“Bulldog Brilliance” at its best – Alternative Ed students rock it!

For my final post this week, I will talk about the specifics and how the GID process worked beautifully with the Bulldog Brilliance Lab project.  Recall that the project this class did was to create a lab with video recording and editing equipment and materials for creating.  As I have already stated, I believe that GID is appropriate for all types of learners. This is important and was particularly key because the students in this middle school class ranged in grades from 6th to 8th with varied academic abilities. The flexibility of GID supported this diversity perfectly!

The initial planning work on the Bulldog Brilliance Lab took about 4 weeks.  The guiding unit question was ‘How does creative expression impact the world” and integrated standards from language arts, math, social studies, information literacy, and art. The unit started by bringing students together to discuss what they thought they could do with a lab where they would be allowed to create. Students shared their ideas and visions through a shared writing experience thinking about how this might impact their learning.  To Open, as a group the class looked at student created videos and brainstormed what was necessary to create an actual video.  Open was really an inquiry group activity where students shared freely.  Immerse was a fantastic field trip to the high school to visit the Video Resource Center (VRC).  The VRC is a production studio offering classes in media production.  The VRC also manages the District TV channel showcasing footage about events in the district and happenings at the school sites.  It was a perfect place for our students to learn firsthand about what equipment was needed.  As noted in my second post this week, there was also emotional benefits for our students because of them ‘finding their place at the high school’ making the upcoming transition so much easier.  The field trip also motivated students about the project and they came away with great ideas and a new-found confidence. Explore was done primarily through online resources simply because pricing for equipment could change quickly and the available print resources were limited. This provided the perfect opportunity to really strengthen skills for evaluating web sites!  Using resources curated and organized in Google Docs and websites the students located, they learned more about video equipment, labs, creating stations, and fab lab options.  Identify was somewhat collaborative because students naturally divided and focused on the equipment and the part of the lab that interested them most. There’s that flexibility again – thank you GID! The students consulted another expert from the Computer Lab/Technology Center from the public library to further identify possible equipment and as they Gathered information, it was maintained on a collaborative Google Spreadsheet (see image below). Information included was the name of equipment, pricing, quantity and where the item could be purchased. In this phase, there were several inquiry group discussions about the equipment specifications and the students had to justify why they choose one model over another.

Image 1. Collaborative Google Spreadsheet for Equipment Budget

The Create piece of the project was to work as a team to develop presentations that could be shared when seeking financial support.  In this phase, discussions about presenting etiquette was covered. Students recorded themselves using old Flip Camera’s and what we found was when students watched themselves, many of them said ‘I need to practice more’. Talk about a chance to practice writing and speaking skills!  Sharing was done through presentations and grant writing where students contributed to the final presentation and work.  Students could not be at all presentations and any grants written had to be done through the teachers.  None-the-less, student input was invaluable because it was their vision and work!  Although we did not get the funding to buy new equipment, as the project was Evaluated using ‘what worked, what did not work, and what would you change next time’ questions, students shared that they were proud of their work and recognized that not everything gets funded.  Another really great learning opportunity.

As noted in my earlier post, the lab became a reality through donated and repurposed equipment.  Once that happened video and creating activity was somewhat ongoing. Here are some pictures of student work and production on a promotional video they created for the Pennies for Pasta campaign.  (Pennies for Pasta is a fundraising effort to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.) For this video students created a storyboard and plan to include as many teachers and students in the school as possible – of course only those that wanted to be front of the camera – and then collaboratively wrote the script.  In this project, it was so great to see the camaraderie happening between students.  Some students did not want to be in front of the camera so they opted for ‘behind the scenes’ roles and they cheered each other on through the completion.  Because we did not get new equipment, the class partnered with the VRC so they could use really good quality equipment for recording and to learn Final Cut Pro for editing.  The video aired on the school channel and we were so proud!

