Top 5 Bloggers/posts this year!

I’ve been crunching the numbers and checking out the stats for our year on the blog.  The numbers are exciting and we have some celebrations to share!

So, I’m here today to announce and celebrate our

Top 5 Bloggers for 2016!

These top five blog posts were determined by the number of views to their posts.  Congratulations to all of you!

  1. Paige Holden with 643 views of her post Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming… | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry  On this post, Paige explained how she scaffolded her middle schoolers questioning in the Identify phase.  She expertly guided her students to expand their understanding of questions using Webb’s depth of knowledge to support and other strong scaffolds.  The post goes on to describe the actual student’s questions as a result.  She moves into the Gather and Create phases including information literacy skills embedded in the unit.
  2. Lizzie Walker aka Curious St George had nearly 400 views of her post Avoid Cheetah Reports in 8 Easy Steps! | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry where she summarizes a fourth grade science unit where she flips the traditional animal report on its head! Using the concept of “All living things and their environment are interdependent,”  the students engaged in the GID process to dig deeper and in more interesting ways into the animals they know and love, and some that they had never heard of before!
  3. Kathryn Roots Lewis takes the third place with 200 views to her post GID-Making a Difference in Teaching & Learning | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry . Kathryn brings a unique leadership perspective as she is the library leader in Norman, Oklahoma where a national model of Guided Inquiry Design is taking hold.  In this post nearly 200 people read about how the GID movement began and the far reaching effects of the practice in her district. Thanks, Kathryn, for sharing this important leadership perspective.
  4. Kelsey Barker and Dr. Buffy Edwards represented a team who was working at the district level to create a fifth grade science unit on biospheres.  In this post with 198 views, Taking Steps Back So We Can Move Forward | 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry the team, in the middle of the design process, took a step back to look at what they were planning from a student’s perspective and that shed new shining light onto their work.  It was fantastic to hear about their process and how it unfolded and what resulted from this team’s work together.
  5. And the fifth most read post was by yours truly.  People had been asking me in my GID workshops about REAL student questions and what questions arose out of this Guided process.  Educators are often worried that kids questions will be so far afield of the content and need some reassurance. In this post, viewed by 198 readers, I wrote about the exemplary model from Westborough High School in Massachusetts. I shared the questions from a unit in our recently released high school book as well as some of the questions from Kathleen Stoker‘s students participating in the psychology in literature class. Once you see the real questions that students have, and the level of these questions, as well as how they are relevant to topic, and have students passions embedded within them, you just have to give GID a try! 😀

Thanks all for the wonderful descriptions of what you have been working on this year using the Guided Inquiry model to make a difference in teaching and learning for your students!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all.

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Author of the Guided Inquiry series

Professional Developer

guidedinquirydesign.com

 

Image credit https://goldsmithdolphins.com/2013/05/21/end-of-year-celebration-times-updated/

 

What a year it has been!

I took on this challenge of a year long shared blog with no idea of how it would work out, no idea if we’d have enough practitioners to fill the weeks, but a willingness to fill in when there were gaps, and some very high hopes for what reflection on what Guided Inquiry can do, for learners and for a growing community of educators.

Over the next few days I will reflect on the year and share some data about our collective accomplishments together.  I hope this will inspire people to continue with us next year and inspire even more folks to join in our community of reflection and practice on this blog.

So for my first post of this week,

Who we are?

As I began this yearlong journey, I had a long list of people I have worked with, trained in Guided Inquiry, and of whom I value their use of the Guided Inquiry Design. I knew these folks were smart and had the ability to be humble and reflective – meanwhile get that taking risks is often well worth the effort!  But, I didn’t know who would or could take the time and make a commitment to sharing their work in this very public and sometimes scary public platform.

The wonderful news is, that many people really enjoyed sharing on our blog this year and many learned that blogging isn’t so hard, but actually fun!  Furthermore, many people want to do it again!

I was hoping for a wide variety of respondents- I knew because of the strong connection between Guided Inquiry and teacher librarians that many would hold that role on the team.  I was happy to see that district level leaders, and teachers, as well as researchers and other friends of Guided Inquiry would appear.  I also appreciated the international perspectives that were provided. And members were wonderful to include through images and quotes, the voices of our students.

