Concepts and Questioning

Yesterday, I explained how I spent last semester introducing the Guided Inquiry Design model to a cohort of teachers at my high school. Today is all about showing student work related the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify phases of GID inquiry-based learning. I’m going to extend my discussion about using questioning as part of implementing GID by showcasing a unit my library service learners completed. I’m also going to show how one English teacher in particular worked to implement concept-based research assignments as well as questioning into her curriculum.

I am fortunate that my school offers media center service learning as an elective unit of credit. Students fill out an application and we take teacher recommendations. The students who participate learn about running a library, fielding reference questions, researching the future of libraries, you name it! My fellow librarian Karen Hill and I have developed a unit focused on learning about social injustice. For the Open phase in this unit, our students watched 2 shorter documentaries posted on the New York Times website (Check out the website, you’ll get lost in the possibilities!). We kept a shared Google Doc of questions in order to provide scaffolding at the beginning of the unit. For the Immerse phase, we created a gallery walk with 13 stations featuring various examples of social injustice in the world today. Students read from print books, articles, infographics, watched clips from documentaries, political cartoons, statistics, all sorts of fun stuff! They had to create their own lists of questions about each topic as they rotated through each station.

And there are so many opportunities here for embedding information literacy skills. Have students practice citing sources as they create questions, and have them question the sources themselves. Introduce them to authoritative resources they won’t know about, such as the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States! Once students have experience with the gallery walk approach, start having them select the sources instead of the media specialist!

I cannot emphasize enough how effective we have found the stations activity to be in my experience with implementing GID. Students can move through the stations at their own paces, ideally, or you can use a timer if more structure is needed. Students respond honestly and find topics they are genuinely interested in. The great part about this particular group was that once we entered the Identify phase, only 2 students out of 10 chose a topic that was included in the 13 stations! They branched out and found other topics, which was inspiring to watch.

We had one particularly great success story this past year with a reluctant learner. She didn’t like to read at all, and it was hard each day to keep her from texting the entire class period. She truly blossomed during this project. She chose to research teen suicide because, as she told us, she didn’t know anything about it. She was engaged in her research and in her proposal wrote that maybe our high school should establish a help hotline.

Remember that in GID you do not begin a unit with an assignment; you begin a unit with an open invitation to learn! We didn’t introduce the assignment until the Identify phase. Don’t let students get stuck on the mechanics of the assignment; you’d rather their energy be spent on the content!

Now, back to the awesome English teachers I work with! In our cohort, we focused on designing concept-based research opportunities driven by student-led questioning beginning with the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. One classroom English teacher, Sarah Plant, re-envisioned her traditional Great Gatsby research paper (by the way, Sarah recently had to move away. We’ll be sad about that for a long time). While students might traditionally research aspects of the 1920s, she realized that assignment might fall under the “bird unit” categorization. While it is, of course, still necessary and worthwhile to know and to understand 1920s culture for successful reading of that novel, we realized that there might be more effective opportunities for authentic learning and research by moving to a more concept-based assignment. Plus, students are too tempted to simply copy and paste information with “bird unit” assignments!

For the Open phase, Sarah had the students watch some short videos and they wrote down questions while watching, then sharing as a class. Sarah next came up with 3 concepts related to The Great Gatsby: effects of social media, effects of poverty (and the American Dream), and effects of money on happiness. (While choosing the concepts ahead of time provided scaffolding, students were allowed to research their own concepts discovered throughout this process.) Karen and I then searched through our databases for information related to the concepts. We printed relevant articles, infographics, found print books, encyclopedias, etc. (For example, try “How to Buy Happiness” from the Atlantic, April 2017). We then designed a gallery walk activity for the Immerse phase. Students were given time to visit each station as a group. The groups designed questions based on each station’s focus.

Most of the groups wrote down superficial questions, which gave us an opportunity to model asking effective questions. We also monitored the students while they worked in groups, giving guidance and suggestions as needed.

Sarah shared that moving toward researching concepts required more advanced researching from the students. This move required more synthesis skills from the students, and they genuinely learned something because they chose their topics. She saw improved essay structures and stronger thesis statements because they weren’t just trying to summarize historical information about the 1920s.

Sarah also had the students include questions about their topics and learning goals on the grading rubric:

This part of her project touches on the last stage of GID, Evaluate. I spent a good deal of time in our cohort meetings emphasizing the importance of self-reflection throughout the entire inquiry process. I shared some strategies I used in my own classroom to help students evaluate not only their skills but also their behaviors. Creating specific goals for each assignment keeps students from feeling overwhelmed, particularly the reluctant learners.

