Go For It!

To finish off my week I want to discuss the change I made in my instructional practice that I believe made these two units two of the most authentic Guided Inquiry Design units that I have been a part of.  For these units I implemented the use of the Question Focusing Technique (QFT) to assist students in generating authentic questions. The premise of QFT is that students will respond to a focus or prompt with a list of questions and stay within these guidelines in their groups: 1. Do not stop to discuss or judge the questions. 2. Write down every question as it is asked. 3. Ask as many questions as you can.  4. Change any statements into questions. Students then move on to identify questions as opened or closed. An open question being one that will require authentic research to determine an answer or solution. A closed question being one that can be answered with a simple yes, no or fact. As I reflected on the GID units I had been a part of at the end of the last year I easily realized that the Identify stage was one that I struggled with and as a result one that my students struggled with.  So, last summer I read the book Make Just One Change: Teach Students To Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana as my PPD. That would be Poolside Professional Development.  A 4th grade teacher and I tried this technique in the fall with a unit he was teaching on waves.  For me this was a difficult topic to work on because I do not know a lot about waves. This led to me not being able to fully develop a focus and being able to explain how students should develop questions.  The students did follow the four step QFT strategy well, but their questions weren’t any better that those I’d seen developed in the past. Skip forward to January and we used the technique again with the same class and they knew the process and the topic was one I was well acquainted with and the questions that were generated were so much better.

In fourth grade we used one session to generate questions.  Students worked in groups of 4-6 with the classroom teacher, myself and a teaching assistant monitoring.  Students were given 5-10 minutes to develop questions. We then moved on to identifying questions as open or closed.  The next time we met students selected questions they were interested in researching or modified one to fit their inquiry question.  The list of questions students generated can be found on the following Google Documents: Section 1 and Section 2. Section 1 had not participated in the QFT before.  Section 2 is the class who participated in the fall.

In second grade we again used one session to generate questions.  I introduced the process to the students and the teachers. Then the classroom teacher took half the class to one white board and scribed questions and I did the same.  Later we would switch to observe the each others questions before coming back together to discuss. These students generated so many authentic questions. To view the questions generated by one class of students in less than fifteen minutes you can follow this link to a Wakelet collection.

A note of caution to you all and myself.  The questions that students generate are the questions that they are interested in.  I often forget in assisting students in this process that they do not possess all of the background knowledge that I possess now or that I think I possessed at their age.  From these units forward, I am going to be certain to take time to honor their questions as they are asked. If a 2nd grader wants to know how many rooms the White House has? Go for it! In that search they will find out about the executive branch, freedom of the press, diplomacy and more.  If a 4th grader wants to know why people ride the subway? Go for it! In that search they’ll find out about population differences, congestion and things I can’t even think of. If a 2nd graders wants to ask why the Liberty Bell has a crack in it? Go for it! In that search they’ll find out why colonists fought for independence, why abolitionists spoke out against slavery and what liberty is.  Come to think of it, GID is a lot like how I’m reflecting on these questions and instructional practices. You just have to go for it! You will make mistakes. You will change things. Most important though, we have to continue going for it!


Tweet me if you have any questions or comments @StacyFord77!


Instructional Strategies

Hello again everyone!  As a reminder from Monday the units I am discussing were 2nd and 4th grade units.  The 2nd grade unit was tied into the social studies curriculum through researching national symbols and monuments.  The 4th grade unit also tied into the social studies curriculum through researching the Northeast region. Today I’m going to identify instructional strategies that I used in during the units that I believed made them better.

Wagon Wheel

In the Wagon Wheel discussion round there is an inner circle and an outer circle with the same number of people (adjust as needed if you have an odd number and make one group a triad each time the wheel rotates).  Members of the inner and outer circle will begin by facing each other. The instructor will then tell either the inner or outer circle to move a certain number of spaces to the left/right. When they stop they will have arrived at a new discussion partner.  You can alternate inner and outer movement to keep everyone active. Full credit goes to Leslie Maniotes for introducing me to this technique. Now that I’ve explained how to conduct a Wagon Wheel let me discuss how I used it for instruction.

With 4th grade I used the Wagon Wheel strategy as our grounding/anticipatory set the day after students identified their question in the Identify phase.  I split the class in half and instructed each group what part of the circle they would be. There was a little confusion, but everyone figured out where to go pretty quickly.  My first prompt was for each partner to tell the other what their inquiry question was and why they chose it. Then, I had students rotate five spots. My next prompt was to have students identify their inquiry question and why the chose it again, but this time the partner had to provide some feedback in the form of a question or clarification.  Students rotated once more and again identified their question and provided positive feedback on something they liked about the question. While these questions didn’t delve into deep academic thoughts they did allow students to think about their own questions more, which I believed developed a better awareness of what they truly wanted to know. In addition to this students were able to gain greater understanding about what other questions were being asked in the group and how they might relate to one another.  While I used this technique to open a class session it could also be used as a closing activity to discuss what was or was not working well.

