Student Questions Drive the Process

Hi 52_GID Readers!

It’s Leslie Maniotes – author of the GID series on the blog this week.

EVERYbody is gearing up for their new year and few have time to take on the blog this week.  So, I am lucky to have a week to share some new thoughts and experiences from working with the professional development side of GID.

One of the best aspects of Guided Inquiry Design, and perhaps the most scary for teachers, is that students learn by asking their own questions. We know that student curiosity and questioning is at the core of all inquiry based learning.

At one of my professional development sessions with our partner Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools last week, a very smart librarian wanted to know exactly what these student questions about the content standards would look like.  At the beginning, teachers must take a leap of faith into the unknown with Guided Inquiry Design in order to let go and allow students to ask their own questions.  That is the real beauty of the design, though, because with GID, smart educators can intentionally design the first three phases so that students arrive at marvelous questions that address the content and are truly interesting to our students! That’s the sweet spot and the real trick of intentional instructional design for inquiry based learning!  😉

The best designed inquiry learning supports all students through the first three phases to help students to arrive at an intellectually stimulating and interesting question on the content standards in the unit of study.

Guided Inquiry Design Process

I knew that high level questioning was happening in the schools, classrooms, and libraries where I have worked with excellent educators to know how to use this model to design their inquiry based learning. So, I asked my GID crew- who are AMAZING!  And, of course, I got responses from each level High School, Middle School, and Elementary level.  REAL questions from REAL kids about the content under study. In the next three posts I’ll share those questions  and some reflections on them in order to help you to ….Keep-calm-and-carry-on

Side note – do you know the history behind this poster?  It’s a fascinating relic from WWII  – an actual poster of British war propaganda.  Find out more here.

But, before we begin, in order to prime your thinking about the power of student questioning in learning, Here’s a 6 minute TED Talk video of science teacher Ramsey Musallam describing what he calls the 3 rules to spark imagination and learning. (Thank you to Kathryn Lewis and Lee Nelson of Norman Public Schools for sharing this video with me! It’s so aligned with Guided Inquiry and what we believe about real learning!)

Ramsey Musallam 3 rules

 It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.

Enjoy that video and come back tomorrow for more about students real questions in GID!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author + Professional Developer

Guided Inquiry Design

The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.

St.Johns.Church.people

During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!

The 2016 Collaborative School Library Award

Yesterday I invited you to experience the “Open” stage of the award-winning GID unit developed by two librarians and a social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA. They based the unit my book, BROTHERHOOD, and posted all of their materials on this Blendspace page so that others can recreate the unit in their schools.

Set in Virginia during Reconstruction, BROTHERHOOD is the story of a white boy who joins the Klan, meets a young black teacher, and comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. The book raises all sorts of questions about identify, race, peer pressure, gangs, etc., and doesn’t provide easy answers. So it’s great for kicking off classroom conversations on a variety of topics.

During the “Immerse” stage of the GID process, in order to connect to the content of daily readings, the students at Carver wrote a tweet a day.

daily tweet.52GID blog

Historians from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society visited the school, bringing samples of items mentioned in the book, such as swatches of cloth and a copy of a page from an 1867 newspaper. The time period was beginning to come alive for the students.

During the GID stages “Explore” and “Identify,” students continued to read while researching the post-Civil War era. Then they went on a field trip to Richmond, VA, and walked the streets the characters had walked. In advance of the trip, the librarians asked me to audio-record myself reading selections from the book. I posted the audio files online, and during the trip, students stopped at key locations to listen—via QR codes—to me reading. This was an innovative way to use technology, and got the students all the more engaged. Click on this code to hear one of the recordings:

QRCode.FarmersMarket

I visited the classroom and talked about how I came to write BROTHERHOOD—a presentation that includes mention of the Noble Lost Cause ideology, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement. On another day, the school’s safety officer came and presented information about gangs. The class explored reasons why a person might join the Klan or any gang—any group vying for power, control or influence.

During the “Gather” stage, each student’s essential questions led him/her to choose a gang to research further. Students divided into small groups, and for the “Create” and “Share” stages, each group did a presentation about a gang and how they (or society) might stop the spread of that gang. In this way, they progressed through the 7th grade curriculum. For prohibition, for example, one group did a presentation about the Mafia running liquor. For World War II, another group showed how the Nazis gained support by blaming Germany’s ills on the Jews. By the time the curriculum brought them to the present day, they already knew from yet another student presentation that Al Qaida is motivated in part by a rejection of capitalism. I visited the school again, and was blown away by the high quality of the presentations, both from struggling learners and from gifted students. The GID approach excited them all.

Along the way students participated in the GID stage, “Evaluate,” asking questions such as, what surprised me today? What was clear? What was confusing? I love the fact that when you do GID, you don’t leave evaluation to the very end. GID encourages self-reflection at every stage.

This GID unit was pretty involved, and it hit me that some educators might want to add BROTHERHOOD to the curriculum and use the GID approach, but they don’t live near Virginia and can’t easily do the field trip. And that thought motivated me to design a GID-based writing workshop that can be done in any classroom, anywhere. I’ll tell you about it in my next post…

Meet the Team

Happy Thursday, and happy Dolphin Day!

Now that you’ve been introduced to Buffy and me, I’m going to introduce the rest of the team involved in developing a Guided Inquiry unit for our 5th grade science curriculum.

