It’s all about the questions

Our school has implemented two big and a couple of smaller GID units this year.  My dear friend Paige Holden has already blogged about an 8th grade research unit that our school planned and implemented as a result of attending the GID training.  I would like to talk about one component of a larger unit that I will never forget.

 

Civil Rights Movement:

 

We did a large unit with 7th grade English teachers.  In the interest of not taking credit for someone else’s work,  I feel obligated to say that the librarian at our school, Kristin Lankford, and 7th grade English teachers did most of the planning of this unit.  My role in this unit was primarily in implementation.  

 

7th grade students learned about the civil rights movement by asking difficult questions.  During the identify phase of the unit, 7th grade English classes came to the library to read articles about different events that happened during the civil rights movement.  We had between 90-105 students who rotated through 10 stations over the course of 3 days.  Each station was equipped with several copies of an article about a particular civil rights event.  Each station had a large piece of butcher paper and markers. Students read the article with their group and wrote down facts, questions, thoughts, impressions and comments about the articles.  All adults that were there (we had some teacher illness, library meetings, and various other stuff that pulled us in different directions) wandered between groups and entered discussions as needed.

 

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The three classes weren’t used to being mixed together, so the kids were pretty excited.  It took longer for them to settle into class than I thought it would.  The first day of the identification wasn’t quite as productive as the other two, but we as educators learned a lot and were able to make some adjustments that helped.  We erased or crossed out all of the illuminati symbols that the kids drew, looked for naughty words, and gave lectures about the appropriate use of markers (they shall not be thrown like darts at your neighbor).   The next two days were quite incredible.  The comments and questions that the students had were so mature and interesting.  My favorite question was “Who came up with racism?  Why not white people rather than colored?”.  I read it over and over and over and over.  I felt like if one kid gets it to this extent, that we had done a great job.  I continued reading and there were many great comments and questions with such depth.  

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We left the comments and questions out for all three days so all of the classes could read what other students were thinking.  Here is an example of what the papers looked like at the end of the third day. (The back is completely full, too.)

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As you can see, some of the comments were reporting dates, names, events, etc., but for me, I think the beauty lies in the questions.

Terri Curtis

The Great GID Experiment

As mentioned in our last post, our journey into guided inquiry began this year with a unit on Mesopotamia. Social studies was a new subject for Cara, one of our seventh grade teachers. Cara was especially interested in trying a new approach to teaching- specifically one that was more project-based and student-centered. Enter the perfect solution: guided inquiry.

Using Harvey Daniels’ framework outlined in Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action, our Mesopotamia unit was structured as follows:

  • Immerse students into the topic
  • Investigate to narrow the focus of the research
  • Intensify research and synthesize information
  • Go public and demonstrate learning

During the immersion process, students were presented with the essential question, “How did the developments of Mesopotamia influence modern-day civilizations?” Besides flooding students with various resources during this stage, the focus was on modeling. The inquiry approach was not only new to us, but it was also new to the students. Students needed extensive practice and guidance with learning how to read and interpret different mediums including texts, videos, and websites. Various reading strategies were modeled by Peggy and Cara, and students used the “I see, I think, I wonder” template as they completed guided practice during this stage.

We also introduced a number of web tools such as Padlet and Read and Write– tools that not only encouraged collaboration, but they also allowed for differentiation.  We created anchor charts by  Factstorming , which were displayed on classroom walls throughout the unit. New information was categorized and added as discoveries were made. Students did a Gallery Walk  towards the end of the unit as a means of sharing new learning. It was exciting to watch students come to those ah ha! moments and make connections all on their own as they uncovered more about this ancient civilization.  Check out our video below to explore the fun students had during their gallery walks.

After a week of intense immersion, students were grouped into “inquiry circles,” and they had to decide on one specific research topic. Within their groups, they broke their topics into subtopics with each student responsible for only a small portion of the research. I spent time in the classroom talking to students about proper research techniques; this included narrowing a topic, using library databases, citing sources, and evaluating websites. Using Lucid Chart, each group created a collaborative concept map to identify and narrow their topics into specific parts. Since we are a Google Apps for Education School, it was easy for students to share notes and graphic organizers with other group members.