In my next post, I’ll share how I worked with Jena Smith to embed some more in-depth information literacy skills during the Gather phase of her research project, which gave me an opportunity to use an amazing article by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci! Stay tuned, again! (I’m sorry y’all, I have too much to share about GID and I just can’t help myself. Anyone who read this far, I love you.)

-Jamie Gregory, @gregorjm

Sarah Plant,

It All Starts With A Question…?

Greetings from South Carolina! My name is Jamie Gregory, and I am a public high school media specialist in the Upstate of SC at James F. Byrnes High School. I taught high school English for 8 years (including 1 year of French) and just finished my 4th year as a media specialist. I completed my MLIS degree in 2012 from the University of South Carolina, and I was introduced to the GID model during my time there as a graduate student. While I also learned other inquiry models, I found the GID model particularly effective and applicable because it is research-based. Also, Kuhlthau’s ISP model is life-changing. Reading the research on the emotions and behaviors underlying the research and learning processes really changed how I approached the research process while I was still a classroom English teacher.

South Carolina recently adopted new ELA standards, specifically dedicating a strand to inquiry-based learning. Let me tell you, we are doing some great things in SC! Major props to the standards committee for recognizing the proven effectiveness of inquiry-based learning. The state standards document even goes so far as to explicitly state that inquiry-based learning should be incorporated by all classroom teachers, not just ELA:

Can I get an AMEN?! (or whatever you’d like to shout enthusiastically!)

So, given all this change, my district decided to offer a professional development cohort called Inquiry in the Classroom. When the head of professional development asked for volunteers to lead it, I knew I wanted to jump in so I could also promote the role of the media specialist in inquiry-based learning.

I led Inquiry in the Classroom, a professional development cohort of 18 English, Social Studies, Science, and special education teachers grades 9-12, from January to May of 2017. We met once per month, and I knew I wanted to share the GID model with these teachers. I also knew that I wanted to have teachers begin to implement aspects of inquiry-based learning throughout the semester so that we could have brainstorming sessions at our meetings to share successes and opportunities for improvement.

My posts this week are going to feature my collaborations with 3 English teachers at my school: Sarah Plant, Jena Smith, and Michael Jett. They are truly awesome educators and I can’t thank them enough for working with me this past year.

I spent a lot of time during the cohort sharing resources about the importance of questioning. (I also highly recommend the book Cultivating Curiosity by Wendy Ostroff!) Meeting students in the Third Space so they can choose topics and ideas that interest them and affect them personally is so important, and educators can help them discover new topics that students didn’t even know they wanted to learn more about! By the time we get our students in grade 10, some students have already “gotten by” with being passive learners. So when they are asked to be curious, ask questions, and engage in real-world issues, they truly aren’t sure what that looks like.

But don’t worry, we always have a few tricks up our sleeves!

Idea #1!  One activity for creating questions comes from a very effective professional book, Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: maximizing your impact by Judi Moreillon. Chapters are organized by 7 strategies, and I focused on the chapter titled Questioning. Visit the website to see the online extras available for this book! (Trust me, there is so much good stuff here you will feel overwhelmed by what to try first!)


In our March cohort meeting, I had the teachers watch a brief video about coal mining today.

I chose this particular video as an example to use with students in a science classroom because information literacy skills can be embedded along with science content knowledge (have students question the source of this video! Challenge them to find a video from an opposite bias!).  In order to model how you might use the above handout in the classroom during the Open and Immerse stages, as a cohort we brainstormed some questions we thought we had about coal mining today before watching the video. Then while we watched the video, each person wrote down questions. After the video, we wrote even more questions after sharing! This activity works really well to show students the recursive nature of questioning and learning. Then the bottom of this handout addresses metacognitive skills as well as information literacy skills! So wonderful!

Idea #2! For middle and high schoolers, there are a number of wonderful nonfiction series to help students research argumentative topics. We particularly like At Issue, Critical World Issues, Current Controversies, Opposing Viewpoints, and Thinking Critically. Some of these series provide questions as chapter titles, which we used with some classes. Some databases like SIRS Issues Researcher also provide questions related to various topics which can be used for scaffolding. Partner up with your media specialist to learn what resources you already have in your school library! These resources can effectively be used during the Open and Immerse stages, particularly if you have your media specialist set up a gallery walk with stations.