WOW! The stats on our Blog this year showing the variety of participation!

We are a group active in social media, especially using twitter as a PLN.  Here we are represented on Twitter!  You have an entire PLN of folks who are dedicated to GID here!

  @lesliemaniotes @52_GID  @InquiryK12                          Denver
 @ldharring-                                                                          New Jersey
@patrice4books                                                                          Virginia
@anitacellucci @libraryWHS                                                        Mass
@aholmes1517 @TeachingMuse                                         Wisconsin
@thebossysister                                                                       Maryland
@donnalynnyoung                                                                       Texas
@MrsDanner_72,                                                                         Ohio
@JALibrarian                                                                                Ohio
@tjbcurtis                                                                                Oklahoma
@paigemholden                                                                     Oklahoma
@StacyFord77                                                                        Oklahoma
@KelseyGourd                                                                       Oklahoma
 @Kelseymbarker                                                                  Oklahoma
 @jluss                                                                                    Connecticut
@kujawaIBLibrary                                                                    Texas
@Jean Pfluger                                                                            Texas
@rgrov1013                                                                              Virginia
@KatBogie                                                                              Wisconsin
@HCHSLibrarian                                                                   Kentucky
@MDWestborough                                                                    Mass
@stokerkathleen                                                                        Mass
@nd4Buffy                                                                      North Dakota
@mrsreinagel                                                                        Virginia
LIBRARY LEADERS
‏@Katlewis25Lewis                                                               Oklahoma
@nomoretwist                                                                       Virginia
@LoriDonovan14                                                                   Virginia
@krayz4libraries                                                                    Maryland
 INTERNATIONAL
 @bloomingcherry                                                         Turku, Finland
@marc_crompton                                                 Vancouver, Canada
@curiousstgeorge-                                                 Vancouver, Canada
@margoannep                                                North Sydney, Australia
@ezpatel                                                   New South Wales, Australia
@AlindaS                                                 New South Wales, Australia
@leefit @TLs_forever                           New South Wales, Australia
YA Author
@abwestrick                                                                             Virginia

And of course we had people who have just started with GID all the way to people who have been working on it for a few years! My favorite part was the many, many perspectives represented and the stories that came from not one perspective to show what we can do with this model, but from so many!  Thank you all.  If you haven’t already- add these folks to your PLN today!

Before the new year rings in I’ll share a little more of a year summary including:

What we’ve accomplished.

AND What we hope to be!

Happy Holidays all!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

 

Conferencing Throughout the Process

It is the last day before winter break, and like many of you my brain has been working in overdrive.   However, I know that my final post is probably my most important, because it is about listening to students discuss their learning throughout the inquiry process.

As a former English teacher, I always understood the importance of conferencing with students during reading and writing, but I had never thought of it for research. It wasn’t until I became fully immersed in Guided Inquiry Design that I understood how essential conferencing is at every stage of the inquiry process.

Students need the opportunity to reflect on their learning. Conferring with students allows them to express questions they may still have and determine what tools will help them accomplish various tasks necessary to the process.  The key to conferencing is being a good listener.  In other words, you do not tell them what to do, but instead listen to them and guide them to the strategies and tools they may need.

Once I understood that conferring with students was just as important in the inquiry process as it is in the writing process, I built essential conference time with my students into every GID unit plan. When students are exploring resources for interesting ideas, conferencing helps the learning team determine if students are examining new ideas instead of accumulating facts. In the Identify stage, conferencing helps students narrow their topic.  During the Gather stage, conferring with students can often ensure that a student does not go off track while they collect detailed information.  Giving students the opportunity to articulate what they know is crucial to their learning, and essential in the inquiry process.

It has been wonderful sharing some of the things I have learned over the years using GID. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and the best 2017!!!

 

Patrice Lambusta

Librarian

Passage Middle School

Newport News, Virginia

Building a Foundation for Inquiry

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As stated in my prior entry, the first unit I taught as a librarian on inquiry was on pop culture. Students and teachers were excited about this unit because pop culture encompasses so much which allowed for student choice on topic.  The problem occurred with the old NNPS Inquiry model.  It became abundantly clear that “Starting with what you know” and moving directly into creating questions was not working.  My students were struggling with creating questions as a first step to inquiry, because they had nothing to base it on.

