What now? Would we do it again?

After our GI unit, we had time to reflect. I used the last entry of the student journal to get student feedback about the GI unit. Since it was new for both me and the students to do GI in math, I wanted their reflections. What I found most interesting is that the high performing students were the ones with the most push back on this unit. They are so used to doing so well in math; they listen, memorize, critically think and solve problems. However, this is all when they are given the questions. This time, since they were the ones creating the questions, it was hard for them to understand what to do. That freedom scared them and it was a bit of a struggle on both ends to get them motivated for the unit. On the other hand, students who are normally less engaged enjoyed the freedom of taking the lead in what they were learning. These students surprised me the most with what they learned and how much they participated. Regardless of the quality of their presentations, the quantity of what they learned was deeper than ever before.

I will be honest, this was the first Guided Inquiry Designed unit and the only one I have done. SO FAR! It was the end of the spring semester and there was not enough time to plan for and create another GI lesson to fit before final review and final exams.

However, in reflecting with my team, we are all in agreement about incorporating Guided Inquiry into our course. (Before all was lost in my mind, I created a notebook of all documents used for this GI unit, including any student work, so that it could be my personal reference when I start to design another unit.) Our first goal/step is to create a unit for our first semester. That way we have one GI unit for each semester that we can work with and tweak as we get more comfortable with the process. In reflecting on my own, I want to incorporate GI into my other courses as well. This summer has been full of a lot of reflection for me as a teacher and my head is full of so many ideas that I want to do for the 17-18 school year. I am so thankful that I have the support of my team, our librarians and the administration to back me up on the implementation of these ideas and lessons.

Sending positive vibes to all of you out there that are wanting to try a GI lesson/unit in your classrooms. There is so much support and already created lessons out there. You just have to jump in and try it. You will be amazed at what your students can do and what you can do as well as a teacher. The impact on student learning is far worth the input of creating this lesson/unit. Good Luck.

Jamie Rentzel,

Teacher of the Year

Norman High School, Norman, OK

 

Guided Inquiry in a High Math Classroom? Really?

Yes, it can be done. We took Guided Inquiry and worked it into the math classroom. But why does everyone seem baffled at the the thought of a math teacher being able to make this work? I think it is what we have always been missing.

How often does a math teacher hear the question, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”  With Guided Inquiry, the students are able to really answer that question. Let me start by staying, I am not one of those teachers that hears this question from a student and then gets immediately upset and irritated at the student. Actually, it is the best question they can ask, because that is the point of school. To teach the future citizens the knowledge and skills that they need for “real life.” Sometimes I have a perfect answer in my back pocket and other times I do not.

Mathematics is really about problem solving. Assessing the situation and determining which route to choose. Should that route lead you down a rabbit hole, then step back and try another approach. Problem Solving and Critical thinking are the top two skills that most all employers are looking for in a new hire. And what better place to learn these two skills than in the math classroom.

Now let me circle back to Guided Inquiry. How did this all start for me? My principal promoted this Professional Development called Guided Inquiry Design and he wanted to see a few teams go to it last summer. After thinking about it for a few days, I wasn’t quite sure what all it entailed, but knew that my Algebra 2 team has always been really strong and are willing to try new things if it is best for our students. So after talking to the team, I signed us up. In the end only 3 of the 5 of us could make it, but that didn’t stop us from going. Of the 3 that attended, two of us were veteran teachers to the school and to Algebra 2 and the other teacher was a brand new teacher, fresh out of college and eager to join the team.

We went to the 3 day PD for Guided Inquiry Design open-minded and after day 1 felt drained. It was hard. Hard in a good way. It really pushed us out of our comfort zone. The three of us tossed around ideas while we sat with lots of Elementary Ed, History and English teachers. We felt like we were on an island by ourselves. However, Leslie Maniotes (the institute leader), Martha and Taryn (our school librarians) were all so encouraging. They were supportive and helpful.

We refreshed over night and came back for day 2 determined to make this work. We picked our topic and started doing our own research, as if we were the students. This was really scary because the students can go so many ways with their questions, and for a math teacher to plan for the unknown, we still felt uneasy.  (Actually, I am pretty sure that we were all uneasy from the beginning of this institute until we finally completed this unit with our students in the spring.) So we stepped into Day 3 and made a short presentation to share with the group and ended up receiving really great feedback from all the other teachers there. We were on the right track, we just needed to be more confident with ourselves and more confident that our students would be able to make this work. At the end of the 3 day conference, we left with a plan for a unit on Sequences and Series. (In my next post I will go into all the details, mathematics and teacher prep.)

For now, I hope I have gotten the attention of some math teachers out there that have been skeptical about Guided Inquiry. Yes, it can be done!

Jamie Rentzel, Math Teacher

Norman High School

Norman Oklahoma

Reflections

Reflection

I love reflecting. I reflect after every lesson I teach, after a full day’s worth of lessons, after finishing a project, after finishing a parenting task, after everything. I truly believe that I can use reflection to improve my teaching and to improve student learning. Here are my “Big thought” reflections on the guided inquiry process.

Collaboration: Collaboration is key. While at the GID Institute, at CiSSL this summer,  I was able to plan with a regular education teacher and the school media specialist. We worked very well together. We all three wanted to be there and had a goal in mind. When you make your GID team, you need to make sure everyone has bought in. You will struggle. We struggled. The regular education teacher had to take the perspective of teaching 150 students per day and what she could do with that. I had to take the perspective of the special education teacher and play devils advocate for my students who may not be comfortable with some of the activities or ideas that we had due to their disability. The media specialist was able to give us a completely different perspective and moderate conversations. This make up was key. We were able to give each other different viewpoints and constructive feedback. We worked no less than 45 hours on this unit, that would only last two weeks.