In this screenshot, SIRS Issues Researcher (a ProQuest product) suggests various subtopics related to Military Ethics and represents those subtopics by questions!

In this screenshot, you can see how SIRS Issues Researcher provides a few critical thinking questions when students click on a topic. Don’t miss the essential question in the background!

I will feature ideas and student work from Sarah Plant and my library service learners in tomorrow’s post to continue the discussion about questioning, and I will include how we focused on developing concept-based research assignments. Stay tuned!

-Jamie Gregory @gregorjm

Musings on GID vs DT

Last post, I talked briefly about the relationship between Design Thinking and GID.  Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that relationship and look at how these two models can complement each other.  As we will see, each model has its strengths that can support the other assuming that the context is right.  One thing to keep in mind through this discussion is that the origins of each model are significantly different and so the emphasis is different in each.  Guided Inquiry came out of the recognition that student research projects were ineffective and often caused students a range of unintended emotions.  Carol Kuhlthau’s research looked at identifying how (or if) students were engaged at various points of the research process and looked at ways of increasing that engagement.  Almost exclusively, the typical medium for demonstrating one’s knowledge was the research essay.  The Design Thinking model came from an attempt to understand how folks who make new things work.  This looked at trying to codify the often messy process that someone building anything from a car engine, to a lemon juicer, to a prosthetic might use.  While these are very different processes – and one might argue that the way one person operates within a research or design process might be very different from another carrying out the same task – there are enough parallels to make the discussion fruitful.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  After all, it is a very good place to start!  Both Design Thinking and Guided Inquiry begin with open collection of information.  This begins with a broad spark from some experience that kicks the process into gear (Open in Guided Inquiry, the design brief in Design Thinking).  Guided Inquiry breaks this process into three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – and allows students a period of loosely guided wallowing in the topic in order to build genuine connections and interest.  We recognize that the topic is likely brought down from on high by the teacher, but every attempt is made to ensure that the student sees a real connection with their own life.  Likewise, Design Thinking uses an Empathy phase.  This is a very human-centred process that builds understanding of the needs of the users of whatever is being designed.  This will include interviews and other forms of research that simply build an understanding of the problem.  While this phase is typically human-centred, I find that there is also an element of research here as well.  To understand other’s needs and to truly understand the problem, there is likely some straight-up book or web research that digs into the concepts behind the issues.  For example, if one is building a prosthetic hand for someone else, one needs to understand how the hand is going to be used (an office worker might have different needs than a rock climber), how materials affect the way the hand can be used, and perhaps what other designs may have been used in the past to address similar issues.  Of course, an understanding of the bone and muscle structure of a normally functioning hand would be immensely useful!

Next, comes the definition of the problem.  In GID, this comes in the phrasing of the ultimate question being addressed and may look like a driving question, a research question, a thesis statement or any number of carefully wordsmithed structures.  In Design Thinking, this is the definition statement and can come in the form of a question that starts with, “How might we…” or it can look more like a statement that reads “User X needs Y because of Z.”  In both models, we spend time building broader understanding in order to come to a point where defining the problem is effective.  There are plenty of stories of designers who, after an effective empathy phase, define the problem in a way that the end user had never thought of, but on reflection, addresses the true nature of the problem better than the use ever could have.  The solution is something far different than was originally expected.  Likewise, a teacher might have an idea of what directions a student might take a GID unit, but until the personal connections with the topic are made, the ultimate direction of the projects can be surprisingly different!

Once we have our definition, the paths of the two models diverge a little.  In Guided Inquiry, this is where we get down to the work of gathering and digesting information for our research.  In Design Thinking, we can think of the Ideation phase as a process of gathering as many possible solutions to the defined problem as possible.  In GID, the ideas come from others; in Design Thinking, the ideas come from ourselves.  You might think of Gathering as focusing your thinking while Ideation as a process of widening your thinking, although that would only be partly true.  The purpose of Ideation is to consider all possible solutions and then pick the “best” one for the next phase.  While the process is somewhat different, it points in the same direction.

The fun begins in the Create/Prototype phase.  Both of these are where the learning manifests itself into some creation, whether that be a written paper or physical product.  Both involve the playing with ideas that are a result of the previous phases and articulating thinking in a way that will ultimately be shared with others.  It should be pointed out that in both models, the apparent linear sequence is somewhat of a fallacy and I would say, no more a fallacy than between the gathering of ideas and the articulation of them.  An essay writer will find that there are remaining questions that need to be answered and will go back and gather more information as much as an engineer might get to a certain point with a prototype and realizes that the idea simply won’t work and needs to go back to the ideation phase.