Passage Middle School is an inner city school.   We are now close to 70% free and reduced lunch with an eighteen percent special education population.  A lot of our students have not been out of the neighborhood, much less the state.  Because of that, we need to create a strong foundation for learning by building background knowledge.  GID gives us the platform to do this.

In the summer of 2012, a team from my school (which included my principal, reading specialist, science teacher and me) were fortunate to attend the CiSSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University. It was while I was in attendance there that I had a major “ah-ha” moment.

Our team created an inquiry unit on forensic science. I have written about that unit in our book, Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School. The unit was highly successful and allowed our students to collaborate in teams as they explored careers in forensics.  However, it would never have been as successful if we hadn’t spent so much time on the design and implementation of the Open, Immerse and Explore stages.  (In the NNPS model these three stages are rolled into one and called the “Explore” stage, but it is closely aligned to the GID model.) These beginning stages incorporate hooking students, immersing them in information designed to connect them to the topic, and helping them to explore interesting ideas and begin formulating their inquiry questions.  This is huge!!!

Once I discovered the importance of these stages, my teaching changed. I began developing lessons that scaffolded the learning but also engaged students in the learning process.

A Librarian’s Journey to Guided Inquiry Design

Hello from Hampton Roads, Virginia!

My name is Patrice (Patty) Lambusta and I am a middle school librarian at Passage Middle School in Newport News.

Like many librarians, I am a former English teacher who loved to teach reading and writing, but would grow sick at the thought of teaching another research unit. I absolutely loathed Science Fair because I was responsible for the paper, which meant I was also responsible for the research.  Like many before me, teaching thirty ‘tweens how to create questions, locate and evaluate information, and synthesize that information into a paper on a topic assigned to them by the science teacher, was more than I could handle.  Index cards became my nemesis.

I had a wonderful librarian at the time, who tried to get me to collaborate on an “inquiry” unit. I remember running from her in the hallways, because I thought she was just using a fancy word for another traditional “research” project.  It wasn’t until I became a librarian that I realized “research” is embedded into the inquiry process.  It is the process that supports student learning.

I was fortunate that my district library program had already created an inquiry process model and was in the process of integrating it into the district curriculum. At my school, I had created an inquiry unit on pop culture using Newport News Public School (NNPS) Inquiry Process Model.   Students were allowed to pick any pop culture topic they wished.  Although students were highly engaged in the unit, they struggled with the first stage of the original model, creating their own questions.  During 2012, while librarians (myself included) were trying to create rubrics to support the process, we discovered that there were issues with the process itself, namely having students create questions from the very beginning.

As we struggled with how to fix this issue, district librarians began professional development on Guided Inquiry Design with Dr. Leslie Maniotes. We also read the publication Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School, coauthored by Leslie.  Through the professional development sessions and the book study we were able to adjust our Inquiry Process model so that it was more effective.  Our model is now closely aligned with GID.

In the coming two days, I will focus on the importance of the Open, Immerse, Explore stages and conferencing with students throughout the process.

nnpsinquiry-model

Little Kids and GID?

Yes, Guided Inquiry is a design that you can use with the littlest of kids. The first GID unit we implemented in my building was kindergarten! That being said, there is a little extra planning and preparation that comes with using GID with primary grades.

Challenges that come with primary grades:

  • Writing independently
  • Needing more movement and hands-on engagement
  • Needs more background knowledge
  • Reading independently
  • Providing choice without loosing structure

Those are some pretty big challenges if you don’t think about them throughout the planning process. If you keep these challenges in mind while planning, you can easily integrate various supports that will allow your primary students to find success and love learning with the Guided Inquiry Design!

Possible solutions:

  • Find opportunities to use centers
  • Use drawing as a writing option
  • Use interactive notebook strategies for the inquiry journal
  • Spend more time during the immerse phase if they need background knowledge
  • Find resources that will read to them
  • Work in small groups as much as possible!

 

For our first kindergarten unit, we focused on the social studies essential question of ‘How Can I Take Care of the World?’ This is a pretty big concept for kindergarten! The learning team (myself, the gifted teacher, and classroom teachers) planned an incredible unit that included inquiry journals, inquiry logs, writing, hands-on centers, guest speakers, and art. It can be done!

