The Great GID Experiment

As mentioned in our last post, our journey into guided inquiry began this year with a unit on Mesopotamia. Social studies was a new subject for Cara, one of our seventh grade teachers. Cara was especially interested in trying a new approach to teaching- specifically one that was more project-based and student-centered. Enter the perfect solution: guided inquiry.

Using Harvey Daniels’ framework outlined in Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action, our Mesopotamia unit was structured as follows:

  • Immerse students into the topic
  • Investigate to narrow the focus of the research
  • Intensify research and synthesize information
  • Go public and demonstrate learning

During the immersion process, students were presented with the essential question, “How did the developments of Mesopotamia influence modern-day civilizations?” Besides flooding students with various resources during this stage, the focus was on modeling. The inquiry approach was not only new to us, but it was also new to the students. Students needed extensive practice and guidance with learning how to read and interpret different mediums including texts, videos, and websites. Various reading strategies were modeled by Peggy and Cara, and students used the “I see, I think, I wonder” template as they completed guided practice during this stage.

We also introduced a number of web tools such as Padlet and Read and Write– tools that not only encouraged collaboration, but they also allowed for differentiation.  We created anchor charts by  Factstorming , which were displayed on classroom walls throughout the unit. New information was categorized and added as discoveries were made. Students did a Gallery Walk  towards the end of the unit as a means of sharing new learning. It was exciting to watch students come to those ah ha! moments and make connections all on their own as they uncovered more about this ancient civilization.  Check out our video below to explore the fun students had during their gallery walks.

After a week of intense immersion, students were grouped into “inquiry circles,” and they had to decide on one specific research topic. Within their groups, they broke their topics into subtopics with each student responsible for only a small portion of the research. I spent time in the classroom talking to students about proper research techniques; this included narrowing a topic, using library databases, citing sources, and evaluating websites. Using Lucid Chart, each group created a collaborative concept map to identify and narrow their topics into specific parts. Since we are a Google Apps for Education School, it was easy for students to share notes and graphic organizers with other group members.

 

Screenshot 2016-04-22 at 11.41.01 AM

In the next phase, intensifying research and synthesizing information, students worked individually to find information on their specific subtopics. In some cases this is where the roadblocks occurred. Despite the fact that our students have access to a wide variety of subscription databases, ebooks, print books, and other web resources, a number of students struggled to find substantial information on their chosen topics. For example, one student was interested in learning more about the invention of the wheel, but as we looked in various databases, books, and other reliable web sources, we found very little information.  Not only did we learn more about the topics that did not lead to enough information, but this experience also led us to teach lessons on the importance of choosing narrow topics that were not too narrow. In this instance, we guided students on how to choose slightly broader topics that led to enough relevant research. We also introduced the students to Instagrok, an interactive concept map, which some students experimented with as a research tool. The research process itself definitely took more time than we had originally planned, but we stayed strong and figured out creative ways to work around the problems.

Finally, we were excited for the final stage: going public and demonstrating learning. As they worked to create their projects, I talked to students about the importance of digital safety and copyright as it pertains to adding music and images in multimedia presentations. I showed students some of my favorite copyright-free image sources and explained the importance of using others’ material legally especially when publishing something online. During the planning process, students came together in their groups and shared the information that they uncovered about their chosen subtopics and addressed the original essential question. As a large group they needed to decide how they would collaboratively present their information. Students had the choice to create an ABC book using Lucid Press, present a live talk show, or produce a Powtoon. What was most interesting was seeing how students worked through the creative process with very little structure or direction from us. They decided what information needed to be shared, and they decided how best to share it. Students were empowered to not only have complete ownership over what they researched, but they also had control over what they shared with the world at the end.

 Click here to view an example of one group’s ABC book. 

As you can imagine, we all learned A LOT from this process. Since this was the first time doing a true guided inquiry project for each of us, there were times when lesson plans were adjusted, more time than planned was given, and many changes were made along the way. Ultimately this project turned out to be a success as so many different 21st century skills were embedded: creative thinking, problem solving, authentic research, using various technologies, close reading of multimodal texts, collaboration, and evaluating different research resources, to name just a few. Our excitement caught the attention of the administration who continued to support the move to add guided inquiry into an eighth grade science unit on fracking and a seventh grade science unit on the human body systems.

In our next post we will share more about what we learned and what we modified in our future units. While it is important to celebrate our successes, it is also equally important to acknowledge our mistakes and how we have grown as a result.

Donna Young
Library Media Specialist
De Pere Middle School

Final thoughts from Connecticut

Challenges

Right now, there are some challenges that I hope to work on over the next year or two.

First, my schedule is a fixed schedule, meaning that all my classes come one time per week for 45 minutes, without their teacher. I do have a few blocks that are free and I use those for collaboration whenever possible. Also, because I am in one school 3 days a week and the other school 2 days, I often miss team meetings, etc. because I am simply in the wrong building that day. This makes collaborating more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

Some teachers and I have really worked to make collaboration work. We have planned together (sometimes electronically), had me start a unit in the library, they take it from there in their classroom, and back and forth until it is completed. Sometimes we have been able to use my free blocks together and then doing different parts in library and in the classroom. At other times, our tech integration specialist has started the unit in the classroom and then worked with the students and me in the library. It’s really helpful to have one person who can be in both places. This spring, our technology teacher and I are working together, so that I am doing the first phases and he will help students with the sharing part. We enjoy a challenge! But I have frequently talked with my administrators about moving to a flex schedule that would allow for better collaboration and student learning.

