It’s Kelsey Barker again, back to give you an overview of the first half of our National History Day (NHD) Guided Inquiry unit. Before we get started, here’s a little background: in September, the Longfellow social studies department chair told me that the social studies curriculum coordinator for Norman Public Schools had encouraged secondary teachers to use the NHD program in their classes. The department chair clearly understands the value of a teacher librarian because she came to me about facilitating student research! After some discussion about the depth and difficulty of NHD, we settled on restructuring it with the Guided Inquiry process to make it accessible for all students. Even though no one in our social studies department had been through the Guided Inquiry Institute and I was brand new to Longfellow, the entire department took a leap of faith and agreed to try it. I think that is a testament to the open minds and incredible passion of these teachers!
In order to facilitate this unit on such a large scale, we built a website for the social studies teachers to use as a resource to guide them through the process. A page for each phase featured the purpose of the phase (critical for untrained teachers), a general timeline, estimated duration, resources including anything that students used, and an activity outline. That website can be found here. If there is anything here that is useful to you, please feel free to use it… and let me know how it worked for you! I’m always happy to share resources.
Because the concept of this unit (and the NHD theme for the year) was “Taking a Stand,” students viewed videos from a series called “What Would You Do?” featuring difficult social situations. In groups, they discussed the following questions:
The students were dramatically indignant watching some of these videos! This introduced them to the idea that there are many ways to take a stand.
Considering the concept of Taking a Stand, students journaled in inquiry journals about people in everyday life who took a stand, including themselves. Looking back, I would have loved to give them more of an experience: perhaps a guest speaker who took a stand for something significant. But that’s why I love this blog so much: it’s a great opportunity to reflect and learn and grow!
The National History Day organization has an excellent list of curated resources available on their website, and we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel! In Explore, students dipped into these resources and looked for topics and themes that interested them. We created a NHD Google Doc that students would use through the rest of the process. We have since duplicated this inquiry log/journal/chart combo for multiple units, so our students have become used to the format.
At this point, different grade levels had different expectations for their students. Some required a set number of boxes filled in during Explore, and some were less prescriptive about this phase. The unit was designed to be flexible depending on the teacher, grade level, and individual students.
Immediately, I knew that the Identify phase was where teachers would need my assistance the most. In my experience, the most difficult part of GID for teachers to grasp is that students are writing their own inquiry questions. To facilitate this, we had the Gifted Resource Coordinator, classroom teachers, and myself on deck each day of Identify. Looking back, it’s amazing what we accomplished with 750 students and 5 teachers who had never written inquiry questions before!
We decided early on that we needed a structure for questioning that would become common language across the school. We agreed on Level 1, 2, and 3 questioning, a framework loosely based on an AVID strategy and adapted to fit our needs. I did a day of leveled questioning practice with every single class before we started writing inquiry questions, and due to the scope of the project, made this video about Level 1, 2, and 3 questions to use as a review. Now that video has over 700 views on YouTube… wow!
I’m a believer that conferencing with students is critical at the Identify phase in middle school. There is so much growth potential when a member of the learning team can work with a student one-on-one to craft the best possible Level 3 question that also draws that students’ interest. We continued to use this model in later units.
To this point in the process, we kept the activities very simple. I wanted the classroom teachers to have a positive first experience with GID. It was also the first Guided Inquiry unit for many of our students, so we were all learning together.
Come back on Friday to hear about the last four phases, the lessons we learned for next year, and how I managed to teach 750 students at one time!
Longfellow Middle School