  1. Open: In the first page of your inquiry journal, draw a picture of you taking care of the world. That was the only prompt we gave them. Then we reviewed various photographs and students discussed whether it was taking care of the world or not. For example, trash on the beach, putting out fires, teaching children, oil spills, etc. We made sure to include photographs representing the scientific/environmental way of taking care of the world and the community building/relationship way of taking care of the world. After going through that as a class, students had a picture sort in their inquiry journals using a mixture of those photographs and others.
  2. Immerse: We invited various guest speakers to give a 10 minute speech about what they do and how they take care of the world. After each speaker, students drew a picture and had a sentence stem in their inquiry journals. Speakers included fireman, small business owners, water conservationist, recycling person, veterinarian, and public librarians. Again, we made sure to include science and community.
  3. Explore: This was probably my FAVORITE lesson out of all the phases. I had pulled many nonfiction books that were kindergarten level about the science and community aspects of taking care of the world. I taught the students how to browse a book by flipping the pages, looking at the pictures, and trying to read bold words. We talked about how we can get so much information from a book just by browsing. Students worked in pairs and rotated through tables. At each table, there was a book, red crayons, glue sticks, and pre-cut tiny images of the book cover. Students had 30 seconds to browse and then 10 seconds to glue the image onto their inquiry log. Then they either colored a heart or an x to indicate their preference of the content. When explaining the directions, one student said

    What if we only kind of like the book? Should we just color half the heart?

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  4. Identify: Before we moved to this phase, the teachers and I worked together to split the students by what they were interested. It ended up being about half and half. One half really liked all the science books and guest speakers, and the other half really enjoyed the community-building resources. I took one inquiry community and the classroom teacher kept the other one. This is when we used a guided discussion to identify our inquiry question. Yes, it was a struggle to get to a higher level question with kindergarten. But that is where the guided part of Guided Inquiry Design comes to play. We used various brainstorming/mind-mapping strategies.
  5. Gather: This can be especially challenging with kindergarten students because they can’t read independently and they can’t take notes. So what does the gather phase look like? We decided the make it a center. For a week, I was one of their literacy centers, which lasted about 15 minutes. They came to me with their inquiry journals. I introduced them to our PebbleGo database, which is an incredible resource for primary age students. There were different sections that had several articles in each that were related to our topics. For example, there was an entire section full of 8-10 articles about community helpers. There was also an entire section full of 8-10 articles about helping the environment! PebbleGo reads the articles aloud in a non-robotic voice, so I let the students click around and get information. At the end of the center, they drew a picture in their journal about something that was interesting to them or something they learned.

    screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-8-41-11-pm

  6. Create: Students created a more detailed illustration to answer the question of ‘How Can I Take Care of the World?’ This is a great opportunity for you to capture students explaining their art with video, then you can compile them all into one exciting video for your class!
  7. Share: Share the video, share the drawing, share the experience!
  8. Evaluate: What did you like about these lessons? What was your favorite part? Look back in the inquiry journals to help with reflection since that can be challenging for primary students. The main question we focused on for this phase was ‘How was your last picture different from your first picture?’ Teacher translation: describe your learning experience and how this Guided Inquiry Unit impacted your learning.

I’m a believer!

My name is Kelsey Gourd and I work in Norman Public Schools as an elementary teacher librarian. As you’ve read here before, Norman Public Schools have embraced the Guided Inquiry Design and has trained MANY of our teachers, and all of our curriculum directors and librarians!

I’d like to tell a couple stories to share with you why I am such a believer in the Guided Inquiry Process.

In 3rd grade social studies, students are expected to learn about 9-11 specific famous Oklahomans according to the Oklahoma Academic Standards. Previously, this unit has been a bore. I’ve tried to approach teaching it with centers, choice boards, and online classrooms, but still students did not retain any knowledge about the people we were studying. They just didn’t care- much less did they grasp why we were learning about these people.

This year, we transformed this unit into a Guided Inquiry Unit, and although we are only in the Identify phase, I have already seen such a difference in student’s engagement and learning!