Kathryn Lewis is the Director of Media Services and Instructional Technology, and she is credited with bringing Guided Inquiry Design to Norman Public Schools.

Jeff Patterson is the Science Curriculum Coordinator for NPS. He has been involved in the Guided Inquiry process in Norman from the beginning, helping teachers to break down the science standards in our units. In this unit, he is in charge of the experiments and hands-on investigations that the students will be doing.

Lee Nelson is the Technology Integration Specialist at NPS. She is helping our team as we look at where and what technology to integrate in our unit, as well as how the unit could evolve in the future as we acquire more technology. This is especially exciting, as a recent bond will give us LOTS more tech in the classroom!

Teresa Lansford is the National Board certified teacher librarian at Lincoln Elementary in Norman. She has previously worked with Jeff on designing a similar Guided Inquiry unit for the 4th grade science curriculum, so she has been a great asset in getting our team going.

Glen Stanley is the teacher librarian at Roosevelt Elementary in Norman. He is also a former science teacher and very familiar with the content of our unit.

Toni Gay is the librarian at Reagan Elementary in Norman.

With Buffy and me, that makes up our team! We are a diverse group, with different interests and specialties, but we all bring something unique to the table as we go forward designing this unit. I think that is important to help us design a unit that gives students the experience of the Guided Inquiry process, but that is still accessible (read: not overwhelming) to teachers who may or may not have gone through the institute with Leslie.

We were first asked to collaborate on this unit in February. At our first meeting, Jeff introduced the topic and broke down the content for us. I will be honest — at this point, I was feeling very overwhelmed!  With a background in languages and literature, the content of this unit was foreign to me. I probably had not thought about the hydrosphere or biosphere since… 5th grade science!

But that’s the great thing about Guided Inquiry: I don’t need to know everything there is to know about a topic, and my students can ask questions that exceed the scope of my knowledge. It feels uncomfortable, sometimes, to not know the answers that we want our students find; this is the biggest hurdle that I see teachers struggling with in Guided Inquiry units.

In our second meeting, things got real as we started breaking down the unit. Teresa and Jeff came with some great ideas for activities, but we were still only working with pieces of the unit. We knew the learning goals, but how would students show their learning? How would the investigations fit into the unit? And most importantly, how could we encourage collaboration between teachers and librarians while giving teachers what they need to implement the unit in their classrooms?

Thankfully, Jeff shares my love of sticky notes, and after we filled in what we had, we could more easily see the gaps we had to fill. I guess this is why Leslie’s lesson plan template says “design with the end in mind” at the top: you can’t know where to start until you know where you’re ending up.

GIANT Stickies!!!

GIANT Stickies!!!

I know that not everyone is as visual as me, but I really recommend my “sticky note” method for designing a Guided Inquiry unit. It is so helpful to view the entire unit at one time. This strategy makes it easier to see how each step informs the next, how the individual phases blend together to form a cohesive unit.
So what you’re seeing here is really the birth of a unit. It’s not perfect, and it’ll evolve and update over the next few weeks as we write it, and I’m sure we’ll have edits to make after the first time it is taught. But we are off to an exciting start, and I can’t wait to see where the planning takes us!

Finding a Solution

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

–Socrates

 

     My adventure into Guided Inquiry Design began as all good adventures should, with a close friend and a road trip. It really started with desperation. The desperation led to the road trip….

     A few years ago, our school district required a senior capstone known as Senior Project. I was struggling to help seniors find their way and develop their projects to the fullest. Of course, I took my struggles to my teacher-librarian Dana Wright. Since she had been essentially co-teaching the project with me, she was well aware of the issues I was facing. Dana and I have always been on the same page and look at teaching in much the same way, so it was no surprise the day I walked into the library with an exciting new idea only to find Dana waiting to share her exciting new idea. Both of our exciting new ideas were the same. Guided Inquiry.

     Jonathan Alder Local Schools is small and is known for turning nothing into something because of our low expenditure per student. We are about 20 minutes northwest of Columbus, Ohio, in the small farming community of Plain City. When Dana stumbled across the information on the CiSSL Summer Institute. Our district agreed to send us, and the road trip began. Dana and I drove from Plain City to New Jersey for a new beginning.

     Guided Inquiry was a natural fit for us. We saw immediately that we were rushing the research process. Our students were developing questions (Identify) and fast-forwarding to research (Gather) and fast-forwarding again to writing/presentation (Create/Share). We left no time for developing interests or exploring options. Once we adjusted to allow for a fully developed Guided Inquiry Design approach to Senior Project, so many of the struggles vanished. The depth and quality of student growth improved significantly. What we did not realize at the time was that Senior Project would soon be a memory. Another new beginning was coming.

     Now we come to the current school year. This school year arrived with a new building principal and a new state mandate known as College Credit Plus. CC+ requires strict adherence to a state-wide set of standards for Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. Mike Aurin (our new leader), Ann (guidance), and I sat down to discuss the impact of the new requirements on Senior Project and our other curricula. To proceed with students’ best interests in mind, we needed to remove the Senior Project requirements from the English curriculum.

     At first it was a shock. Senior Project was an institution. It’s what we did. That’s when I realized that it was no longer what we HAD to do. We no longer had to “[fight] the old.” We could now “[build] the new.”

Jennifer Danner

@MrsDanner_JA

English Department Chair

Jonathan Alder High School

Plain City, Ohio