Teresa Lansford, Lincoln Elementary, Norman OK
Since our staff started the year with the understanding that the Guided Inquiry Process was the way we were going to structure our learning through research for the entire year, there was never any turning back. For those who had not yet been through formal training there were times that we dipped into the process without developing a complete unit. Students had opportunities to get excited about a topic through Open, develop a common vocabulary through a rich immerse activity, or explore an area of interest in an inquiry circle. As these small steps were successful, there was much more interest in developing entire units to address concepts with students. They saw how much more engaged students were under this process.
Our teachers immediately valued the ownership students had of their work. One fifth grader in particular had spent a previous unit sitting with arms crossed refusing to work. When she had the power to ask her own questions she was fully engaged.
Our fourth grade teachers implemented a wave unit. When we went to form inquiry circles it just happened that most of the special education students ended up wanting to focus on the same area. We took notes using Popplet.com. They created a web to connect their areas of interest. At the end of one session we zoomed out and a student proclaimed “We know all that?” Jaws dropped a bit as these students realized how much they had learned and came to understand that they had valuable contributions to the larger group’s understanding of waves. Seeing these students thrive who previously may have floundered would have been enough of a selling point, but we consistently saw added value across all demographics. All students were challenged to grow at some point during the process.
Thanks in large part to the efforts of our principal, by the end of the first week of school all staff had embraced the idea of Guided Inquiry, by mid year we were engaging students with units across all grade levels, by the end of the year we had a staff that lived and breathed Guided Inquiry.
Our practice is more than just units of study in a framework. When it comes to research and questioning, Guided Inquiry has become how we think. When our leadership team was tasked with leading professional development for our site, they looked to the Guided Inquiry framework to develop the PD. We have went beyond just using it with our students because we see its universal value. At Lincoln Elementary we give our students a voice, ensure they have choice, and live a growth mindset in order to encourage students to have one as well. Guided Inquiry has been an invaluable tool to help get us there.
Welcome fellow designers! I am Teresa Lansford, teacher-librarian at Lincoln Elementary School in Norman, OK. I am about to embark on my 6th year as a school librarian and my 14th year in education. I am a National Board Certified Teacher: Early Childhood Generalist, and received my Masters from the University of Oklahoma. I am a data driven, passionate practitioner, ever on the quest to bring my best to students so I am sure you all can understand how excited I was to learn about Guided Inquiry and what it does for kids.
Our school has adopted GId and ran with it in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. This week I will be sharing how we came to be a school with nearly an entire staff trained in GId, who all think in terms of GId, and who have utilized the process with both student and adult learners. I will share examples of how all grade levels have learned through GId, and how we have enhanced our use of technology through GId.
Lincoln Elementary is a Title 1 school of under 300 students. We have an autism program as well as a DD program. We serve grades PK-5 with two teachers per grade level. Our school is highly collaborative which I believed has helped to promote and support Guided Inquiry. None of us work in a bubble. We have a shared vision of elevating learning to foster creative, innovative members of a community. This has led to us becoming an Oklahoma A+ school for the arts, and winning an OETT grant that allowed us, along with a district bond issue initiative, to be nearly 1-1 in iPads for grades PK-1 and MacBooks for grades 2-5. We are constantly striving to push our students and help them grow beyond the test.
Guided Inquiry gave us the tools to transform how we look at research and think about questioning in our building. I am excited to spend this week sharing with you all that we do!
A few weeks ago, my dear friend and partner in crime, Jennifer Danner, beautifully crafted our Guided Inquiry journey. We are a small district about 20 minutes outside Columbus, Ohio. We are experts in being handed lemons and creating lemonade. As Jennifer said, I stumbled across the CISSL institute and we were encouraged to attend. Attending CISSL, changed our focus and impacted our teaching and has helped reshape our culture.
When we returned from CISSL, we sat down with our assistant superintendent and superintendent and eagerly explained all we had absorbed and our mission to share with others and our desire to impact learning. After that meeting, it was full speed ahead. A couple of months later, we began our own Professional Development community comprised of more than ten teachers and administrators.
Over the next school year, we were able to purchase everyone in our learning community a copy of Leslie Maniotes, book “Guided Inquiry Design a Framework for Inquiry in Your School.” Our teaching and learning environment became one of questioning. As Jennifer stated, we encouraged our students to question everything. We encouraged our teachers to incorporate inquiry into every possible lesson.
Jennifer and I had always been a team of two; the team expanded. In fact, our superintendent began to refer to us as a cult! It all begins with a team. I have always stressed collaboration among our staff. Inquiry became the glue that held teachers together. Inquiry was and and is still an essential ingredient of collaboration and multidisciplinary projects. Jennifer and I have been trained as new teacher mentors. Our new teachers are immersed in inquiry and we work together as a well oiled machine. Our library has been transformed into a learning center and is literally bursting at the seams.
Last year, our district hired a technology integration specialist. I jumped at the opportunity to offer her an office in the library. Yes, you guessed it. Nicole Schrock is now part of our cult! Nicole works with us daily to incorporate these strategies into her workshops and presentations. As a team, we are impacting students across disciplines and across grade levels. Just this morning, we discussed workshops Nicole is conducting for our district. The focus is blended learning/project based learning. Nicole has asked me to be on hand to offer a mini workshop on inquiry. After all, one can’t effectively teach project based learning without inquiry. Again, the culture in our building and now district has changed.
Dana Wright, Librarian
Jonathan Adler High School