 

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In the next phase, intensifying research and synthesizing information, students worked individually to find information on their specific subtopics. In some cases this is where the roadblocks occurred. Despite the fact that our students have access to a wide variety of subscription databases, ebooks, print books, and other web resources, a number of students struggled to find substantial information on their chosen topics. For example, one student was interested in learning more about the invention of the wheel, but as we looked in various databases, books, and other reliable web sources, we found very little information.  Not only did we learn more about the topics that did not lead to enough information, but this experience also led us to teach lessons on the importance of choosing narrow topics that were not too narrow. In this instance, we guided students on how to choose slightly broader topics that led to enough relevant research. We also introduced the students to Instagrok, an interactive concept map, which some students experimented with as a research tool. The research process itself definitely took more time than we had originally planned, but we stayed strong and figured out creative ways to work around the problems.

Finally, we were excited for the final stage: going public and demonstrating learning. As they worked to create their projects, I talked to students about the importance of digital safety and copyright as it pertains to adding music and images in multimedia presentations. I showed students some of my favorite copyright-free image sources and explained the importance of using others’ material legally especially when publishing something online. During the planning process, students came together in their groups and shared the information that they uncovered about their chosen subtopics and addressed the original essential question. As a large group they needed to decide how they would collaboratively present their information. Students had the choice to create an ABC book using Lucid Press, present a live talk show, or produce a Powtoon. What was most interesting was seeing how students worked through the creative process with very little structure or direction from us. They decided what information needed to be shared, and they decided how best to share it. Students were empowered to not only have complete ownership over what they researched, but they also had control over what they shared with the world at the end.

 Click here to view an example of one group’s ABC book. 

As you can imagine, we all learned A LOT from this process. Since this was the first time doing a true guided inquiry project for each of us, there were times when lesson plans were adjusted, more time than planned was given, and many changes were made along the way. Ultimately this project turned out to be a success as so many different 21st century skills were embedded: creative thinking, problem solving, authentic research, using various technologies, close reading of multimodal texts, collaboration, and evaluating different research resources, to name just a few. Our excitement caught the attention of the administration who continued to support the move to add guided inquiry into an eighth grade science unit on fracking and a seventh grade science unit on the human body systems.

In our next post we will share more about what we learned and what we modified in our future units. While it is important to celebrate our successes, it is also equally important to acknowledge our mistakes and how we have grown as a result.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

Wrapping it all up

Previously, I shared the beginning stages of our GID project, Challenge and Change.  At this point, students are now in the process of gathering information about their topic, hence the GATHER title for this stage.  This is the part where I as the librarian am the most valuable resource to our students.  As a part of this process, I am also able to meet the demands of my own curriculum though the implementation of mini-lessons.  Each mini-lesson addresses things like database use, keyword searching, Google searching, citing sources and even basic note taking.

After gathering, students begin the steps to determine how they want to share out their information in the CREATE step.  We provide the premise to students that they will be presenting an award to the person they selected for their research.  They are to come up with the name of the award and their research will support the reasoning behind it.

The most practical thing we did in planning for this was to make a very specific requirement.  Their award presentation had to have a VISUAL and a VERBAL component, and they could not be one and the same.  This prevented the painful situation where we sat and watched 100 PowerPoint presentations in a day.  In fact, this year I have banned the PPT completely!  The only option for PPT of any kind is that students could use a single slide to create a digital poster board, or award.  Otherwise, students could create or present however they want.  They can create a poster and give a speech, have a single award PPT slide and read journal or diary entries, they could write a song and make a CD cover for an album, create a webpage and read a poem…the possibilities are endless.  These final projects are then SHARED in our Challenge and Change awards ceremony.  Finally, we have students reflect on the process as a whole, in the EVALUATION step.  Here students respond to a digital survey through Google Forms which asks them to reflect on the process and provide feedback.  We are not that far in our current project, but here are some sample responses from last year. They have not been edited 🙂

What was the BEST part of the project for you?

“I enjoyed researching Bethany Hamilton because she is such a huge inspiration.”

 “My Favorite Part was wrinting the Speach. I like to write. So when I was able to Express my opinion on Malala Yousafzai It was really fun to write.”

 “I liked how we had the freedom to pick what we wanted to do for our project. We could make like actual awards and word clouds to express our freedom with this project.”

 “Putting together the project!!! I liked it because you could put it together and then you could admire it. I hope we can do it again VERY soon!!!”