Open: We started this unit right after our Mock Election, so we opened this unit by reflecting on the leadership characteristics we discussed from the presidential mock election. What types of leadership characteristics are important? Students wrote about a trait they had with examples of how they show it. One student, who hardly speaks, wrote about how he is humble. I mean, this is third grade! I wrote a note in his journal about how impressed I was with his writing and his trait. I told him how his self-awareness is also a strength. Two days later, this student, who I have known since kindergarten and he has only spoken to me twice, started emailing me in the evening. Just to chat!

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Immerse: We dove into learning about Woody Guthrie, a famous folk singer who is from Oklahoma. He is most famous for being the “voice of the people” and writing This Land is Your Land. We read a couple books about him, watched a couple videos, wondered about him, and finally wrote in our journals about what leadership traits he displayed.

Students were beginning to grasp the higher level thinking that I always wanted them to reach, and it was because of the way the instruction was designed. By using the Guided Inquiry Design, after only 2 lessons, students were analyzing biographies  with the skill and reflection of having 20 lessons with the old way of instruction.

Students were leaving with questions, rather just facts.

Explore: This is where we really took our time. We spent one session learning how to use an inquiry log while browsing print materials. We spent a second session continuing the inquiry log with digital resources. Then we decided to go on a field trip to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame! During each session, students were encouraged to wonder, and reflect on leadership characteristics found in these various famous Oklahomans.

Identify: Today, as a whole class, we worked on identify. The teachers and I decided since the students have never created inquiry questions before, that this would be a great opportunity to model the process. Together, we brainstormed a list of questions. Then we revised it with the following thought process:

  1.  Can we answer this question with a yes or no? Eliminate!
  2. If we typed it into Google, would a simple answer pop up on the screen? Eliminate!
  3. Are there any questions that are similar and we can combine?

We went from a list of 8 questions to 3 high quality questions. But they weren’t big enough. This is where the guided part of Guided Inquiry comes to play. The teachers and I guided the discussion until together we came up with the giant overall question: How did they impact me?

 

Image result for 3 marshmallows different sizes

I had three marshmallows lined up. ‘How did they impact me?’ was the big giant marshmallow. The one you can barely fit in your mouth. The other 3 questions that were up on the board (What inspired them? What mistakes or challenges did they face? and How did they become famous?) were the jumbo marshmallows- the medium ones. They are hearty and good questions. Finally, all the little questions we had eliminated were the mini marshmallows. You know, the typical ‘when were they born’ or ‘were they married’ questions. We talked about how those answers were still important and how they contributed to the answer of the big marshmallow.

During each one of these lessons, students left groaning, asking when do they get to come back! This has NEVER happened during our Famous Oklahomans unit. And to think, had we taught this unit like a typical research unit, we would have just skipped right over these steps. The Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the Guided Inquiry Design are probably my favorite part!

 

Voices on the Learning and Words of Wisdom

Here are multiple perspectives and reflections on what we did.

FROM DANA (ELL Teacher):

When many students leave their native countries to come to school in Millburn, NJ, there are many things to go through their minds: Do I know enough of the language to get by in school? Will I be able to communicate with my teachers? Will I get good grades? Will I be able to meet my parents’ expectations in school? Will I acclimate to the new culture? Will people accept my culture? Will I like American food? Will people think my food is weird? Will I have anything in common with people?

As an ELL (English Language Learning) teacher in Millburn, NJ, my job is to make sure these students feel comfortable in their new environment, and have the best academic experience possible. After all, many families come to the town specifically for the schools. In my ELL classroom, I always make it a point to get to know students personally, and advocate for them with teachers in mainstream classes.

One thing I always notice is that students eventually feel very comfortable in the ELL classroom, but not in the larger settings of content classes. Many times, ELL students feel different than students who have grown up here. Let’s face it, ELL teachers sometimes feel different than all the other teachers in the school. They are usually one person departments with no other ELL teacher to collaborate with.

I was lucky enough to form a unique relationship with my school librarian, who thrives on collaboration. Together with Rachael Harrington, professional storyteller, we developed a year long project called ” Our Story”, that  makes the ELL students realize that people are more the same than different. It makes them realize that their food is loved by many people, and not weird at all. Through oral storytelling and integration of multiple digital tools students come out of their shells and perform a cultural story, using their speaking and listening skills to interview a partner, reading and critical thinking skills to conduct research, and writing skills to express their ideas. All of this culminates in an International Festival involving parents, students, faculty and school administrators.

