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

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

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.


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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.



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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?

A team that rocks and the 2 C’s

Kelsey introduced the Guided Inquiry science unit and the team working on the unit and what a great team it is!   So many years of combined experience and expertise – it is a really energizing to work with these great people.  As I look back on the two planning meetings we’ve had so far, what I see is evidence of the natural alignment that happened with Guided Inquiry.  It was not ‘fitting a square peg in a round hole’ –  it was a natural flow that supports student learning and curiosity. It did help to get the ‘balcony’ view of the lesson with the sticky notes and charts pictured in Kelsey’s post on Thursday – thank you Kelsey for your wonderful obsession with sticky notes.   Being a visual learner myself this helped me see each step of the GI process and how the science content standards will be easily integrated.

As Kelsey shared, One question the team working on the science unit had was ‘how could we encourage collaboration between teachers and librarians while giving teachers what they need to implement the unit in their classrooms’? To me, that is the really great thing about Guided Inquiry – it supports a collaborative culture.  In fact, I believe one key to successful GI units is collaborative work – collaboration between teachers and librarians, collaboration between content area teachers, collaboration between students, and collaboration between teachers and students.  There has to be a lot of ‘give’ on everyone’s part. The GI unit I referenced in the blog last week was developed to allow kids the opportunity to earn multiple credits in different content areas.  A unit of that complexity would not be possible without flexibility and collaboration.  Throughout the nine week unit, the team (English IV teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher, art teacher, and teacher librarian) had to really work together to meet the needs of the kids. For those students earning multiple credits, regular meetings with content area teachers was critical and no part of the unit was taught in isolation. I do want to add that even if there is not  a ‘perfect’ collaborative culture in place, I would not shy away from a Guided Inquiry unit.  You have to start somewhere and those baby steps can help you win the big race.

Student Conference Social Studies standards doc

Ongoing student conferencing to ensure standards were met.



Science teacher conferencing with student.

Science teacher conferencing with student.

These student conferencing meetings solidified the integration of multiple content areas and helped students focus their project to a depth that met adequate standards, thus earning the credits.

Another perfect opportunity that I believe happens with Guided Inquiry is that of coteaching – a shared responsibility of teaching part or all of a unit plan with teachers.  In my school’s multi-credit unit it was fun to coteach with the English IV teacher and it really provided a great learning environment for the kids. Not only was it fun to coteach the unit but it was so helpful to talk through how the day went, what we felt needed to be modified, and to have someone to just share successes and challenges with along the way!  By the way, if anyone is struggling with getting teachers to collaborate or coteach, my advice is plan a Guided Inquiry unit to help and a helpful article to support this cause is David Loertscher’s Collaboration and Coteaching; A New Measure of Impact.

I’ll close now — thanks for reading and it’s been a pleasure sharing this with you.  What is coming up this week is a breakdown of the 5th grade science unit and the GI process step-by-step.  Kelsey will cover Open to Identify and I will cover Gather to Evaluate.   Take care and keep on!   


Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection–Oh My!

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection:  these three educational buzz words are at the forefront of conversations in schools today.  As we know, the research shows the following:

Children have different ways and modes of learning.

Children learn by building on what they already know.

Children learn by being actively engaged in and reflecting on an experience.

This research is directly integrated into  GID; and in fact, the aforemtioned statements are three of the six principles highlighted in Guided Inquiry Learning in the 21st Century (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Caspari).  The awesome news is through GID, a teacher can incorporate all three principles and a lot more!  And that is why I’m passion about the GI process; my students are truly working within a holistic, invigorating process that will benefit their learning in a multitude of ways.


As mentioned in my previous blog, I teach a senior English seminar called Psychology in Literature.  It is heterogeonous grouping:  I have students who take Advanced Placement classes and I have students who have significant learning and/or behavioral challenges.  I have students who are English Language Learners.  Bottomline:  the range of my students’ abilities differs greatly.  So how do I design an assignment that can meet the needs of all the students in my classroom?  Through GID.  GID naturally differentiates through its stages, skill development, and content.

For example in the Psychology in Literature assignment that my library educator Anita Cellucci and I created, we ask students to review and reflect on the literary materials they have accessed over the course of the semester.  These materials include books, poems, short stories, articles, TED Talks, movies, guest speakers, etc.  We ask them to contemplate course terms such as coping mechanisms, addiction, positive psychology.  We ask them to review skills such as information psychological analysis, personal refflection and information literacy.  And based on their own individual curiosity, personal experiences and connections to the material, cognitive development, etc. students are able to move through the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify stages at their appropriate learning ability. Another key component of differentiation is the research.  Anita created a libguide ( that enables students to access information based on their learning abilities.