A flex schedule would also eliminate the problem I often have of seeing classes only once per week. This makes it very difficult for students to really maintain a focus on what they are learning. Instead, I would love the ability to meet with a class every day (or similar) until the project is completed. Sometimes, like last year when I missed 7 Mondays in a row due to snow days and holidays, I have classes that simply miss entire projects. Again, not impossible, but difficult.

Working with my K-2 students, another challenge is simply that many cannot read or write very well yet. Technology has provided many work-arounds, such as using PebbleGo or Worldbook which will read aloud to them, using pictures and having me dictate their words, and our latest love – Seesaw.me which allows students to type or draw a picture and then record their thoughts. I do want to be sure that they are having a balance of using both print/paper and technology, so that is constantly on my mind.

 

Further wonderings

Makerspaces and STE(A)M are very much a part of many librarian conversations these days. I very much want to carefully consider how Guided Inquiry Design can support student learning.

In addition, with the new NGSS and Social Studies standards being adopted, our curriculum director and the rest of our technology and information literacy specialists are looking to see how GID complements them.

Finally, I wouldn’t be a librarian if I didn’t talk a little about the books to use! This morning on twitter, the post was about a 2nd grade teacher’s Top 10 Picture Books to Introduce Units of Study, and I thought, “How perfect!” There are some books that just beg to be used to get kids thinking. Curating lists of books like this is another way that I can help get an inquiry unit off to a terrific start!

It has been such a pleasure reflecting on my own learning and work with Guided Inquiry Design this week. I am very much looking forward to reading the future posts! I will be attending CISSL summer institute this summer with a team of teachers (woo hoo!) and am thrilled to be able to really dig deeper myself into GID and how to create the best learning opportunities for my elementary students.

Many thanks —

Jenny

Wisconsin Reflections

Collaboration – I took the lead as the main presenter and grader. The Dean and I discussed the assessment process and grades. I shared all PowerPoints in a Google Folder with students, Dean, Social Studies teacher, and Special Education Teacher. The Dean was new this year and appreciated being a partner. The Social Studies teacher added knowledge and credibility, as he was a former National History Day Judge. A current National History Day Judge came to campus and mentored our students on how to narrow their topic. We all learned from her tips. The reference librarians at the public library were invaluable guides for our students when we spent a day there gathering information.  The Dean, social studies teacher and I sat down after the project was completed to reassess time commitments for next year, school calendar, and what need to be tweaked as far as content and process. Next year we want to include a day at the Wisconsin State Historical Library because they have a huge amount of primary sources and they encourage high school students to come there. They will give our students an orientation when they arrive.

Third Space – Every student chose their topic based on a passion they had for a seminal event or person or groups of people that impacted history.  They had much to learn about the importance of primary sources and citing them. Many thought they could just report on their prior knowledge and information they got from secondary sources. They learned how to analyze their sources and how to create meaning from all their notes. They had choices on how they would  share out. The research topics were as varied as the students:

  • The impact of psychedelic drugs in the 1960’s on artists’ creativity;
  • The Saturn Project;
  • The Challenger Disaster;
  • Rosemary Kennedy and her impact on Special Education laws;
  • Ballet;
  • John Deere;
  • Trench Warfare;
  • Animal Testing;
  • The Little Rock Nine;
  • Jamestown Virginia and the tobacco industry;.
  • Homer and Greek Warfare;
  • World War 2 battles with Japan and China;
  • Hawaii and the impact of the Protestant Missionaries and the Pineapple Industry.

Their choices. Their passions.

The projects that competed at Regional National History Day competition in Madison Wisconsin were:

Individual Exhibit, Trench Warfare: A Death Sentence for Thousands

Individual Exhibit, The SLS-51-L That Failed The Tragedy That Haunts Humanity

Individual Exhibit, Apollo Program: Changing the World for Half a Century (This project advanced to state competition)

Group Web Site, Animal Rights: Testing in Experiments (This project advanced to state competition)

Student Questioning – this was the biggest challenge as the students did not have previous experience with creating higher level questions, historical analysis, and building a strong thesis. I used the work from New York State as a guide. Empire State Information Fluency Continuum. http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/1A931D4E-1620-4672-ABEF-460A273D0D5F/0/EmpireStateIFC.pdf

Technology – all students have a Mac Book Pro. This is a 1-1 school. It was a challenge to have them not use Google. I guided them to curated resources that I included on their school’s online catalog. If you want to see these resources click on https://sdj.follettdestiny.com/common/welcome.jsp?context=saas40_4832480&siteid=100&districtMode=0 and then click on Rock University High School . We encouraged them to use Noodle Tools. It  is such an efficient tool for building bibliographies, note taking, and outlining. I need to learn more about the capabilities so I can better inform the students. They were not motivated to view the Noodle Tools tutorials. They wanted to “get er done!” I had the students share their Noodle Tools work and their work they completed in Google Docs with me. I commented within 24 hours.

Parents Comments at Open House and a Regional Competition

We judged the final projects at an Open House for parents. All parents came to the Open House. In many cases, the parents commented that this was the first academic challenge their child had ever participated in. The parents were extremely proud of their teenager’s work. As we judged the projects, based on the National History Day Judging Criteria, we had conversations with the students and their parents. We wanted as many students as possible to consider entering their work at Regionals. It was their choice.

One parent stated, “I could not believe how involved he was. I never once saw him using his computer to just watch You Tube music videos. He wanted to do such a good job.” This student made it to the State competition.

What questions do you have about our project?

What tips do you have that you would like to share?

What projects do you work on with teachers?

What are your challenges?

Thank you for participating in the BLOG postings. Keep up you dedicated work.

Kathy Boguszewski