The collaboration between ELL teacher, librarian, students and families is an invaluable tool that makes these students, families and teachers feel a part of the community.
FROM RACHAEL (our storyteller):

Working with ELL students as a storyteller is inspiring because I am always reminded that language is more nuanced than just the words we read or speak. Computers and robots can say words, but there is a soul and depth to human communication that can happen in a look, the raising of an eyebrow, or a tip of the head. These are some of the things I like to think about when collaborating to create storytelling workshops in ELL classrooms.

An idea that I specifically like to work with is that each and every student, regardless of current English proficiency, is a natural storyteller with sparks of creativity and a specific, unique voice. When I begin working with a group, I play theater and storytelling games that require little to no language. This gets students loosened up, but it also allows them to begin building confidence in expressing themselves. From there, we can dive into further story explorations that integrate tales from cultures represented in the classroom, personal narrative experiences, and vocabulary building. The most important thing for me, though, is that the students walk away from the workshop knowing that stories have a life outside of rote words.

 

FROM JASMINE (A student):

Telling a story in front of so many people gave me the confidence of expressing myself. It’s one of the most important barriers of a second language. I’m really proud of myself that I took that step.

The … project was a very interesting way to learn the culture of a different country.

 

FROM JASMINE’s MOM (apologies for the grammar but I wanted to leave it in the exact words of Jasmine’s mom):

Jasmine and I, as international student and parent, benefit a lot from the project as the following:

For the first time in Jasmine’s life she could speak English publicly thanks to the storytelling, which was a great start point for her to face the school life in a foreign country. Also, Jasmine felt comfortable and good when other classmates and teacher appreciated the stories of her home country.

As a mother, I appreciate the International Night very much because I knew the teachers and classmates of my daughter. Then, I have more common topics with my daughter than before. Also, I made friends here. We parents could share our experience with kids, and then we could help the kids more than before. And, parents becoming friends helped the kids closer to each other.

In China we always say, “Good start point means half of success.” The project is the good start point for Jasmine.

FROM LaDawna (the librarian):

As Jasmine’s mom so eloquently said… “Good start point means half of success” To me this sums up the WHOLE reason why we should do Guided Inquiry Design. GID is deep and rich and is way more than giving an assignment, providing a list, or making a rubric. The rewards are great. The rewards are in the deep collaborative work that is done by the team, the rewards are in the excitement you see from the students, the rewards are in seeing learning take place in a personal way. For librarians I think it is what we always yearn for, to have access to students, to be an integral part of the design process, to be included in the creation and sharing phase. So many times a research project is done in the library, and never do you get a glimpse inside the learning that took place because the essay is read by the content teacher, or the poster is designed and turned in for the teacher to grade, and you always wonder….”did what I contribute really impact the student learning?” That is not what happens in GID….I get to be an essential partner in the process.

LaDawna Harrington

MHS Librarian

Millburn, NJ

English Language Learners Connect with Story – The Unit

Time to plan and meet seems to be the over arching impediment to good collaboration. Our Guided Inquiry Unit happens over the course of the year and the library works on a flex schedule. If your library works on a flex schedule and you can find a teacher that can work on an overarching theme within the content area that they are teaching, then using an extended time period is a great benefit to you and the students. This extended time period allows for a good deal of collaboration to happen in face-to-face time as well as time to work on lessons in a digital environment.

Our team has met face-to-face, by Google Hangouts, Skype, Google Keep, etc. where we take notes and share our ideas. When you can work in a flexible schedule environment there is a flow that occurs where some of the phases happen in the library, some in the classroom, and reinforcement happens seamlessly. For us, using a storytelling theme, we were able to have many of the lessons taught in the ELL classroom connected to the idea of story, always threading back to why story is so important in our lives and how cultural identities are wrapped up in stories.

