This is where we are now.
In the coming year there will be two grades who have gone through a Guided Inquiry Design unit. I will be working with 3rd Grade teachers to introduce the process to a new set of students. 4th grade will implement at least two units with the students who participated in the animal classification unit. The 5th grade team does not have a unit planned at this time, but my aim is to target that grade level in August to plan a Guided Inquiry Design unit. This will allow students to stay familiar with the process they learned in the Native American unit. I will also conduct a unit with 2nd grade because I know that teaching team will readily jump into this design process. My advice to you is approach a grade level that you know will be willing to learn the process with you (that is what my 3rd grade team did).
When I look at this progress I realize that we will have gone from conducting our first two GID units last year, to having done no less than six in the upcoming school year. My school wouldn’t be able to continue this growth if we had not started somewhere. If you haven’t jumped into the GID process I encourage you to give it a try. My favorite Oklahoman, Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” If you are like me the right track brought you this far, now we’ve just got to keep moving through a purposeful implementation of the GID process. We can do it!
The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless. The students have taught me so much. As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners. When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens. I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood. The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement. They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why. This is at the heart of lifelong learning. The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people. If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run? That’s the goal for me.
When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time. This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders. While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments. These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students. As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first. One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year. Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations. This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.
One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time. To do it properly, GID takes some time. It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation. I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams. At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day. In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks. Here is the deal, though. It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class. When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class. We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit! We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products. There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.