Keyword Inquiry Log

In my second post, I shared how Sarah worked with me and Karen to implement concept-based research as well as question-driven inquiry. Now we’ll shift to discuss how students conduct research in the Gather phase.  

I just finished my 4th year working as a school library media specialist, and I was a high school English teacher for 8 years before that. So I have a general idea of how a typical student at my school searches for sources: Google (most likely typing in an entire sentence or question), or at best a cursory glance at a database assigned by a teacher. We are continually striving to make the research phase more meaningful in order to support lifelong learning skills. Librarians crave more time with students in order to introduce them to all the databases available to them. And then databases function differently, requiring time for students to search within them and learn how to find the information they need.

This past February, I read “Doubling Up: authentic vocabulary development through the inquiry process” by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci published in the February 2017 issue of Teacher Librarian. (A new fiscal year is starting soon; be sure to get your subscription to Teacher Librarian!) When I saw this article and read the first paragraph, one word came to mind: genius! I knew I wanted to implement the keyword log introduced in the article because it just made sense, like the GID model. And I found just the teacher willing to collaborate with me on this project.

Jena Smith teaches the Public Speaking elective at my school, and she is a strong supporter of using library resources with her students. We collaborate frequently throughout the semester. Her students came to the library after selecting topics for their researched argumentative speeches. She created a Google Doc for students to record their topics. Sharing it with me helped me prepare mini-lessons targeted toward their chosen topics. It also taught the students to revise their topics as they began to do research, as some realized their topics weren’t going to work or weren’t quite argumentative in nature.

The rationale for using the keyword log, as presented by Maniotes and Cellucci, is to promote academic vocabulary growth as well as knowledge of information searching strategies. Even if students know what a Boolean operator is, they need to have some knowledge of the vocabulary specific to their topic. Luckily, unlike Google, databases provide keyword searches that will give students suggestions. In EBSCO products, you can search in Subject Terms at the top of the page to learn synonyms.

I mentioned ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher database in my second blog post. It’s super easy to search related subject terms for vocabulary development. The subject terms are listed at the end of each article, which students can click on.

I introduced them to the keyword log and modeled a few sample searches using the topic an at-risk learner chose in order to provide some targeted scaffolding. I added a few columns to the log described in the article just to ensure that students were providing detailed explanations.

As intuitive as I thought this log would be, we encountered a few obstacles during implementation. To start, students aren’t used to slowing down! They wanted to rush through the research process. We met some resistance when we told them they would be recording each search they tried. Of course the whole point was for them to discover that the Gather phase should take time in order to discover the best possible sources of information that would help them develop their researched argumentative speech.

Here are some of the first searches I modeled to the whole class (it’s not perfect; I tried to keep it simple at first):

Below is an excerpt from a reluctant learner’s keyword log. I sat with him as he completed his searches to show him different search strategies. In the first entry, you can see that he realized he wasn’t even searching for one of the main parts of his topic: how do violent video games affect children? His reflection in the second entry shows how I asked him to record his true search behavior, and what we know to be true from research: most searchers do not even scroll down on the first page of results.

I also spent a good deal of time telling them to type more in the results and reflection columns. As the research assignment progresses, students will see how useful the log is the more specific and detailed their responses are.

We discovered that we can really learn about how students conduct research simply by watching them and asking them to search how they would if they were on their own. Start with where they’re at as learners to gather information about their current skills and how they think about research. Then address misconceptions and a lack of skills as you see them.

There is an often overwhelming number of research skills that students can learn: how to search the open web using advanced search strategies and limiters; discovering special interests groups, independent groups, research organizations; picking which database fits their information needs; how to search different databases; how to paraphrase; how to cite. Yikes! But this keyword log provided an organized starting point. My goal is to work with more teachers to use this log at the beginning of their classes and tailor research assignments to target specific research skills instead of trying to teach every skill every time.

Most of the students shared in a survey when we were finished that they had never been taught Boolean search strategies and that the keyword log helped them stay organized. They gained a clearer understanding of how databases work. And remember that the GID model works in any discipline. Information literacy skills should be embedded in each and every course if we want our students to truly learn these lifelong skills.

The key here is that authentic learning does take time. Using databases isn’t always intuitive, and students need practice after direct instruction. Partner up with your school librarian to build these skills into your research units. It’s an investment that pays off in the end.