Finally, the work needs to be shared and reflected on.  In GID these are the Share and Evaluate phases.  In Design Thinking, we test the prototype and that process, in all likelihood, involves testing against the users’ needs and sharing it with those users.  GID promotes the idea that this sharing should not be the private handing in of an essay to the teacher but sharing learning back to the community of learners in order to extend and deepen everyone’s learning.  In Design Thinking, that sharing is more dependent on the situation.  If the design problem has been presented by a single person, then maybe the sharing is back to that individual.  Usually, there is a larger user group that the prototype is tested with.  The essential point in this is that the purpose of sharing is different.  GID shares to deepen community understanding while Design Thinking shares in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

It strikes me, as I write this, that GID is might be typically good for thinking about concepts while Design Thinking might be good for thinking about things.  I’m sure that this is a drastic over-simplification, but there is some truth in it.  GID can be used to solve problems by building something, but the nature of the research is primarily conceptual.  You might be trying to understand people’s perspectives or the reasons behind something.  The results of that conceptual research might be manifest in writing, physical objects or virtual simulations, but the concepts are at the focus.  In Design Thinking, the thinking is more about how we make something to solve a problem.  It can be a subtle distinction, but the emphasis is important.  The kinds of things one thinks about when building a solution to a problem might be what materials are best to use, how we connect those materials, what function our object needs to perform and how the design serves the function.  Clearly, there are concepts underlying all of this, but the concepts serve the process where in GID the concepts are the process.  Again, this is likely a drastic generalization and many examples can likely be brought forward that show the weakness of this argument, but I think that there is some use in at least exploring this comparison.

Once we understand the strengths of each model and how they relate, we can use that knowledge to build even more powerful units in particular areas.  Of course, there will be situations where one model stands on its own brilliantly and would likely be made weaker by forcing ideas of the other into it.  But there are situations where the combination is even more powerful.  The research ideas behind Open, Immerse, Explore and even Gather can underpin the Empathize piece for those Design Thinking processes that require more academic underpinnings.  Likewise, the ideas behind Empathize can support more socially based GID units.  Of course, given that Design Thinking is often about building a solution to a problem, some of the prototyping ideas can help similar Create phases of GID.

Next post, I’ll look at some questions and issues that I’m having with both models.  It seems that the more that I explore, the more questions I have!


Marc Crompton

Stories are the fabric of our lives.

Stories are the fabric of our lives, whether we are reading a story, watching a story, dancing a story, painting a story…stories weave our lives together in ways that bring meaning and connection to our lives. Stories show us how much we share common experiences even with backgrounds that come from very diverse cultures.

There is something magical about stories that connect us to one another. In the English Language Learning (ELL) classroom students come together from diverse backgrounds and cultures, each with unique stories and unique languages. As beginning or emerging speakers ELL students have little or no understanding of English, never mind having an understanding of the language of the peers in their classroom. An ELL classroom can easily consist of ten different languages. What do they have in common? Story! As teacher, librarian and storyteller, we wondered how we might use that common factor of story to build speaking, listening, writing and information literacy skills. Our journey begins with a story….

I reach my hand into a bag, in the bag I find a smooth rock and my story begins….