Clock Appointments

To set up clock appointments have students take a small piece of scratch paper (post-it note size works well) and fold it in half.  On each half of the paper have students write 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 and 12:00 (or whatever time works for you). Be sure and instruct them to leave enough room for someone to write their name after the time.  If I have 3:00 open and you have 3:00 open we will trade papers and write our names on each others papers. Then, our papers will be returned and we will make appointments with other students. Students will mill around making appointments until they have evert slot filled.  I tell students not to use the same person twice and usually let them set up times with me. After demonstrating how students will make appointments I let them set up their appointment slots. Be sure and tell them to keep their pieces of paper because they will need to know who to meet with.  After the appointments are set up we resume instructional/research time. As we progress through the session the instructor will ask students to meet with a specific time. Please note, you do not have to go in a certain order and can use the strategy as much or as little as you need. I rarely make it through all of the appointment times students have set up in a session.

With 4th grade I used this strategy during the second session of the Identify stage.  At this point students had identified a question, but I wanted them to be able to begin their research by having multiple access points to items they could begin researching.  Students wrote their questions on index cards and I modeled how to do a concept web of sorts on the card. From here, students developed ideas for answers they would need to find to their inquiry questions.  During this session I would pause at certain intervals and have students meet with a certain appointment time. These appointment times were used to discuss frustrations, offer advice, give positive feedback about something you liked and to talk out what students were thinking.  One thing that I want to note is that the classes I met with hat 27-29 students each. By using this strategy students were able to use work time in a more focused manner. I think this happened because they knew they would be meeting with someone soon to discuss something and because they were able to m-o-v-e, move.  


Learning Centers

2nd grade students participated in learning centers in the school library during their explore and gather phases.  During each of these phases there was an informational book station, a Pebble Go station and a Symbaloo station. The Symbaloo station required finding websites that were applicable to the topic. Students kept a inquiry log to identify the name of the book or article they looked at.  By working in centers 2nd grade students were able to focus their time in 10-20 minute intervals (I prefer students to have 15-20 minutes in each station). During the rotations they were able to explore many national symbols and monuments. When they were in the Gather phase their research, being much more directed meant that sometimes a specific center would not work for them if there was not information.  For many of the sessions there were three adults with one class because we had student interns. This allowed us to work more directly with students.



The thing I love the most about Guided Inquiry Design is the embeddedness of co-teaching.  However, co-teaching does not always come natural. I want my teachers to interject, clarify, delve deeper with me all the time that we are teaching.  I also want our students to get the most from each of us that they can. Sometimes you will be working with a teacher or a teacher-librarian that you have this type of natural rapport.  Most times though, I think we have to develop the trust to do this with one another. I want to identify how I did this with the 2nd grade team and I think you’ll see how it is a good fit.  During the centers activity I explicitly said or asked what group each of us would work with. By each of us taking a group we were working with 6-7 kids, instead of 20. This is co-teaching!  We were all being responsible for a smaller group of learning. During the Identify stage the classroom teacher and myself split the class in half and developed questions using the Question Focus Technique.  We were able to all stay in the library and use two whiteboards. While students generated questions the teacher and myself served as the scribe, and wrote down exactly what was asked. After students were finished asking questions the two groups switched places to review what the other group asked and then we met back together.  Again, by splitting the group we were able to narrow our focus with a smaller number of kids. That is co-teaching! By demonstrating to the classroom teacher (and vice-versa) that we were able to do the same things with very similar results we created a trusting instructional relationship. 

We all use great instructional strategies everyday, but I am 100% accurate in saying I don’t use all of the great instructional strategies I know every day.  What are your best instructional strategies?  My favorite one I’ve used this week in a non-GID activity was a quick write with third grade.  They wrote such good little stories on post-it notes guys!

Feel free to tweet me a question if you’ve got one and share an instructional @StacyFord77 be sure and use the tag #52GID if you do.


Hello from Norman, OK!

Hello from Norman, Oklahoma!  My name is Stacy Ford and I am the Teacher-Librarian at Reagan Elementary School in Norman.  I have posted before on the blog in 2016. Those blog posts can be found here, here and here.  I was first introduced to Guided Inquiry Design in 2014 by our district library coordinator, Kathryn Lewis.  Since that time I have attended multiple Guided Inquiry Institutes in my district. I have conducted Guided Inquiry Units with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades over the past four years.

This week I will be blogging about the units I have conducted this year with teaching teams in 2nd and 4th grade at Reagan Elementary.  One thing to note is that this is my first year at Reagan and of the eight of us who were instructional partners in these units only three of us had been to a Guided Inquiry Institute.  Those people include myself, a 4th grade teacher and a 2nd grade teacher. I want to point this out, because all of the teachers involved were willing to dive in and learn to swim. By the end of the units every teacher involved was able to witness the value in designing instruction a way that allows students to develop authentic questions and find the answers to them.

The focus of my blog posts will be improved questioning techniques that I used with students in order to generate more authentic questions and the implementation of instructional strategies that made the units more successful.  Please feel free to follow me on twitter @StacyFord77 and ask any questions.