–Jamie Gregory  @gregorjm   Jamie.gregory@spart5.net

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 jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Sarah Plant, sarahel2@gmail.com

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 ALA.org 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!) http://www.alaeditions.org/web-extra-coteaching-reading-comprehension-strategies-secondary-school-libraries

 

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 jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Keep Going! – Change the culture of schools to develop conversation

My journey continues…

Between 2000 and 2010 I told teachers and students about ISP. We tried in all kinds of ways to adapt what we learnt from it in our information seeking instructions, in our supervision and in the instructions that the teachers gave to the students. We were convinced that it should inform our practice. We made many mistakes. We thought we knew, over and over again. But since the students kept getting more or less impossible assignments and I knew that they wanted us to be kind and needed us to understand their “non-library” questions we learned and learned and learned.

In 2010 I got the chance to get to know Randi Schmidt. The story is long about how this meeting came about but it contains my story with ISP as you’ve read it above, people in Sweden whom I had found and networked with, coincided with financial possibilities and Randi´s and my conviction that ISP/GI really had it. I don´t know if Randi is known to you but my short version of her goes like this: When she found out about ISP she decided to create a program at her school (Gill St. Bernhard, Gladstone, NJ ) that would fully implement the findings of the research – her practice should be based on research. And that she did.

Ten years later I walked into that library. I came as prepared as I could and the ten days that I spent with her, her colleagues, students, teachers, researchers at CISSL and the colleagues that I travelled with from Sweden equipped me with a massive experience. It was just as holistic as the voices I heard from my informants only that the web was getting even more complicated. But there were connections, there were methods, there were forms to be filled in and reflection sheets, structured lessons and instructions and there were questions answered and I saw it all, it wasn’t just talk but also walk.

During my visit I asked myself: what am I going to do with this when I come home? I just thought it would be so sad if I would plant the seeds but then fail to make them grow and flourish. It would be so sad. I wanted so badly to be part of a listening and encouraging culture that would help both grownups and teenagers to create deep knowledge.

So I asked for advice and thought and read my own notes from the trip and the ISP/GI texts over and over again.

I decided to trust conversation and discussion.

I don’t think that we have that as a natural part of our culture in my school when the intention is to develop professional knowledge in the staff.

And I decided to challenge that.

I decided that it was the only way to go and that I knew that I had to be patient and firm. If I or the teachers assumed that we were getting nowhere, nothing was happening I had to remain in the position of a discussing, conversing person. If that didn´t work, nothing else would.

I started by talking to my principals and somehow they must have experienced that there was something – not clear what – of quality in my sayings and doings and a year later I had a full time job. Still unclear what I was doing or should be doing, but there it was.

My vision was not to become a star school librarian but to teach the teachers and then work together with them. In 2013 I had evaluations from teachers, their voices and student voices from six projects, involving about 200 students and six teachers and I was invited to present as a practitioner at the CISSL Symposium celebrating the 30th anniversary of the dissertation of Dr. Carol Kuhlthau.

I flew to the US to talk for 15 minutes. It’s kind of funny to think of it that way, but of course there was so much more to it. I was back at Gill with Randi, I met with new people, learned that my presentation and the result we had was worth something – we were on the right track – and that there was interesting stuff going on in Australia as well. So, going back home again, what next?

I went back and told my school and anyone else that was interested that those who know say that we’re on the right track. We don’t really know what we’re doing but people who know say: keep going. So we did.

Lena

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Greetings from Norman, again!

My name is Stacy Ford and I am the Teacher-Librarian at The John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Norman, Oklahoma. I have been an educator for 11 years.  Four of those years were spent as a middle school social studies teacher and the last seven years I have been a Teacher-Librarian.  My current school serves approximately 450 students in grades Pre-K through 5.  Our free and reduced lunch rate is approximately 90%.   An important feature to note for our upper grades (3-5) is there is pretty much a 1:1 student to Chromebook initiative which allows for ample technology integration for our units. The school library operates on a fully flexible schedule.  My schedule allows me to meet with whole groups, small groups, pull out students and push into classes as planned with teachers.  Currently, Kennedy is under construction and the library is under major renovation, where we will have walls for the first time since the building was constructed in 1968!  On a personal note, my wife Erin and I have two kiddos on the ground, ages 3 and 5, and a sweet girl that could be wheels down at literally any moment.  They keep us busy with trips to the local sno-cone stand, public library and right now to any pool we can get into.