The Team

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Left to right: Rachael (our storyteller), LaDawna (Librarian), Dana (English Language Learner Teacher)

The storyteller visits our school several times to present stories and workshops. Her first visit is as a special guest at the narrative festival

Storyteller Rachel

Storyteller Rachael

where students are sharing their stories to each other and parents. She presents her own narrative and this introduces her to the students. Her first workshop follows during the Immerse Phase. During Immerse the students are continuing to swirl around stories but it is expanding beyond narrative to folktales and stories from the variety of cultures represented in the class. Students begin collecting stories from their own cultural backgrounds. These stories may be gathered from interviews with their parents, by exploring folktales from around the world using print and digital resources in the library.

The storyteller is invited back to do a storytelling workshop. Her storytelling selection will draw from one of the cultures represented in the classroom.

Whatever her selection, she provides a written copy to the classroom teacher. This is important because the students are just learning English. By having the story in advance the ELL teacher can introduce vocabulary words from the story to the students to build some basic understanding of the stories that will be presented. During the storyteller’s visit she engages the students in theatre and story games that require few if any words to help break down inhibitions and build confidence and trust.

She presents the prepared stories and introduces storyboarding.

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Moving into the Explore Phase students have been Immersed in culture through stories, now they begin to explore the countries from which these stories originate. Resources like our Culturegrams database and country books etc. are explored.

Students are paired with someone from a different culture and with guidance from the ELL teacher formulate interesting interview questions of their partners about things they have discovered in the resources and from drawing on the background of narrative and culture discovered from the folktales.

It is from the interviews and exploration of the resources that the students start to discover the question(s) they want to really focus on that comes in the Identify Phase.

As you look at the way Guided Inquiry Design is laid out you can begin to see how VERY important the Opening, Immerse and Explore phases are to helping student questions drive the learning. As the librarian and content teacher we could easily have given the students a list of countries for them to research. We could have given our students a rubric of what we wanted the research outcomes to be. But in Guided Inquiry we have brought them to the research component of learning about a different country through the idea of how culture shapes identity, how everyone has a story, and how do those stories teach us about each other and the world around us.

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A quick word about the Gather, Create, and Share Phases because in my final post this week I want to bring it around to reflecting on the process. And bring to you a variety of voices involved in the process.

Gather: many mini-lessons are taught about plagiarism, copyright, citation, notetaking, etc. We use many tools that include: Noodletools, Google Docs, Inquiry Journals (digitally to provide zones of intervention)

Create: Google Sites are used to create a portal that is a presentation for student learning, that may include video-casting, oral storytelling (that is video taped and posted), etc. Students have choice in how they will communicate their learning. We use the Google Site as a portal for that creation. It is important with this group of students that we are able to track their writing, speaking and listening skills and this portal allows us the ability to capture these different modalities.

Share: International Night  – Students invite their parents to share food, fun, stories, and the hard work they have done.

 

 

Stories are the fabric of our lives.

Stories are the fabric of our lives, whether we are reading a story, watching a story, dancing a story, painting a story…stories weave our lives together in ways that bring meaning and connection to our lives. Stories show us how much we share common experiences even with backgrounds that come from very diverse cultures.

There is something magical about stories that connect us to one another. In the English Language Learning (ELL) classroom students come together from diverse backgrounds and cultures, each with unique stories and unique languages. As beginning or emerging speakers ELL students have little or no understanding of English, never mind having an understanding of the language of the peers in their classroom. An ELL classroom can easily consist of ten different languages. What do they have in common? Story! As teacher, librarian and storyteller, we wondered how we might use that common factor of story to build speaking, listening, writing and information literacy skills. Our journey begins with a story….

I reach my hand into a bag, in the bag I find a smooth rock and my story begins….

