Instructional Strategies

Hello again everyone!  As a reminder from Monday the units I am discussing were 2nd and 4th grade units.  The 2nd grade unit was tied into the social studies curriculum through researching national symbols and monuments.  The 4th grade unit also tied into the social studies curriculum through researching the Northeast region. Today I’m going to identify instructional strategies that I used in during the units that I believed made them better.

Wagon Wheel

In the Wagon Wheel discussion round there is an inner circle and an outer circle with the same number of people (adjust as needed if you have an odd number and make one group a triad each time the wheel rotates).  Members of the inner and outer circle will begin by facing each other. The instructor will then tell either the inner or outer circle to move a certain number of spaces to the left/right. When they stop they will have arrived at a new discussion partner.  You can alternate inner and outer movement to keep everyone active. Full credit goes to Leslie Maniotes for introducing me to this technique. Now that I’ve explained how to conduct a Wagon Wheel let me discuss how I used it for instruction.

With 4th grade I used the Wagon Wheel strategy as our grounding/anticipatory set the day after students identified their question in the Identify phase.  I split the class in half and instructed each group what part of the circle they would be. There was a little confusion, but everyone figured out where to go pretty quickly.  My first prompt was for each partner to tell the other what their inquiry question was and why they chose it. Then, I had students rotate five spots. My next prompt was to have students identify their inquiry question and why the chose it again, but this time the partner had to provide some feedback in the form of a question or clarification.  Students rotated once more and again identified their question and provided positive feedback on something they liked about the question. While these questions didn’t delve into deep academic thoughts they did allow students to think about their own questions more, which I believed developed a better awareness of what they truly wanted to know. In addition to this students were able to gain greater understanding about what other questions were being asked in the group and how they might relate to one another.  While I used this technique to open a class session it could also be used as a closing activity to discuss what was or was not working well.

Clock Appointments

To set up clock appointments have students take a small piece of scratch paper (post-it note size works well) and fold it in half.  On each half of the paper have students write 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 and 12:00 (or whatever time works for you). Be sure and instruct them to leave enough room for someone to write their name after the time.  If I have 3:00 open and you have 3:00 open we will trade papers and write our names on each others papers. Then, our papers will be returned and we will make appointments with other students. Students will mill around making appointments until they have evert slot filled.  I tell students not to use the same person twice and usually let them set up times with me. After demonstrating how students will make appointments I let them set up their appointment slots. Be sure and tell them to keep their pieces of paper because they will need to know who to meet with.  After the appointments are set up we resume instructional/research time. As we progress through the session the instructor will ask students to meet with a specific time. Please note, you do not have to go in a certain order and can use the strategy as much or as little as you need. I rarely make it through all of the appointment times students have set up in a session.

With 4th grade I used this strategy during the second session of the Identify stage.  At this point students had identified a question, but I wanted them to be able to begin their research by having multiple access points to items they could begin researching.  Students wrote their questions on index cards and I modeled how to do a concept web of sorts on the card. From here, students developed ideas for answers they would need to find to their inquiry questions.  During this session I would pause at certain intervals and have students meet with a certain appointment time. These appointment times were used to discuss frustrations, offer advice, give positive feedback about something you liked and to talk out what students were thinking.  One thing that I want to note is that the classes I met with hat 27-29 students each. By using this strategy students were able to use work time in a more focused manner. I think this happened because they knew they would be meeting with someone soon to discuss something and because they were able to m-o-v-e, move.  


Learning Centers

2nd grade students participated in learning centers in the school library during their explore and gather phases.  During each of these phases there was an informational book station, a Pebble Go station and a Symbaloo station. The Symbaloo station required finding websites that were applicable to the topic. Students kept a inquiry log to identify the name of the book or article they looked at.  By working in centers 2nd grade students were able to focus their time in 10-20 minute intervals (I prefer students to have 15-20 minutes in each station). During the rotations they were able to explore many national symbols and monuments. When they were in the Gather phase their research, being much more directed meant that sometimes a specific center would not work for them if there was not information.  For many of the sessions there were three adults with one class because we had student interns. This allowed us to work more directly with students.