As a Teacher-Librarian I was introduced to Guided Inquiry Design by our district library coordinator, Kathryn Lewis, in the 2014-2015 school year.  I participated in a Guided Inquiry Design Institute in the fall of 2015.  Prior to these experiences I was introduced to Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process during my M.L.I.S graduate program at the University of Oklahoma.  My school district has been very supportive of the Guided Inquiry Design process by sponsoring multiple GID institutes and having school librarians lead workshops at district and state conferences.  Most importantly, teachers and principals are being brought into this process alongside librarians, so that Guided Inquiry has not become a “library thing,” where Teacher-Librarian’s are expected to be the expert and implement everything.  This has allowed for TLs and the Teachers to develop better working relationships and a greater understanding of each others role in the instructional process.

As a classroom teacher my students were consistently involved with research projects.  Through my work with my school librarians I began to make these research projects better.  However, they still revolved around a rubric checklist of items, not authentic inquiry questions.  In my role as a teacher-librarian I would say that I have worked with teachers on authentic research projects, that is to say, not simply reporting information the majority of the time.  However, I would admit to working with teachers to assist in the reporting of information in my current practice as well.  The thing I love about Guided Inquiry, and what my school district is doing is that it lets me teach how I have always wanted to teach.  By teaching the way that I want to teach, I mean to say that I allow students the opportunity to research content related information to create knowledge in an authentic fashion.  Along, the way I am able to practice best teaching practices by allowing students to reflect on their learning and make connections with each other based on content.

This week I will be referencing two different Guided Inquiry Design prototype units that I have conducted with teachers and students at Kennedy.  I call them prototypes because they were not perfect examples, but I learned from both of them and the units I have since designed with teachers have benefited from the missteps our teams have made before. Back to the units I will be discussing.  One of the units will be a 3rd grade unit where students were focused on studying animal classification and the other was a 4th grade Native American unit.  There are specific things I love about each of these units and there are things I will redo when we implement them again.  

I’m looking forward to sharing with you this week! 

-Stacy

@StacyFord77

GID Coaches

Hi Happy GID followers!

We’re having summer here in the US and lots of professional development in GID.IMG_0366

As I mentioned in my last post, this week was the fourth GID institute in Norman Public Schools. Because of the size of this district and the way Guided Inquiry requires a collaborative team, the librarians at each school have attended one GID institute this year.  But because many have teachers who now want to join the fun, the librarians are attending the institute a second time to come with their teachers so they can participate as a collaborator.  As you all know, we believe that the school librarian has a critical role to play in the Guided Inquiry Design team.  She is the information specialist/professional as well as the information literacy teacher.  These are two cornerstones to GID a. that information literacy is valued by all team members and taught (Kuhlthau 2004) and b. when students are locating, evaluating, and using information to learn, the information specialist is a key player.

Since the librarians (and one English Language Arts teacher) had already attended the full institute, and implemented at LEAST one unit of GID this year (some, like Kelsey Barker had implemented 5) the leadership in the district and I felt like it was time that we could build capacity in the district to develop coaches for GID.  (I have to take time to acknowledge and thank these amazing leaders who have done everything to implement GID at the highest level, without them NONE of this would be possible, Kathryn Lewis, Shirley Simmons and Beth Fritch.)

In the institute teachers in collaborative teams design a unit of study.  By doing that, they engage in the inquiry process themselves as design requires you to identify the concept of the unit prior to determining the activities that would support students to arrive at their own questions around that concept.  So, teams are going through their own inquiry during the institute. We know that all people going through inquiry can use guidance, and that the strategy of conversing is a support to the process.  Maybe stemming from my background of five years as a teacher effectiveness coach in Denver, I have made coaching an integral part of the GID institute. Typically, I coach each teams during the institute on their units to help them stay on track, answer any questions and push their thinking to move beyond their known ways of doing things.  This institute included double the number of teams than I could handle coaching in the time we had. So, we decided to have the librarians who had been through the training before get some further training on how to coach teams and then give it a go in this institute.

As a result, this wonderful energetic and brilliant group of librarians who have now proved their accomplishments with the process and implementation of GID took on the role of coach in our June 2016 institute.  I want to thank them for their dedication, passion for the work and professionalism in learning with me and coaching their colleagues.  This is the beginning of something bigger and growing GID to help districts build capacity in the future.

Each district might have a different way of handling this, but for me, it is exciting because I think that the role of coach is another great role for librarians.  They are already really good listeners, and work with so many teachers, so collaboration and leading collaborations is natural to them.  Also, as they use the process over and over with different grade levels and content areas, the GID process begins to become internalized, and that is what you really need to understand well in order to coach a team in GID.  I’m excited about the prospect of GID coaching, and this stellar group was a wonderful place to start. Here’s a picture of our first GID Coaches!  There will be more trained in July.IMG_0392

 

I mean come on! Aren’t they great?!  Here we have (L->R) Kristin Lankford, Dana Phillips, Martha Pangburn, Paige Holden, Kelsey Barker, Lee Nelson, Buffy Edwards, and Stacy Ford.  Kudos team!  What a pleasure it was to work with you all!  Aaaaand…

As a result of their coaching, we had 20 excellent prototype units come out of this week’s institute.  10 at the elementary level and 10 more that the secondary level.  Typically an institute can only handle 10 units, so these educators efforts doubled the impact of this professional development for Norman Public Schools!  Kudos!

