Roots Lewis. I have the incredible good fortune of working in Norman Public Schools (NPS) in Norman, Oklahoma as the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology.  I work with a forward-thinking and strongly committed staff who believe in keeping student needs at the forefront of all decision making around educational initiatives.  NPS serves approximately 16,000 learners grades PreK-12.  We have 1,100 certified educators, including 26 teacher librarians. The District consists of a diverse population of learners in 2 high schools, 4 middle schools, 17 elementary schools, and an alternative school. Fifteen of our schools are identified as Title I.

A few years ago the Norman community overwhelmingly passed a multi-million-dollar bond issue that included a large technology initiative focused on more devices for students. As the district looked at device implementation, we explored at how teaching and learning would and should change in a device and information rich environment.

As a district, we recognized that all students require unique skills to participate in our changing global society.  We agreed that we want to provide students with opportunities that nurture innovation, collaboration, exploration, and deep learning.  We wanted students to have learning opportunities anytime, anywhere. We knew this vision was dependent on educators who model and implement progressive, research-based instructional pedagogies.  So we began a journey to investigate what pedagogies worked best for our district. One such pedagogy, Guided Inquiry Design, affords students the tools to ask essential questions, make decisions, solve problems, create new knowledge, share information, and evaluate their learning and knowledge.

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After reading Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School,  I sent the book to our Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.  I will never forget her call the next day, “I loved this, it’s how I wrote my dissertation.”  To which I replied, “And probably how you should buy a car.”  We proceeded with a book study with the librarians and one with the district’s curriculum coordinators. Last summer (2015) we contracted with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, one of the authors of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School, to do an overview with all district administrators. Dr. Maniotes returned to NPS last fall to conduct three 3-day institutes with teacher librarians, gifted resource coordinators, site instructional coaches and some teachers from every school in the district.  These institutes were so empowering and meaningful for teachers.  The units created collaboratively by the teams were each unique and innovative.

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We asked the teams who attended to implement the unit they developed in the training at their school before the end of the school year. We provided a Google website that included a lesson depository, pictures, resources, and a shared calendar.

Now it really gets fun – our 24 schools produced over 40 units last spring!  The shared calendar enabled district staff to visit different phases of the units.  Several central office staff members took hundreds of pictures, provided feedback and accolades to the incredible professionals who created and implemented the units with students grades PreK-12.  We also disseminated a survey to all teacher participants.

More about what I saw and learned later this week…

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Reflections on a Unit

Today I’m going to tell you about a unit I worked on with 4th Graders that was designed to address the societies of Native American tribes and their influences on American culture and history.  I am not going to focus on the steps we went through in the Guided Inquiry process as much as I am going to explain what worked and what didn’t work. As a reference point this unit was designed during a three day Guided Inquiry Design Institute by Kennedy’s Gifted and Talented Teacher and myself.  Classroom teachers were not able to attend the institute due to scheduling constraints.

What Didn’t Work?

Obviously, the main obstacle for this unit was not having a teacher on the design team.  Classroom teachers did provide a standard to work with and we knew they would willingly run with us as we dived into the process.  As soon as we began planning the unit we realized how crucial at least one classroom teacher was to the development of this process.  One, for their content knowledge.  Two, for their understanding of where it would fall in the curriculum.  Three, for the buy in they would be able to get from the other teachers on their team.  The inability to have a teacher as part of the design process was a stumbling block throughout the unit, because we were never able to fully articulate the process well.

I would say the second obstacle to this unit was in large part me.  You see, I tend to want to go all out with something and try everything to make the process smoother.  For this unit that meant providing composition notebooks as a tool for student to keep their inquiry log/journal in and later rolling out a similar format via Google Docs while using Google Classroom.  Students never really latched onto the electronic log/journal, so it wasn’t too big of a hindrance.  However, in hindsight I see that it was something that was not needed.  I also admit to not utilizing the journal effectively.

What Worked?

Partnership with the Gifted and Talented Teacher.  My colleague and I did a lot of team teaching on this project, tag-team style.  She was able to push into classes and teach how and what’s of the create stage.  In addition, we teamed with teachers during the gather stage to help guide students along the way.  She was a phenomenal asset and it was great for both of us to see how we could work together in the future.

Willing classroom teachers.  Even though the classroom teachers were not able to attend the training or help plan the unit they were always willing to do what we asked. The teachers also provided ample opportunities for students to research and work on their products during the create stage.  We could not have done this unit without their support.

Information Literacy Skills.  Students were able to learn the proper way to cite sources during this project.  They were able to learn how to “search smarter, not harder” using boolean operators.  They were able to navigate EBSCO using the Explora database and found article were helpful for their research questions.  Let’s be honest here folks, that is a difficult task for most of us and 4th graders were able to do that successfully multiple times.  I often overlook how integrated information literacy skills were in this unit, but reflecting on all that students were able to do with them is one of the best things I am taking away from this unit.

Immerse.  The immerse phase was my favorite part of this unit.  As part of immerse we were able to visit the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the nearby University of Oklahoma campus.  The GT teacher was able to acquire a grant to the museum so that we did not have to pay admission for any of our students or chaperones.  This museum has an exhibit called the Hall of the People of Oklahoma that the sole focus of dovetailed superbly with our content standard.

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We were able to download resources from the museum and have students paste them into their journals that they were able to keep notes on as they were guided through the exhibit.  Students were also given journal prompts in the exhibit and given the chance to reflect as they explored the exhibit.

In addition to an exhibit students were led through a fifty minute class called, “The Bison Hunters: Native Americans of the Plains.”  We had never been through a program at the museum and were skeptical of how this would go.  We had nothing to be afraid of.  During this program students were able to explore specific items in a group and tasked with identifying what they were made out of and what their possible uses were.  Every student was engaged in this activity and they were all excited to see what their items were.  Following the exploration time and comparing to identified materials the museum educator led the classes through what each item was and what it was used for.  Students were able to create lists in their journals that they referenced during the rest of the process.

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Student examining artifact.

 

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Items identified by museum staff that students used to compare to their artifacts.

Google Classroom. Google Classroom was used to push artifacts and links to students during this unit.  This was an effective way to get feedback from students as well.  I used Google Classroom to provide templates, links and survey questions.  Students completed surveys as an evaluative tool for their projects as well.

The extended learning team. The staff at the Sam Noble Museum knocked it out of the park in the classes that they taught.  The exhibit was exactly what we needed to provide greater background knowledge for many of our students. Our district technology integration specialist, Dr. Lee Nelson also provided templates for students to use in the create phase.  This help let the teaching team focus on helping students create from the template and not to worry about how to create the template.

Moving Forward

This post has been difficult for me to write because there are things that went exceptionally well with this unit, but there are many things that the team will improve upon when we implement this unit again in the future.  At this time two teachers from the grade level have since been to a Guided Inquiry Design Institute so that will be extremely beneficial as we go back and identify what we need to change in this unit.

I am glad that the students and teaching team were able to go through this process.  I’m glad that students were really forced to think and struggle with content in a new way and as a result create new knowledge from that struggle.  I’m glad that I struggled with this process because it makes me look forward with instructional tools that I can use to make future units better.  I’m glad that my GT teacher was able to such an integral role in the design and implementation of this unit because now she is my Guided Inquiry Design BFF.  I’m glad that the classroom teachers from this team were able to see the process before they attended a GID Institute because they were able to make connections to what we did as they learned about the the process.

-Stacy

@StacyFord77