It was a cold dark night. The air was heavy, fog rolled in off the mountains into our small fruit farming and coal mining valley. Rooftops were swallowed and the lights seeping through windows made the houses look like giant jack-o-lanterns dancing in the swamps of a misty bog. In my house we were headed to bed. My brother went to his bedroom and snuggled in under his heavy quilt. My mom shooed my sisters and me to bed. Our bedrooms were in the basement. Dad wouldn’t be home for another 8 hours. He was doing the graveyard shift at the coalmine where he worked to supplement his struggling fruit farm. I could say the night wasn’t all that different than any other school night, early to bed, early to rise, except it wasn’t. In the wee hours of the morning a scream pierced through the darkness that shrouded the house. I woke and struggled to figure out where I was. The house was full of smoke. The scream was pulling me up the stairs. Stumbling through the darkness, tears streaming down my face from the sting of the smoke, I saw my mother dragging my brother out into the hallway. His eyes were glazed over, he was not breathing. My mother’s scream changed to commands, “open the doors, the window” My sisters and I sprang into action. “Pray” my mother said. We did that too. I grabbed a blanket, the frigid January frost swept quickly into the house through the open doorway and windows. I was shaking. Not sure if it was from the cold or from the fright of all that was happening. I began to give my brother mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mom was on the phone, calling the ambulance, calling grandma, calling our pastor. Somehow she needed to get word to my dad who was down in the pitch-black belly of the coalmine. The rest is kind of a blur, lights flashing, being spirited away, with grandma? Honestly it was hard to put it all together and make sense of everything that was happening. Would my brother be ok? Would he live? Would he be the same if he did come back? I couldn’t sleep. I wondered. I prayed. I think I even cried. All that fear, all that uncertainty lifted when Wayne walked into grandma’s house the next day. The first words he said to me? “Boy, I knew you were full of a lot of hot air!” We laughed, we hugged, we cried. But this time I was crying because he was the same old joking, funny guy that had gone out into the night under flashing lights just hours before. “So, I bet you are wondering what this rock (I hold up the rock that I pulled out from the bag that started the whole story), has to do with the story I just told you”. Well my brother is all grown up now and he likes to collect rocks. He finds beautiful rocks and he takes them home and he polishes them up. He finds rocks that don’t seem like anything at all until he takes them home and finds their hidden beauty. And then? He gives those rocks away. He carries a pocket full of them wherever he goes, and if you happen to be in a restaurant where he is, you might see him walk over to a table that has a young family and he asks the mom and dad, “Can I give your child this rock?” Children love his gifts and parents walk away feeling special. I hope someday you are in a place where the rockman is and he sees you and gives you a rock as beautiful as the one I pulled out of the bag. And if you do get that chance, you will know the story of the rockman!

This is an example of the OPEN phase of our Guided Inquiry Design Unit. Storytelling becomes the loom in which we will weave together our entire unit. There is a high level of student interest. Students share their own narrative stories following this model lesson. Each student is asked to bring 3 personal items in a bag we give them, from which they will drawn and tell their own personal story.

We spend a great deal of time in the OPEN phase as we want students to have ample time to understand the meaning story has in each of their individual lives, the lives of their families, and the culture from which they come, as well as the eventual person they will be partnered with. We also need to build trust for these new language learners. We need to build trust for us (the teaching team) and in each other. These are students who are working hard to acquire a new language and they need the confidence that they are in a trusting environment. Through the focus on story we are able to bring understanding that stories show us how we are alike and how each of our stories enrich the lives of others. This understanding is the opening for learning about other cultures and countries. Over the course of our unit our students will thread this understanding of story into the research they will do about the country and culture of the partner they are teamed with.

Some tools we use during this OPEN phase:

Story starters:

  1. Narrative Bags with objects to connect to a personal story
  1. Story Starter Worksheet (optional to the objects bag):

Look at your given photo, and then briefly (1-2 words) answer these questions off the top of your head. Use your answers to help you connect the photo to a personal event in your life.

  • Who or what is in the picture? What are their relationships to each other?
  • What activity(ies) are happening in the picture? Is someone going to or from a location?
  • What emotions are happening in the photo?
  • What season is it in the photo?
  • What would the scent and sounds of this picture be?
  1. Brainstorming about yourself:



  1. Narrative short stories are used to read to the students.(Amy Tan’s Fish Cheeks is a good example).
  1. Vocabulary Logs

We wrap up this OPEN phase with a Narrative Story Festival. Parents are invited and this is the first time the storyteller (our extended team member) is introduced. She is invited as a special guest and tells her own narrative story. She will return several times over the course of the unit to present workshops for students as they dig into their own cultural stories.

Later this week, I will share the collaborative process and the other phases in the unit.

LaDawna Harrington

MHS Librarian

Millburn, NJ

Making it Personal (Part 2)

In my last post I spoke about the value of Third Space at the Identify stage: allowing the personal interests and passions of the student to find synchronicity with the curriculum. Allowing students the opportunity to select an area of personal interest, and to allow them the choice of presentation mode goes a long way to ensuring engagement, a quality product and a wonderful sense of achievement and improved self-esteem for the student.

So can “Third Space” be applied to the Open phase? At this beginning phase, surely the “Hook” to engage all students with an item of personal interest would be impossible to find. And isn’t that the aim of Immerse and Explore: to allow students time and space to find their area for study? So, is “Third Space” relevant during Open?