The Celebrations and presentations of the units were fantastic.  More on that in my next post!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Author of Guided Inquiry, Trainer of Guided Inquiry Design

The Guided Inquiry Design Institute

Gearing up for the Guided Inquiry Design Institute is always a time of exciting inspiration for me.  Each time, I think about the audience, consider the perspectives and as I go over my slides I reflect on what is to come.

This institute is such a joy for me to lead because not only does it give me a chance to share the power of the process with teams of teachers and librarians and to some who have never heard about the ISP or GID before. But not only that, the teams get to experience it.  And out of three days they learn so much.  They learn about the process as they themselves engage within it, for designing a unit of study is an inquiry of its own. They learn about themselves as a teacher, and as a learner. They learn strategies for effective instruction and have time to collaborate DEEPLY with their colleagues and teammates. It’s an intensive both ‘oh so worth it’ three days.

This school year I have had the wonderful pleasure to work with Norman Public Schools.  (Have you noticed how many from Norman have contributed to this blog?  Well this is why…) They have partnered with me to provide the full 3 day GID institute for over 100 educators district wide.  Each school has sent a team and now we are working on getting more teachers onboard with two more summer institutes and another coming up this fall. I am more than thrilled because of my passion for this work, sharing this process empowers educators to use a learning centered approach that gives them the process, and flexibility to teach “the way they’ve always wanted to teach.”  This week I have the privilege of working in this brand new school, with over 45 educators to design 20 units of study from Kindergarten to 12th grade in every content area, math, science, social studies, language arts and literature.  It’s been amazing.  We are on day 2 and tomorrow is the final day of sharing, revising and reflection.  Things are HOPPING in Norman.

IMG_0295

Leslie Maniotes

Wait a second, who is the teacher and who is the student?

The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless.  The students have taught me so much.  As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners.  When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens.  I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood.  The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement.  They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why.  This is at the heart of lifelong learning.  The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people.  If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run?  That’s the goal for me.

When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time.  This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders.  While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments.  These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students.  As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first.  One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year.   Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations.  This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.

One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time.  To do it properly, GID takes some time.  It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation.  I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams.  At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day.  In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks.  Here is the deal, though.  It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class.  When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class.  We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit!  We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products.  There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.

Terri Curtis

New Kid on the Block

Hello from Norman, Oklahoma!  My name is Terri Curtis, and I am currently a library assistant at Whittier Middle School.

First and foremost, I’m a mother to three fabulous teenagers.  I know what you are thinking.  Did I actually use fabulous and teenagers in the same sentence?  Yes, I did.  I genuinely like teenagers, and I’m kind of partial to the ones with which I share a home.  This is the end of an era for my family as it is the last of 9 consecutive years with a middle schooler in my house.  In that 9 years, I’ve learned a few things.

  • There is never a dull moment.
  • It is never quiet.
  • Someone is always hungry.
  • Kids have a lot of important things to say and want to be heard…  just like adults.
  • Their feelings and emotions are very real.
  • There is no point in buying new carpet until everyone moves out.
  • They don’t all think and process things the same way.
  • Don’t ask them what they think if you aren’t prepared to listen to an honest answer.

I truly love this age of child, both as a parent and as an educator.  I get to laugh every single day, and I look forward to seeing my home kids and my school kids as often as humanly possible.  This is a picture of me with my favorite middle school student.  He also happens to be my son.

1B8012B5-4299-4C6C-BCFD-3918908C9177

In my early parenting years, I got a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  I used this degree while serving as a director of the preschool in my church.  Once my children got a little older, I decided to head back to school to get my MLIS degree.  I graduated last December, and I’m excited about the thought of having my own library in the future.

As a library assistant in a middle school in Norman, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to GID.  This past school year, our district sent many teams to GID training, and I was happy to have been included.  I’ve been involved in planning and implementing a few units at the middle school level.  I’m excited about GID and the authentic learning that happens when a team of educators collaborates to design and facilitate inquiry-based units for their students.  We truly hold the key to raising a generation of thinkers.

Terri Curtis