It was a cold dark night. The air was heavy, fog rolled in off the mountains into our small fruit farming and coal mining valley. Rooftops were swallowed and the lights seeping through windows made the houses look like giant jack-o-lanterns dancing in the swamps of a misty bog. In my house we were headed to bed. My brother went to his bedroom and snuggled in under his heavy quilt. My mom shooed my sisters and me to bed. Our bedrooms were in the basement. Dad wouldn’t be home for another 8 hours. He was doing the graveyard shift at the coalmine where he worked to supplement his struggling fruit farm. I could say the night wasn’t all that different than any other school night, early to bed, early to rise, except it wasn’t. In the wee hours of the morning a scream pierced through the darkness that shrouded the house. I woke and struggled to figure out where I was. The house was full of smoke. The scream was pulling me up the stairs. Stumbling through the darkness, tears streaming down my face from the sting of the smoke, I saw my mother dragging my brother out into the hallway. His eyes were glazed over, he was not breathing. My mother’s scream changed to commands, “open the doors, the window” My sisters and I sprang into action. “Pray” my mother said. We did that too. I grabbed a blanket, the frigid January frost swept quickly into the house through the open doorway and windows. I was shaking. Not sure if it was from the cold or from the fright of all that was happening. I began to give my brother mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mom was on the phone, calling the ambulance, calling grandma, calling our pastor. Somehow she needed to get word to my dad who was down in the pitch-black belly of the coalmine. The rest is kind of a blur, lights flashing, being spirited away, with grandma? Honestly it was hard to put it all together and make sense of everything that was happening. Would my brother be ok? Would he live? Would he be the same if he did come back? I couldn’t sleep. I wondered. I prayed. I think I even cried. All that fear, all that uncertainty lifted when Wayne walked into grandma’s house the next day. The first words he said to me? “Boy, I knew you were full of a lot of hot air!” We laughed, we hugged, we cried. But this time I was crying because he was the same old joking, funny guy that had gone out into the night under flashing lights just hours before. “So, I bet you are wondering what this rock (I hold up the rock that I pulled out from the bag that started the whole story), has to do with the story I just told you”. Well my brother is all grown up now and he likes to collect rocks. He finds beautiful rocks and he takes them home and he polishes them up. He finds rocks that don’t seem like anything at all until he takes them home and finds their hidden beauty. And then? He gives those rocks away. He carries a pocket full of them wherever he goes, and if you happen to be in a restaurant where he is, you might see him walk over to a table that has a young family and he asks the mom and dad, “Can I give your child this rock?” Children love his gifts and parents walk away feeling special. I hope someday you are in a place where the rockman is and he sees you and gives you a rock as beautiful as the one I pulled out of the bag. And if you do get that chance, you will know the story of the rockman!

This is an example of the OPEN phase of our Guided Inquiry Design Unit. Storytelling becomes the loom in which we will weave together our entire unit. There is a high level of student interest. Students share their own narrative stories following this model lesson. Each student is asked to bring 3 personal items in a bag we give them, from which they will drawn and tell their own personal story.

We spend a great deal of time in the OPEN phase as we want students to have ample time to understand the meaning story has in each of their individual lives, the lives of their families, and the culture from which they come, as well as the eventual person they will be partnered with. We also need to build trust for these new language learners. We need to build trust for us (the teaching team) and in each other. These are students who are working hard to acquire a new language and they need the confidence that they are in a trusting environment. Through the focus on story we are able to bring understanding that stories show us how we are alike and how each of our stories enrich the lives of others. This understanding is the opening for learning about other cultures and countries. Over the course of our unit our students will thread this understanding of story into the research they will do about the country and culture of the partner they are teamed with.

Some tools we use during this OPEN phase:

Story starters:

  1. Narrative Bags with objects to connect to a personal story
  1. Story Starter Worksheet (optional to the objects bag):

Look at your given photo, and then briefly (1-2 words) answer these questions off the top of your head. Use your answers to help you connect the photo to a personal event in your life.

  • Who or what is in the picture? What are their relationships to each other?
  • What activity(ies) are happening in the picture? Is someone going to or from a location?
  • What emotions are happening in the photo?
  • What season is it in the photo?
  • What would the scent and sounds of this picture be?
  1. Brainstorming about yourself:

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  1. Narrative short stories are used to read to the students.(Amy Tan’s Fish Cheeks is a good example).
  1. Vocabulary Logs

We wrap up this OPEN phase with a Narrative Story Festival. Parents are invited and this is the first time the storyteller (our extended team member) is introduced. She is invited as a special guest and tells her own narrative story. She will return several times over the course of the unit to present workshops for students as they dig into their own cultural stories.

Later this week, I will share the collaborative process and the other phases in the unit.

LaDawna Harrington

MHS Librarian

Millburn, NJ