GID – Wrap it up with 3D Science and Phenomenon

I’m so thankful that Leslie shared her expertise on designing a guided inquiry lesson with our teacher group in DC this summer.  It changed my pedagogy and student engagement. I’m a veteran teacher, trained in 3D science by the best in the state, and a state teacher of the year finalist.  Yet, here I am, still learning and loving it!

What would I have done differently?  The students would have researched and read more informational text.  Other than that, I really loved this unit and how it turned out.

The final piece is wrapping up 3D Science, natural phenomenon, story lines, and guided inquiry into a stellar lesson. If you use NASA’s 5E lesson planning, it easily plugs into GID’s template for student driven learning.  Plugging in 3D Science is a natural process in GID as well.

The Science and Engineering Practices are “how” you “do” science:      https://ngss.nsta.org/practicesfull.aspxImage result for science and engineering practices


The Crosscutting Concepts are how students view, make sense, and apply natural phenomenon:   https://ngss.nsta.org/crosscuttingconceptsfull.aspx

Image result for crosscutting concepts

The Disciplinary Core Ideas are the science concepts that the students are making sense of.

In conclusion, SEP’s and CCC’s are a part of a student’s toolkit to dig deeply into the phenomenon that they are making sense of, and are easily incorporated into the guided inquiry process.

Thank you for letting me share this week what I’ve learned about guided inquiry design and how it was implemented this year.

Lisa Pitts, 5th grade Science and STEM Teacher, Edmond, OK

Guided Inquiry Design Integrated with 3D Science and Phenomenon – our fifth grade lesson

This summer I returned from NASM’s Teacher Innovator Institute excited to implement guided inquiry design with phenomenon explored in our classroom.  At the same time, I wanted to delve deeper into tying it all together with storylines.  https://www.nextgenscience.org

What fifth grader doesn’t love animals and the great outdoors?  We started the year with Matter Moving through Ecosystems (NGSS 5-PS-3, 5-LS2-1).

OPEN-  (Storyline) I shared with my class the story of finding a raccoon on the side of the road on my drive to Oakdale and showed this picture:






IMMERSE-  We discussed times they have found “roadkill” and what would that look like in four days, four months, four years.  As scientists, we observe, record, and question. I asked them how they could observe the raccoon to answer this question.  In teams, they came up with all kinds of solutions, and we came to a consensus to use time-lapse video.

(Phenomenon)– We found a video of a decomposing badger that was roughly the same size.  The class watched the video (a few times) while recording observations and questions.  We came back as a large group  and shared observations and questions:  Why did the birds come, why did the badger seem to heave, why were bones and fur left?  They were surprised by how quickly decomposition occurred.  https://youtu.be/E93rNE5F-LE   We came to a consensus for our driving questions.

EXPLORE–  First, all of the classes wanted to know what the birds were eating and why the badger seemed to heave and flatten so quickly.  They created a hypothesis and explored their theories.  We came together as a large group and discussed their findings.  Then they watched watched a video of maggots eating steak. (The best day to watch this is when your school is serving rice for lunch.)  https://youtu.be/1OMTywqUPvg 

This spring-boarded topics of conservation of matter, life cycle of a fly, uses of food for organisms, movement of energy and matter through food webs, and decomposers.  How do plants and water organisms decompose? Does matter decompose in space? 10 year-olds have lots of questions when given an opportunity and time to think.







IDENTIFY-  Students divided into teams based on similar questions, and I provided resources for their experiments and research.

GATHER-  Students explored matter decomposing in different types of soil, plants decomposing, worms as decomposers, decomposing bones (this group had to find out what happened to the bones and fur from the badger).














CREATE–  Students used their research, observations, and hypotheses to create an experiment to model decomposition in action.

SHARE–  Sharing is always our favorite part.  Fifth graders love to share in front of their classmates!  Teams made posters to explain their decomposition project and model the process, along with displaying their physical project.









EVALUATE-   We had some surprises, such as, the fruit never decomposed in a sealed jar, which encouraged students to find out why.  We had gnats get into some containers.  The soil was a little richer with tubs containing worms.  The worms did die quickly and disintegrated.  Oh my goodness, their projects carried over to their homes or vacations.  Parents sent me pictures of their child finding fungi or looking under rotten logs.  My students still bring me leaves with fungi roots.

The beauty of Guided Inquiry Design IS the organized framework for your students to OWN their learning, think more deeply, and collaborate with classmates.  Friday will be a reflection of students incorporated Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts while gather information to answer their questions.


Stem Teaching Tools: http://stemteachingtools.org/

Phenomenon:  https://paul-anderson-xw6e.squarespace.com/

Phenomenon:  https://ngssphenomenon.com/

NGSS Storylines:  http://www.nextgenstorylines.org/resources/example-storylines-ngss-topic

Lisa Pitts, Fifth Grade Science and STEM educator, Edmond, Oklahoma