Marrying G.I. and MakerSpace

One of the best things about Guided Inquiry is that it allows teachers to allow students to “think outside of the box”. Common Core and many other education initiatives eliminated the ability for students to learn at their own place and in their own way. Guided Inquiry allows for creativity, and self-paced research with the child in the driver’s seat of their learning. With this model, the teachers and librarians guide and encourage students to feed their curiosity and creativity. When we allow students to inquire and create in this way their engagement and learning skyrockets.

The second grade students and teacher at the school where I serve as librarian embraced the Guided Inquiry process when they were investigating Presidents and First Ladies. The student engagement was incredible. Some students said they had never read, learned, and written as much as they did during this unit of study!  The inquiry circles allowed students to share what they found interesting and inspiration about our past Presidents and First Ladies. They shared similarities between the Presidents and made connections that might not have been made if a traditional research approach had been used for this unit.

Once the students had completed the Gather Phase for this project, I read What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanock Piven. We discussed the collage-like illustrations and made connections with the materials he chose in order to create several of the President’s portraits. The students used the ideas from this text to brainstorm a list of objects that connected with the President or First Lady they had learned about during the unit. Many students brought things from home, however, I provided many miscellaneous items for them to use for the Create Phase. Our MakerSpace tasks for the month of March was to create President/First Lady portraits. Guided Inquiry and MakerSpace are a match made in heaven. I was very pleased with the growth I saw in students throughout this unit. They learned to take notes instead of copy information from a resource, and they learned how to discuss and share what they had learned with their classmates.

Students could choose to create a collage or pen an “I AM…” poem about their chosen historical figure. Several students chose to complete both tasks. Their products illustrate a small portion of their learning. Below, you can see some examples from the Create Phase of the Presidential Guided Inquiry Unit.

Jamie Johnson, Elementary Librarian, Norman, OK

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