Ho Hum or Way More Fun?

In my time as a school librarian, I have had the unfortunate experience of teaching the traditional countries research project.  Why? Because it was in the curriculum and I was working with a new teacher BGID (before guided inquiry design). And you know what? I hated it about as much as the kids did.  The final product was the regurgitation of information which does not elicit smiles or excitement, but rather the slumped shoulder comments of, “are we doing this again”? I share this because we have all probably been there with a project.  The type of assignment that we dread as much as the kids. And, as much as we try to revamp it, it is tough to totally drop the curricular requirements without being worried or feeling some sense of guilt for not “doing what we are supposed to do”.  

Which brings me to the element of engagement! The sweet spot of excitement and learning.  This instructional element is part of what makes Guided Inquiry Design so valuable for teachers and students. There are collaboration strategies and inquiry groups and reflection components which are integrated into the process and get our kids excited to be researching just about any topic. Even more important is the entire EXPLORE step.  Providing students the opportunity to see what may exist in the realm of opportunity, engages and motivates students in a way that no list of topics can even touch. However, this valuable step is often the one that gets cut for time, because not all teachers see the value, when in reality it is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the process.  That is because it most closely mirrors the type of research which is being done in real life.

One of the ways I have worked with teachers to shift their thinking about the basic curricular report requirement is through the reimagining of the country project.  Students traditionally would share mind numbing presentations about a country, listing facts about population, climate, language, religion, food, etc. Listening to over 100 of them was the motivation to change.  This is where GID was a lifesaver!

The classroom teacher and I decided a change was needed, but how to make this relevant was the challenge.  In the end, after several ideas bouncing around via email, we decided to go with a concept which aligned with what students were also studying in science, natural disasters.  Students were now tasked with creating a recovery plan for a country which had experienced a hypothetical natural disaster. They were given the United Nations Development Program as a real life model and had to EXPLORE which countries were likely to experience certain disasters.  Then they presented in teams at our mini-UN meeting to apply for funding to help this nation in need.  The were rewarded (graded) in dollar amounts! In their planning and research, they had to learn about the culture, which was the original goal of the country report to begin with. But now, it was being done in a way with a real life connection, choice and collaboration which lead to students who were engaged and motivated to brainstorm solutions as a team.  

The 6th grade social studies teachers and I have been working on this updated project for the last four years  and it has made everyone happier and more willing to engage in what had been quite boring research previously. In changing our project not only is it more engaging, but it has also guided students to think more critically and to understand why knowing about a culture could be important in a real world context.  We provided the opportunity to work in groups, not because it is fun, but because the timeline and requirements make it almost impossible to do alone. Engagement was just an added bonus of following the GID process to get our students to fully engage in a research process which extended their thinking beyond what was required in the curriculum.

Cheers,

Sarah Scholl

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

What are you doing in your instruction to engage students in research using the GID process?

GID and “Real World” Use for Students: Valuing their GID work inside and outside the classroom

As a high school teacher, it has taken me many years to make peace with the expression “real world.”  It is because I have heard it used in ways that suggest the world in which I live as a high school teacher is not the real world.  I hear students say, “When I graduate from high school and I’m in the real world…” I hear parents remark, “Well when my son/daughter goes out into the real world…” I even hear colleagues comment, “Well wait until our students get out into the real world…”  So where do I live? In a faux world?  I get what people are saying, but I don’t like the reference because not only does it devalue my work as an educator, it devalues my students’ work.  It’s as if all the learning and preparation that goes into a teenager’s education does not count until he/she graduates.  And then we often hear that this generation of students was not ready for the “real world.”

So what if we did value our students’ work and helped them apply it in the here and now?  GID does just that–it values students’ work, their learning process, and their thoughts and feelings about their work.

Recently, our library educator Anita Cellucci, two of my students, and I went into the Boston State House for Library Legislative Day.  The day is all about promoting the importantce of public libraries and school libraries in our communities.  Anita had the brilliant idea to actually bring in two of our students to present their Psychology in Literature GID projects in connection with a LSTA grant that Anita was awarded this year. The grant focuses on promoting a stigma free attitude toward mental health in schools.

The experience was a “real world” opportunity for our students to take the valuable research they had gathered through GID in their senior English seminar Psychology and Literature and showcase it to governement officials in Boston.  Because we chose to have students create a google slide presentation or a prezi, we were able to set up the laptops at our booth.  Our students could then conduct a bunch of mini-presentations for the officials as they walked by.  The students felt so empowered that their research was valued beyond their teachers and classrooms to a state wide level.  One state representative stopped and asked our students a long list of questions about mental health and teenagers.  The representative was so excited to have the opportunity to run by some of her mental health initiatives to teenagers.  Our students shared honestly and openly about their experiences as millenial teenagers in high school today.

Students at the Boston State House for Library Legislature Day.

Students at the Boston State House for Library Legislature Day.

 

Students sharing their GID projects at Library Legislative Day in Boston.

Students sharing their GID projects at Library Legislative Day in Boston.

The more we value our students’ work by providing them with “real world” opportunites and experiences within schools, the better prepared socially, academically, and emotionally they will be when they graduate.   For their “real world” will continue rather than begin.

Please find below links to four examples of presentations that students created using google slide presentation or prezi with screen castify for the audio recording.

stress:

https://drive.google.com/a/westboroughk12.org/file/d/0B1-gIjuXgIaXdTBLV1N2MDNRcms/view

art therapy:

ttps://drive.google.com/a/westboroughk12.org/file/d/0B7U739k1qPgFbmYyNTRWUlRMWVU/view

narcissim:

https://drive.google.com/a/westboroughk12.org/file/d/0B6NBqNo5SwgtWXdTV1d1YU5VaFE/view

music therapy:

https://drive.google.com/a/westboroughk12.org/file/d/0B_CaGho6KHVAODM3RzZrbUFtbXc/view

By:  Kathleen Stoker

Westborough High School English/Journalism teacher

Westborough, MA