Image 2. Pennies for Pasta Storyboard

Image 3. Collaborative Google Slides writing video script

Image 4. Student ‘interviewing’ cook for video

 

Image 5.  Recording footage for video in Bulldog Brilliance Lab

We observed growth in students in their self-confidence, their ability to use information in an authentic way, their ability to work collaboratively to solve a problem and share information, and their improved overall behavior- and this is attributed to the GID process.   To bring this all back around I believe deeply that GID is for all learners and that it provides natural learning scaffolds in every phase no matter the academic ability of the student.  By the way, I also believe that GID is great for special education students – but that is perhaps the topic of another week.

I hope you enjoyed reading my work and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. As I close my blogging for this week it is with great thanks to Dr. Leslie Maniotes for this opportunity. This is a fantastic chance to reflect and share and I am so glad I did it!

Buffy Edwards, PhD, MLIS

Energetic Educator and Online College Professor
drbuffyedwards@gmail.com, buffyedwards@sbcglobal.net
@nd4buffy

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.

 

Battle Spheres: Open, Immerse, Explore, & Identify

Good evening, fellow GID lovers! I’m back again today to (finally) tell you more about the unit we are developing for Norman Public Schools 5th grade science curriculum. You’ve met our team, read about the importance of a collaborative culture, and heard my thoughts on GID at the district level. Today, I walk through the first four phases of our project so you can see exactly what we’ve planned.

(Note: In this post, you will see shots of our planning team’s notes. If you’re curious, purple items are to-dos, red is the objective, and blue is the actual student activity. If you’re NOT curious, go ahead and make fun of my color-coding.)

OPEN

Our team notes on OPEN

You’ll see we have titled our unit “Battle Sphere”; this unit is being developed around the 5th grade Oklahoma science standards, looking at how the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere interact. To really hook students into the topic, our planning team will create a YouTube playlist of videos depicting these interactions. For example, students will view videos of landslides, weather events, eroded landscapes, and more. Then, the class will have a discussion about the videos, answering the questions:

  • What did the events have in common?
  • Can you think of ways that nature interacts that weren’t in the videos?
  • Has nature ever made changes in your world?

We hope that by showing students these dramatic interactions in videos, they will develop an interest in the topic and begin to form some questions about interactions between the spheres.

IMMERSE

IMG_7117 (1)

After they’re hooked, we will begin to immerse students in the content by watching two videos that will help make the spheres and associated vocabulary more accessible and interesting:

Four Spheres Part 1 (Geo and Bio): Crash Course Kids #6.1

Four Spheres Part 2 (Hydro and Atmo): Crash Course Kids #6.2

After viewing the videos, students will build a glossary of new terms they heard in the videos. This is an example the the flexibility I talked about yesterday. Depending on the students, teachers, and resources at the individual site, this step could look very different. Students could do this as a class, in small groups, with the teacher, or with both the teacher and librarian. I love that we are building in adaptability to customize the unit for every school. Where possible, we are encouraging teachers to build this glossary in Google Drive, but no matter how it is done, students will be able to access the glossary throughout the rest of the unit.

 

EXPLORE

IMG_7118 (1)

Using an inquiry log, students will explore through a carefully curated resource menu. They will track which resources they viewed and the corresponding questions that were sparked. In my personal experience with Guided Inquiry, I have learned that it is difficult for elementary students to foresee the scope of their research from the beginning phases. If we ask them to explore open-endedly, they can easily get off track, and they don’t understand the benefits of this phases as older students might. Assigning an inquiry log or journal in this phase is crucial to the success and engagement of younger students.

 

IDENTIFY

IMG_7119 (1)

As you can see from the picture of our notes, this phase isn’t quite as fleshed out as the rest yet. To identify which two spheres’ interactions are most interesting to them, the student will use an inquiry journal to elaborate on what they logged in EXPLORE. To facilitate this, our planning team will come up with specific questions for a journal prompt. After evaluating the journal responses, teachers will assign students to inquiry circles based on their area of interest. The inquiry circles will consist of students who are interested in the interactions between the same two spheres, so there will be six inquiry circles. We are allowing for flexibility here, but we discussed how fun it would be to have all 5th grade students in one school divided into these six inquiry circles.

And there you have it: the first four phases of our plan. What do you think? What do you see that you like? What would you change?
Kelsey

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