Challenges: We started this unit on day 4 of school. We started this unit with freshmen. It was very easy to get them hooked. They wanted to write and discuss the concept of balance and how things related. They liked exploring with the stations and working in the room as well as the library. It was great to be able to give them non-math tasks. The students were excited to choose their own topics for researching and making connections. Honestly, the first 7 days were great and going just as planned. Once they had their topic, they struggled. All of the students were able to connect balance to their topic, but found it very difficult to connect it to math. The media specialists, myself and my co teacher all had to work with students one on one questioning them through their progress. It was exhausting. These were probably some of the most inspiration and draining days of my teaching this far. Students wanted us to give them the answers. They expected us to lead them in the right direction. We held strong and let them work through their frustrations. It took an extra day or two for them to actually get facts and information gathered and their thoughts together. Once that happened it was presenting time. We left the options for presentation open, and this lead them to have a lot of anxiety. Many did not want to present. Many did not want to complete a project. Many were so tired of the loosely structured classroom that they were unwilling to persevere. They did though and we came up with some great products.

Rewards: We had several students who would not have been interested in math rapping about math. One student was so very excited that he could use this as an excuse to learn coding skills to talk about a career in coding and how it relates to math and balance. We had students coming out of their shells and presenting. We also had students who were not usually interested in math, that were now excited to come to class. So while the concept wasn’t grasped by all, it had a huge positive impact on the students.

Recommendations: I would recommend this unit to any math teacher. Balancing equations can be used at almost any grade level. I do not recommend doing it in the first week of school. I would say you need to have structure, routine and respect in place before moving on and starting this lesson. Having a “background” of structure and allowing the students to get to know us for longer would have helped tremendously.

Amanda Biddle

High School SPED teacher/ Assessment Coordinator

Fayette, KY

Our Project- Solving Equations

Hello again, and happy Wednesday.

We started our GID unit on solving equations on day 4 of this school year. We knew we wanted to complete a unit on solving equations, and we knew we wanted to set the idea of GI in the student minds from the start.

We introduced this lesson with two co-taught algebra 1 classes. Each class was made up of 26-30 students, with around 10 special education students in each. The class was co-taught by myself and another teacher whom I’ve been co teaching with for three years. We were comfortable enough with the flow of the class and with trusting each other, that we knew we could try this. If you want to try GID with a co-taught class, I highly recommend it. I also recommend it be with co-teachers that are great at planning and communicating with each other.

gid-solving-equations

I have attached ( I hope) the link to the power point that was used for this unit. I started to explain to you guys exactly what we did each day and what made it different, and then realized you should be the ones experiencing it. You should be the ones to look and see if anything catches your eye or interest. Within the powerpoint you should be able to see the notes at the bottom of each slide. These notes kept my co teacher and I on the same page throughout the lesson. These notes also allowed for us to have a place to differentiate and change the plan , like a working document, throughout the entire unit.

Please look through the powerpoint and ask any questions. We have had another class, college prep math, complete this same unit. I would love to answer questions so that you can become comfortable implementing this design in math classrooms. Any questions asked will be answered in Friday’s final post with my overall, super honest, reflection about the unit.

Have a wonderful tail end of the week!

Amanda

 

Special Education and GID- About Me!

Hello GID fans!

My name is Amanda Biddle. I work at Henry Clay High school in Lexington, KY. Henry Clay is the largest high school in Kentucky with about 2, 400 students from grade 9 to 12. I am currently the building assessment coordinator, however I was, and will be again, a special education teacher in our building. I have two lovely little boys, 6 and 2.

I have experience teaching special education in all subject areas in elementary school, special education in middle school, and special education algebra and geometry in high school. I have a passion for working with students who are struggling learners and finding ways for them to learn how they learn best. I believe that each student can be successful if they are given the right tools and encouragement.

I was introduced to Guided Inquiry through my husband, who is a social studies teacher. While completing his masters program in library science, he had the opportunity to study and implement Guided Inquiry. He started with advanced classes and worked his confidence in to the general education, co taught classes. It was through long nights of planning his lessons and unit together that I started to understand how this model of teaching and learning could benefit, my then language arts students who were in special education. I was able to take his knowledge and work with him to form a unit on guided inquiry. That was three years ago.

After my year as a middle school special education language arts teacher, I transferred to Henry Clay high school, and started teaching math as a special education resource teacher and a special education co teacher in math. My first year as a high school teacher, I rarely thought about GID and did not implement any units or lessons as I wasn’t comfortable with how it would be implemented in the math classroom. However, my second year, I was introduced to another math teacher who was implementing at least one GID unit each semester. It was amazing. I was also very motivated to make this work for my students. I attempted my first math GID unit at the end of last school year. (May 2016)

Once the librarians, other math teachers and I started working together and really looking in to GID and how it could benefit our students, we were able to sign up for the GID Institute at Rutgers this summer. We formed a team of 1 math teacher, 1 English teacher, 2 librarians and me, the special education teacher. Going to the institute and working 45+ hours on one unit was exhausting, but worth every minute. I was able to come back this school year, ready to start the year by giving students a new perspective on how they can learn and explore math.

I am excited to be a part of this 52 week challenge.

See you tomorrow,

Amanda Biddle