To me, finding the “Third Space” during Open is all about asking students to become personally involved with the topic. They are not asked to find a specific area of interest yet, but engaging activities in this phase still employ the same principle: of connecting the student to the topic, and making it “relatable”. I have tried to employ this principle when working with a Year 5 (10 years old) class who were studying the Gold Rush in Australia in the mid 1850s. The objective of the unit was to consider the effects of the Gold Rushes upon the people involved: the miners, their families, those who plied a trade on the fields, the government etc. This clearly required a level of personal empathy; as this was somewhat out of their immediate experience (!), I tried to think of how to engage them with their heart, and not their head. So I devised an activity where they would adopt the role of a miner. We provided groups with a map, and a box of goods. Some boxes contained useful items, others not so; some contained a miner’s licence, others not. We spray painted some rocks gold, and “buried” them in an area of the school (in long jump pits, inside tyres, behind posts etc. They were then given 20 minutes to try their luck! I posed as the Licence Inspector; those without licences were sent to gaol! Some found little, others a lot; some stole in order to get rich! (just like the real thing!) The students were amazingly engaged, and most of all, during our de-brief, they demonstrated that they had a very good understanding of some of the difficulties the miners encountered, and the feelings that they might have experienced. They were now ready to learn!

open-gold-rush open-gold-rush-2


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.)


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.


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.



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.



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?

National History Day Project inWisconsin

Recent Project: The GID Process

In the 2015-16 school year, after participating in a Guided Inquiry summer institute, my partners at the Charter School: the social studies teacher, the Dean, and I decided to implement the Guided Inquiry Design Process throughout all content areas. We started with the National History Day Project. I created a student journal that the students used to capture their thoughts. I collected the Journals daily and commented. The student journal is an adaptation of a journal that Leslie had teachers use when we participated her GI Institute. The students commented that they appreciated not always having to use technology to compose their thoughts.  I created PowerPoints for each session. I added all the PowerPoints and other documents to a Google Folder and shared the folder with the students and my teacher partners. I also encouraged the students to email me any time they had questions. Several students, who were not able to make it to all the classes, appreciated that they could keep up with the class lessons in this manner.

The Open session was our most challenging as we never took the time before to open students’ minds: to get them excited about the journey they were starting. After participating in the Institute, we wrestled with different ideas.  In one of Leslie’s posts on her Guided Inquiry Design Facebook page we found some great suggestions. We mentioned the theme, which was Explore, Encounter, and Exchange in History, and that we would spend more time with what the theme meant in the coming days. We viewed the Sir Ken Robinson video Changing Education Paradigms. The students took notes using guided questions in their Journal. They discussed in Inquiry Circles how that video spoke to them. How did Sir Ken explain the historical context of education reform today? How did he captivate them while exchanging his ideas? I was surprised at how many students were diagnosed with ADHD when they were younger. They could really relate to Sir Ken.

Historical context is often difficult to understand. One of the suggestions in the GID Facebook page was to have them watch and discuss a more current topic to which they could relate. They watched History of Apple and the First iPhone: RIP Steve Job. . Many students had not seen this video. Time passes so quickly. Most of them had mobile phones and historical context started to make sense. Again, the students took notes using guided questions in their Journal and shared their thoughts in Inquiry Circles.

The reflections in their journal gave us an insight into what they were wondering about at this beginning stage.

The Immerse Stage was also a challenge. Students had never taken the time just to discover content while they built background knowledge. We spent time viewing and discussing a National History Day winning video. The Tiananmen Square Massacre: A Government’s Encounter with It’s People. They again took notes from guided questions in their Journal. We also immersed the students in political cartoon analysis. Most students had no background knowledge of the what political cartoons were and how to analyze them. They are excellent primary sources for understanding historical context. Some student’s reflections revealed they were changing their thoughts on topics. That was a good thing.

The other stages: Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate had challenges also since this was my first year implementing GID within the National History Day Project. I was determined to implement the process with fidelity. However, to do that we needed to take the time during class. They spent time looking at exemplar National History Day past winners. They also spent time Asking the Experts in the Google+ Hangouts. These sessions were invaluable during the Create stage. Determining which category they were going to enter, in order to share what they learned and how to write up the Process Paper were a challenge they had not encountered in previous research projects. They studied the judging criteria, which set the expectations.

National History Day requires an Annotated Bibliography. The students who used Noodle Tools had no problem with this requirement.