The thing I love the most about Guided Inquiry Design is the embeddedness of co-teaching.  However, co-teaching does not always come natural. I want my teachers to interject, clarify, delve deeper with me all the time that we are teaching.  I also want our students to get the most from each of us that they can. Sometimes you will be working with a teacher or a teacher-librarian that you have this type of natural rapport.  Most times though, I think we have to develop the trust to do this with one another. I want to identify how I did this with the 2nd grade team and I think you’ll see how it is a good fit.  During the centers activity I explicitly said or asked what group each of us would work with. By each of us taking a group we were working with 6-7 kids, instead of 20. This is co-teaching!  We were all being responsible for a smaller group of learning. During the Identify stage the classroom teacher and myself split the class in half and developed questions using the Question Focus Technique.  We were able to all stay in the library and use two whiteboards. While students generated questions the teacher and myself served as the scribe, and wrote down exactly what was asked. After students were finished asking questions the two groups switched places to review what the other group asked and then we met back together.  Again, by splitting the group we were able to narrow our focus with a smaller number of kids. That is co-teaching! By demonstrating to the classroom teacher (and vice-versa) that we were able to do the same things with very similar results we created a trusting instructional relationship. 

We all use great instructional strategies everyday, but I am 100% accurate in saying I don’t use all of the great instructional strategies I know every day.  What are your best instructional strategies?  My favorite one I’ve used this week in a non-GID activity was a quick write with third grade.  They wrote such good little stories on post-it notes guys!

Feel free to tweet me a question if you’ve got one and share an instructional @StacyFord77 be sure and use the tag #52GID if you do.


Mirror, Mirror: Reflecting on Reflection

As I started the process of reflecting on my experience with GID for this final blog posting, I was also reminded of how valuable the same process is for our students.  Taking the time to reflect on our experiences is when the opportunity for growth occurs. There is a reason so many districts moved to the Danielson evaluation framework, because it is meant to be reflective.  And while not always used in that way, the goal of the Domains is to get teachers thinking about their work and its impact on students. For our students, the practice of reflecting through peer conferencing, journaling, or teacher conferencing and to be provided the time to actually identify or implement change can help students see the value in the process.  

Reflection also allows us to address the fact that research can be an emotional roller coaster for our students, as explained in Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari, 17).  It is with that in mind that we have a responsibility as practitioners of the Guided Inquiry Design model to recognize where our students are emotionally in the process and provide the necessary opportunities to reflect and grow as they navigate through the research steps.

While many research models include a step at the end which focuses on evaluation, the GID model has the evaluation and reflection process built in throughout, in the form of inquiry journaling.  The inquiry journals can be used for the researching components as well as for reflective responses. This journaling opportunity gives teachers to chance to see where students may be stuck or struggling with the process, as well as allow students to step back from the research and look at the process as a whole.  To do this, my lesson planning often includes a reflective closure activity or journaling opportunity. At first, students are often resistant to the idea of having to reflect, but as they become more practiced and confident in their understanding of the process, they are more likely to share honest experiences. And, we owe it to our students to not only help them become critical thinkers about the world around them, but also about themselves.

The introduction of Guided Inquiry Design as a research model has had a direct impact on my daily instruction.  I look at each research project a bit more critically and in co-planning have found myself taking time at the start of the planning process to give my co-teacher a quick overview of the steps and what the goal is for each one.  But sometimes, without really reading the literature about the process, I find that the nuances which exist in each step are missing from the understanding of a general educator. You can develop all the projects you want using the process steps, but if students never interact with each other, discuss their excitement, explore a variety of options in various formats or receive guidance from their teachers, it is then that students miss out.  I have worked with teachers who create lots of graphic organizers or worksheets aligned to the GID steps and curriculum, but don’t take the time to plan out what the group work looks like, or what the reflections will be, or the teaching strategies for questioning. And, that is where we as librarians or GID teacher practitioners can step in. The steps are not a set of boxes to check off, but rather an instructional support system which gathers best practices and integrates them into the inquiry process.

Best of luck as you continue to integrate the GID process into your work and in your planning! Your students will thank you…one day 🙂


Sarah Scholl

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland





Kuhlthau, Carol C., et al. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited, 2015.


How do you incorporate reflection into your GID planning?