Student Choice

Because students are empowered through their teachers and the weath of options presented, they often start at a much higher level of engagement and motivation than if we assigned them topics to research.  I now see students who are visibly excited to gather research, are more willing to use vetted sources (versus using Google and then picking the first site that pops up), and are committed to putting the time in to analyze the information they have acquired.  The range of topics for this particular assignment are fantastic:  the negative effects of  sleep deprivation in teens, the benefits of art therapy, the negative effects of stress on teenagers, the struggles of veterans who suffer from PTSD in assimilating back home, the differences in sociopathy and psychopathy, the benefits of positive psychology, etc.  Just reflecting on the topics myself, I observe just how different my students’ choices are based on their experiences, interests, and connections.


One of my favorite parts of GID is the Share stage.  This stage enables students to share their research AND reflect on their research and the process.  I find student reflections so valuable because I can “see” their thinking/feeling process.  This enables me to reflect on my students’ learning and my teaching.

In my next post, I’ll share a couple of the students’ presentations; however, what I want to show you now are a couple of student reflections.  We ask students to remind us of what their inquiry question is, discuss a bit of the research process, ask new questions, and reflect on any further thoughts.  Below are two excerpts from two students’ reflections. You will be able to see certain places where students make mention of their own choice, engagement, and motivation as well.

Student #1:

My question was, “how does positive psychology help humans obstacles and what methods/treatments are available?” I really was confused on the literal meaning of positive psych and all it encompassed. I found myself wanting to know exactly what it is. Naturally I wanted to learn the methods and see how this thought process can apply to myself. I don’t think I need a psychologist but good mental thinking cap can help. Keywords included “happiness” “resilience” “treatments” “learned optimism” and “meditation”. Although I used a lot more, I found these one reoccurring a lot. I used these keywords on all four databases in the libguide…A new question would be are there treatments people are experimenting with? How is this new movement being incorporated into society? And I also noticed the backlash and wondered how can there be any negatives to positive psychology?

When I first started I really was eager to learn about the topic. As I went along I found the articles weren’t boring me and that the topic maintained my interest which led me to some great books and pieces of writing…I definitely see how negative thinking and depression can be linked to the disorders of characters in Girl Interrupted and The Bell Jar

Student #2
My inquiry question is “How are students affected by sleep deprivation and what can schools to do to help students?” I knew from the beginning, I wanted to research about sleep deprivation, because it’s a disease that’s a lot less talked about. Usually, it’s something big like depression, PTSD, and such but sleep deprivation hits home for many people. When I was using the LibGuides, the articles I kept finding were related to high school teens suffering from sleep deprivation. Therefore, I chose to stick with how high school students are affected by school deprivation and how schools can help with the problem. The keywords that I found to be most effective were: “sleep deprivation”, “sleep”, “high school sleep”, “adolescent sleep”, and such. In the LibGuide, I used the Gale Research in Context database within which I searched for my topic using various advanced searches. One difficulty I had issues was with whether, in my presentation, I should be talking about sleep deprivation as a disease in general and at throughout just allude to my topic or is my whole presentation going to the specifics about my inquiry question based on students and schools. I decided to focus only on my inquiry question and only address the schools and students’ perspective to have a clear focus and not jumble up a bunch of information on sleep deprivation and not talk enough about my inquiry question. Some new questions I had were: “If adolescents are the most affected and prone to sleep deprivation, why hasn’t school board legislation done anything sooner?”, “What’s the probability of an adolescent contracting this disease as opposed to an adult?”, “Can sleep deprivation kill you naturally over a prolonged period of time?”, “Assuming school times are, in fact, pushed back, how long will it take for the positive effects to take place?”, “Over all these years, why is it that public convenience always  outweighed millions of students’ health?”, and others. When I first started this project, I was really set out on finding a perfect solution that solves this huge problem and since it readily affects me personally, I was a lot more involved. The process was kind of long and arduous, but when research isn’t long, clearly you haven’t done the best research on your topic and there is much left to be discovered. As I was finishing up and realizing there has been an advocacy for a push of school start times to solve this crisis of sleep deprivation, I was sort of frustrated with public school legislation that no change has been put into effect even with clear medical research. Considering my topic was sleep deprivation and the fact that most high school teens in fact are sleep deprived, I can see the effects of sleep deprivation in students every single day, including myself. Usually, teachers blame the students for staying up late and that’s why we’re so tired in school. But there’s more to the story than just that. Unknowingly to most, many students are battling a serious disease everyday and it’s never really recognized.

In order to set standards and expectations for our students, we as educators need to put the appropriate structures in place for students to excel.  Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection are three essential principles of GID that will lead our students to engage enthusiastically in learning.  And perhaps more importantly, GID supports students in  making meaning of their learning and life-long connections from their learning.


By:  Kathleen Stoker, English/Journalism Teacher, Westborough High School, Westborough, MA