The students shared their project several weeks ago at a Parent Open House. Homemade punch and cookies were an added appeal. Later on in the BLOG I will share the parent’s reflections. The students shared their thoughts throughput the entire process through reflections and dialogues in Inquiry Circles and with the entire Inquiry Community. They also gave input during the final Evaluation Session. Common themes were:

  • Students learn more by listening, communicating, and working with peers;
  • They relish input from their peers;
  • They desired to dig more into their topic because they chose the topic based on a theme.

Next year the theme is “Taking a Stand”. I am already looking forward to working with the students next year. Every year I learn and the next year benefits from that learning.

For the next project I will be working with the seniors on their Global Issues Capstone Project. They choose an international problem and after thorough research they present solutions from their informed point of view.  They will follow the GID process. They will connect with an expert mentor in the field as a resource. They will write a paper. Then they will present in a creative and meaningful way to an authentic audience who gives them input. Often times their expert mentor will also give them input during the evaluation component of their final project. Voice and Choice are key actions for personalizing learning. Voice and Choice are also critical motivators for them to stay engaged through an extended timeline.

If you questions, I am happy to reply in the comments section. In the end students commented they were never prompted to think and share their thinking with their peers before. They gave this project very high rating when they communicated on their successes at the school. This project provides rigor within a guided process.

Kathy Boguszewski

A high school math inquiry project

The email started like many we receive: What dates are the library computers available to bring down classes for research?

We check the schedule and start to email a response when it hits us …a math teacher…wants to do research? What?! We quickly respond with dates as requested and offer to help in any way we can.

Then Ms. White, my librarian colleague, and I start chatting from our desks to one another.

“Have you ever done research with a math class?”

“No, but this could be so cool!”

“I wonder what their product would be – a research paper? Presentation?”

Ding…then another email arrived with an attachment of the math research project Ms. Zehnder had done at a different school but she wanted to make it better and asked for our help, perhaps using the Guided Inquiry Process. And that is how we became part of another Guided Inquiry Design (GID) unit at HCHS. The three of us began collaborating to design a student-oriented research project and by late fall, students began their inquiries, and for many of them, this was the first math research project they had ever been assigned.

So, what did it look like?

Open – Students were asked to think about ways they use math in the real world. With a little prompting from the classroom teacher, the examples started pouring in. Perhaps the most powerful point about this phase was once they started thinking about math in the real world, they understood it was all around them. To help with this phase, as librarians, we brainstormed a list of ways math was relevant in their world and gave it to Ms. Zehnder although it wasn’t really needed. The list came in handy later though as we worked to find resources to flesh out the Explore phase.

Immerse– Using a high interest article in the classroom, the class found as many math related concepts as they could within it. Afterwards, as a group, they discussed how one might use it as a springboard to come up with inquiry topics for a research project. As school librarians, our role was to find a handful of possible articles and gave them to the Ms. Zehnder so that she could determine which one(s) she wanted to use. Having the classroom teacher model the process of reading articles and talking about real life experiences, then brainstorming how math was relevant to it, was a great way to scaffold the class for the Explore phase.

Explore – Next, students came to the library and participated in exploration stations to make connections with mathematical concepts used in the real world and think about how math affects their daily life. There were 4 stations: books, magazines, computers and manipulatives. Students spent 9 minutes at each of the stations looking through whatever materials caught their eye and filled out the Exploration handout as they went. There was enough time at the end of the period for students to return to any station(s) they wanted to explore longer. At the book station we had over fifty resources scattered around for students to pick up and flip through. Topics ranged from specific sports, to nutrition, to world records, to teen spending practices and more. A complete bibliography is below in case you’d like to look at it further. The magazine station included the local newspaper and a variety of magazines like: Transworld Skateboarding, Popular Science, Outdoor, Time, National Geographic, ESPN and others. By far the two most popular stations were manipulatives and computers. At the manipulatives station, we set out the Cracker Barrel peg game, Suduko sheets, mandala coloring sheets, the Banagrams game, dice, etc. Watching students at this station made me so happy. Not only were students trying their hands at origami, wrestling with math brain teasers, playing Connect Four, etc. they were having real conversations about math and enjoying it! The computer station was very engaging too. Ms. White spearheaded this station by creating a Symbaloo webmix housing a variety of websites for students to explore and determine how math was involved. Check out the Explore link below when you have time because the mix of videos, websites and tutorials gave students plenty to consider in this station too. The beautiful thing about this portion of the GID unit was that I learned a new technology tool out of it too!