 What was the MOST challenging part of the project for you?

“When we had chose our 6-7 questions then answer them. Cause if we did not have a response to that question we would have to think of another question.”

 “The most Challenging part was when I had to find the research to match my questions so I would have to read a lot of texts to be able to get the information I need .”

 “The most challenging part was probably writing the speech. I learned so much information that i had to pick and choose what i wanted so i didn’t have 4 pages of stuff!”

 “Choosing my person so many people have inspiring storys and I wanted to explore all of them but sadly i could only could choose one”

As you see in the graphic below of the process, it may seem odd that the steps are not in an evenly spaced track from bottom to top, or even a nice neat row, but it is quite intentional (based on the research of Carol Kuhlthau) and accurate when you look at how students respond to the process as a whole.  You can think of the placement of each block as the excitement level of your class as you being the process.  Personally, my students start off apprehensive, get more excited as we begin the immerse stage and then get overwhelmed a bit when they start to explore.  However, once they narrow their topic their motivation and excitement increases and grows throughout the completion of the assignment.

As the subtitle of this site specifies, this truly is a way of instructing that will change how you teach.  I am so happy to have been able to participate in blogging this week and to have been exposed to the GID process with instruction and guidance from Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes and Ann Caspari.  Each of the research projects which I now develop with teachers, all mirror the process above.  I know that changing how teachers teach a project can be difficult to influence, however my strategy has been to slowly incorporate elements, piece by piece each year.  As teachers see the motivation and excitement of their students grow, as well as the quality of their final product improve, they are more willing to let me slide in a new step.  It is not just the steps which are so valuable, it is also the small strategies and tools which are present in the process which also work to empower students and provide them with the opportunity to reflect on their own thinking and learning, which is truly a life skill.

Good luck to each of you as you being your own journey of discovery with Guided Inquiry Design!

Cheers,

Sarah

 

Lets start at the very beginning

A very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you research you being with OPEN, IMMERSE, EXPLORE.

As promised, I am back again!  This time, though, to share out the project the team of teachers and I developed at the CISSL Summer Institute in the Summer of 2014.  Now that we have returned to school, I have spent this week jumping head first into a GID project with four sections of 6th grade ILA.  Being my former stomping grounds, it is nice to work with that curriculum again, but in the context of library studies.

The thematic unit is Challenge and Change.  Students read a variety of short non-fiction narratives, and stories about characters who have experienced challenges in their lives and brought about change because of those challenges.  For the project, we are connecting directly to the curriculum, by having students explore a person who has experienced a challenge and then how they were able to create change.

We start OPEN with Kid President, who is an engaging and entertaining young man with a debilitating disease, which students soon learn about.  They explore a series of resources (embedded below) and focus on answering questions connected with our theme of Challenge and Change.  The Cornell notes sheet for this exploration can be found using the link at the bottom of the page.

Create your own Playlist on LessonPaths!

 

The next step is IMMERSE, which we spend a class period working on.  Here students annotate three resources about freedom riders.  This allows students the opportunity to do some close reading and really begin to see some different options for people they could research.  Here, in the past, we have had access to a local member of the community who was a freedom rider, who would take student questions and answer them.  I have since lost that contact and am currently brainstorming some other ways we could incorporate a “field trip” style experience for students in this step.

Currently we are working on the EXPLORE step of the project.  Yesterday, students spent time in small friend groups (they will transition to thematic groups tomorrow), exploring a variety of possible research topics.

This is the most important step in the process, and the one which is left out most frequently!

Truly, it is worth taking the time to allow students to explore the possibilities for research in this step, your brain will thank you when you go to watch or grade the final products.  This step is where your students begin to get excited about their research, because…wait for it… they have CHOICE in who/what they select for their topic.

Today I repeated this line multiple times as we began to transition to the IDENTIFY stage:

Make sure you are selecting a topic you really like, not because your friends like that person, or because it will make you look cool, but because you are going to be truly passionate about them.  You will have to spend the next week with this person, you want to make sure you like them or you will be miserable and it will show in your final product.

You see, it is not enough to just say, here is a list of topics, pick one.  The value in EXPLORE comes when you allow students a “taste” of each of the options.  Instead of choosing blindly from a pre-selected list, students are able to explore the options, watching multimedia content, skimming articles, flipping through the pages of books, and reading book jackets.  Students then use an exploration chart to record those topics which catch their attention and drop those which are not of interest.  (See Explore page in the link below for the chart).  Using the chart prompts students to think more clearly about what they like and don’t like.  Because of this, they are able to select a topic more effectively and efficiently than with previous processes.

As the librarian, it is my job to curate the resources necessary for student success and guide them to the appropriate sources for information.  Purchasing titles which are connected to the theme for our collection, as well as pulling those for the exploration step and gather steps allows us to have some control over the topics, yet still makes students feel like they have some choice during the process.

Here is another quick video of what students were doing on Tuesday of this week for their Explore stage!

Throughout we have been using several of the strategies which get students up and moving and sharing their ideas as well as reflecting on the process.  We use a daily quick write to help students connect with the research as well as make connections to prior readings.  We also apply the community/city partner strategy which has students pair up on paper ahead of time and then when we say, “today you will share with your Decoy or Warrior partner,” they know exactly where to go and it is a big time saver.

More to come of our project as we continue with 52 Weeks of GID!

There are so many resources for this project that they would fill more than just a blog post, so here are the additional resources related to this project.  Please feel free to use under the share and share alike license 🙂

In good company

Greetings fellow GID-ers, or those new to the process!  I will be posting this week and giving you all a taste of Guided Inquiry from tiny, snow covered Havre de Grace, Maryland.  This last week has been quite interesting, as we (teachers and students) have been home bound due to the mega snow storm, which incapacitated the Baltimore-DC Metro area with 30+ inches in about 24 hours!  So, now I am frantically scanning my calendar to determine how we will fit a two and a half week Guided Inquiry project into about 7 class periods…but first, introductions.

My name is Sarah Scholl.  I am a school librarian at Havre de Grace Middle School in lovely Havre de Grace, Maryland.  The town is situated right at the mouth of the Susquehanna river where it meets the northern Chesapeake Bay.  This small historic area is best known for its decoys and small involvement in the War of 1812 when locals harassed the British, who then burned down the town before heading to Baltimore.  History lesson, over…I promise!

Havre de Grace Middle School serves grades 6-8 with approximately 540 students from the surrounding community.  We have a racially and economically diverse population, with 40% of our students receiving free and reduced meals. I have worked at the school for the last eleven years, the first six as an ILA teacher and for the last five as the school librarian.  Curriculum development in library media and its integration into all content areas is an interest of mine which has lead to my work with Guided Inquiry Design.

My first exposure to Guided Inquiry was when I attended my first AASL conference in 2013 (Hartford, CT).  Wanting to learn more about the options for conducting research with my students, while continuing to make it more engaging and meaningful, I selected the session (Letting Go: Challenging Students to Achieve Through Inquiry) which focused on the use of Guided Inquiry.  The four educators who presented were enthusiastic, motivating and so passionate about GID that I could not help but want to run back to my own school and jump in head first!  Then, they said the magic line…this was developed at the CISSL Summer Institute.  In that moment I knew I had to attend this Institute.  I promptly begged my principal to fund my GID adventure and was able to convince two teachers new to GID to join me.

After that, I began to see articles about Guided Inquiry Design in, what was then, School Library Monthly.  I saw articles from that same publication on GID written by Carol Kuhlthau, whose research started it all.  And as I continued to read more about the process, I knew that GID was the direction I wanted to go with the research lessons I was developing for my students.

I was lucky and my principal approved the funding to send myself along with a 6th grade ILA teacher, and special educator to the CISSL Summer Institute!

CISSL Summer 2014 Sarah, Leslie, Ann, Sarah (Me), Mary and Carol

It was an amazing and incredible experience, which I will explain in more detail in my next posting, but it has truly changed how I look at teaching research and begin the planning process with my co-teachers.  When we arrived I found that I was in good company with others who were just as passionate and motivated as I was to take a second look at how students are impacted by the research process and prepared to re-envision research instruction.

This week I will also be in the process of starting a GID project called Challenge and Change with a new co-teacher, and a new group of 6th grade students.  I will be sharing our process, things I have learned along the way and resources, which are readily available for your use.  Please feel free to comment and join in the discussion as the week continues.

How were you bitten by the Guided Inquiry Design bug?