Math topics

Resource: Math Related Topics Bibliography (PDF)


 Resource: Explore Symbaloo Webmix (link)


Resource: Explore Stations (entire PDF)


Identify – During this phase, we as librarians visited the classroom to lead a mini-lesson with each class. With their completed Explore Station handout in front of them, students selected a mathematical concept they found interesting to focus on for the rest of their project. While students were not required to select a topic from the Explore phase, many of them did so and having a series of possible topics in front of them, allowed everyone to have something to work on during this lesson.  After we modeled how to take a topic and brainstorm possible inquiry questions, we gave the students time to complete theirs. Note there are two graphic organizers. We did this knowing some learners are linear thinkers and others are not. Our hope was that a student could select the one that best helped them organize the topic and potential keywords and related inquiry questions related to the main idea. We modeled both types of graphic organizers with the students. Ultimately the topics students selected were quite varied including:  how math drives the game of hockey, why an understanding of math helps mixed martial arts fighters get an upper hand in a match, why the number zero is relevant, why do we need to understand the concept of infinity, just to name a few.

Inquiry graphic organizers

Resource:  Identify Graphic Organizers (entire PDF)

Gather – The next time students came to the library, we (librarians) demonstrated how to take notes on relevant resources as it related to their inquiry. Students were required to use both print and web-based resources to research their mathematics concept. As librarians, we created and provided an Inquiry Log template including links to citation help where students could answer their inquiry questions as they researched. Before turning them loose to conduct their own research, we modeled the process using the template. During the student research time in the library, Ms. White, Ms. Zehnder and I circulated around the room to assist students with locating potential print and web resources, and generally helped them stay on task. In reflection, it was clear students loved talking and sharing what they were learning about their topics and were eager to share that with anyone who would listen. Students who did not complete this phase during allotted time in the library were required to finish it independently.


Resource: Gather Sources Inquiry Log (entire PDF)

Create – Students were eventually tasked to create a presentation where they would explain the mathematical concept they chose, provide examples of how it is seen or used in real life and find relevance for its mathematical study. As librarians, we helped students think through possible presentation types. When PowerPoint was mentioned, we tried to talk about the pitfalls of a traditional presentation format and how to avoid it. Suggestions included not reading from the slides directly, embedding pictures or videos, and how to narrate using audio clips. At first students seemed frustrated by the lack of specific requirements given for the presentation. They wanted to know which presentation format was best, how long it should be, etc. In hindsight, I would definitely not change this aspect of the project because it helped students truly consider which format would be best for their particular topic and their particular audience. The varied results spoke to the wisdom of leaving the presentation format open. On the final day of class time given to work on the presentations, we did create and give students a Presentation Planner Checklist to help students organize themselves and know at a glance what else needed to be done or strengthened to ensure success.

Presentation Planner

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire PDF)

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire Word doc)

Share – Students ultimately shared their presentations and were graded based on whether their visual and verbal presentation addressed the mathematical concept, clearly defined and explained it, gave examples of the concept in real world and discussed the relevance of studying the concept in general.  The diversity of the final products was greater than I had originally expected. Sure, there were still a lot of PowerPoint presentations but not exclusively. Interestingly, if Ms. White and I got sidetracked in the library during one of the presentation times, it wasn’t unusual for a student to inquire where we were and ask to call and remind us to come up. How cool is that? We were absolutely thrilled to be part of the process from beginning to end.

Ms. Zehnder not only invited us as school librarians to the Share phase, she invited all building math teachers and administrators too. Students were both pleased and proud to have additional audience members. We even invited a Communications person from the district office who wrote a feature article on the district website. Check it out!

Resource: Everyday math takes a bow at Henry Clay High School” feature article

Evaluate – The classroom teacher, Ms. Zehnder, evaluated each project based on the rubric that specific class had made. For example, every class was evaluated on incorporating five math facts, citing their sources and discussing the concept’s relevance but she had also allowed each class to individualize their rubrics. Some classes added a creativity component, others bonus points for audience participation, etc. We intended to have students complete a self-reflection on the project using a Google form  but due to lack of computer availability, this wasn’t possible. Instead, students debriefed in a class discussion. In the future we hope to use the Google form, as it is a great way to collect and analyze data in a timely manner.

Resource: Self-Evaluation Google Form

The positive press by the district combined with teachers hearing about our project by word of mouth has led others to express interest in developing a GID unit of their own in collaboration with us. Perhaps by the end of the school year we will have more units to share.

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 🙂