Tripping Over Poetry

It’s Luke Steere again. In preparation for my GID, I turned to Maniotes (2017) in Guided Inquiry Design in Action: High School, who writes that offering a book full of Guided Inquiry Design (GID) units was to “give educators a picture of the wide variety of content and ways that Guided Inquiry can look” (p. 243). At first, she, Ann Caspari, and Carol Kuhlthau, who developed the framework, were hesitant to share content for “fear that people would teach them as canned lessons” (p. 243), but they soon decided to do it as a celebration of sort (akin to this blog), and this book is a trove.

As I wrote before, I work at Hillside. It is an all-boys boarding school serving 5th to 9th students from 13 different countries, a dozen US states, and a range of different learning abilities. We have about 160 students, the majority of which live on campus. I teach three classes of English in addition to my library duties, and though I have a fairly good collaborative relationship with the teachers as a teacher-librarian, I thought I would try my hand at GID solo. It was National Poetry Month.

Typically I assign a Poetry Research project which attempts to expose the students to a wide range of styles of poetry and then lets them pick a “lens” through which to study poetry. We define research questions, hit the databases, and write a paper. In the run up to the project I assign poems: Nikki Giovanni, Shel Silverstein, Sandburg, Whitman, Ogden Nash, William Blake; a smattering. I thought: a good starting point for GID is to reframe projects like this. Why assign reading when you could Open using something like Kofi Dadzie’s 2016 Indie Finals performance from Louder than a Bomb MA? The silence which fell across the room until he hits a symbolic punchline in this poem’s center was great. Were they reacting to his remarks about finding comfort in a new, suburban geography far from home? the rhythm and energy? the fact that it wasn’t an adult? the merciful surprise that this was not another one of Mr. Steere’s handouts?

Here’s the beauty of Open: it didn’t matter. They are taking what they want from the experience of hearing poetry. I invited them to try and find more slam poems or music lyrics or other poems over the next few days as we moved into an Immerse/Explore hybrid which focused on large poetry treasuries, a table where they could go on computers to view other Slam Poetry videos, and a spot to plug headphones into an iPad and listen to their favorite songs. We shared our findings with small Inquiry Circles— some students knew they wanted to focus on rap music, others had only read The Giving Tree by Silverstein and were surprised to find Where the Sidewalk Ends among the stacks of poetry, others were interested in doing Shakespeare. At the beginning and end of each class, I did check-ins. The informal ones, like One-Word Summaries, worked the best, but the involved journal entries which students sent to me on Schoology provided more nuanced feedback. It was good to take the temperature of the class— were they frustrated or were they finding success?

Next came a more concrete deliverable— the so-called “other shoe” which was dropping after my students had enjoyed a relatively loose week of dabbling in poetry. It was time to Identify a research question about poetry. We went over the ways in which one can make a good inquiry question and then I had them email it to me after drafting. We refined them over email or in class the next day and reviewed our database habits, and set off on Gather. One student asked about the connections between country music and poetry, a few wanted to dig into the connections between Shel Silverstein’s training as a cartoonist and as a writer, still more wanted to look into the link between rap music and poetry. Other topics were on jokes, humor, and poetry; American Poetry and the country’s founding, and poetry in the Internet age. I found students were choosing from a bigger variety of topics than when they were assigned the “lens” research paper. Check-ins became more formal and I handed out grids with Successes, Struggles, Questions, and Action Items (which I had got from my practicum with Anita) which allowed students to package these ideas to communicate to me and their peers.

We went digging, feeling good. I was eager. And then: poetry month was over. I still had another unit planned for the year before my final paper was to be assigned, a final paper which would be due at the end of May. Ugh. I would have to modify Create and— but wait— what’s this? An email from the 6th Grade Teacher. From my students, she has heard (!) that I am working on a fun (!) Poetry Research project and is wondering if I would like to collaborate on a Poetry Cafe at the end of the week. Moreover, the Daughters of the American Revolution was coming for their annual visit and awards ceremony.  I thought that each student would write an article, instead of a paper. Of course I had to bring in some curriculum grammar and writing skills, but I allowed them some latitude on what else to do. Some student proposed to bring photos into their article, others wrote poems in the style of their research, but the majority performed at one of the two events. Along with the sixth graders who were reading original poems, my students read research statements, poems they had found over the course of their work, or creative pieces written after certain styles and poets. We were Creating, Sharing, and expanding our learning community!

Luke Steere

Hillside School, Massachusetts

Mirror, Mirror: Reflecting on Reflection

As I started the process of reflecting on my experience with GID for this final blog posting, I was also reminded of how valuable the same process is for our students.  Taking the time to reflect on our experiences is when the opportunity for growth occurs. There is a reason so many districts moved to the Danielson evaluation framework, because it is meant to be reflective.  And while not always used in that way, the goal of the Domains is to get teachers thinking about their work and its impact on students. For our students, the practice of reflecting through peer conferencing, journaling, or teacher conferencing and to be provided the time to actually identify or implement change can help students see the value in the process.  

Reflection also allows us to address the fact that research can be an emotional roller coaster for our students, as explained in Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari, 17).  It is with that in mind that we have a responsibility as practitioners of the Guided Inquiry Design model to recognize where our students are emotionally in the process and provide the necessary opportunities to reflect and grow as they navigate through the research steps.

While many research models include a step at the end which focuses on evaluation, the GID model has the evaluation and reflection process built in throughout, in the form of inquiry journaling.  The inquiry journals can be used for the researching components as well as for reflective responses. This journaling opportunity gives teachers to chance to see where students may be stuck or struggling with the process, as well as allow students to step back from the research and look at the process as a whole.  To do this, my lesson planning often includes a reflective closure activity or journaling opportunity. At first, students are often resistant to the idea of having to reflect, but as they become more practiced and confident in their understanding of the process, they are more likely to share honest experiences. And, we owe it to our students to not only help them become critical thinkers about the world around them, but also about themselves.

The introduction of Guided Inquiry Design as a research model has had a direct impact on my daily instruction.  I look at each research project a bit more critically and in co-planning have found myself taking time at the start of the planning process to give my co-teacher a quick overview of the steps and what the goal is for each one.  But sometimes, without really reading the literature about the process, I find that the nuances which exist in each step are missing from the understanding of a general educator. You can develop all the projects you want using the process steps, but if students never interact with each other, discuss their excitement, explore a variety of options in various formats or receive guidance from their teachers, it is then that students miss out.  I have worked with teachers who create lots of graphic organizers or worksheets aligned to the GID steps and curriculum, but don’t take the time to plan out what the group work looks like, or what the reflections will be, or the teaching strategies for questioning. And, that is where we as librarians or GID teacher practitioners can step in. The steps are not a set of boxes to check off, but rather an instructional support system which gathers best practices and integrates them into the inquiry process.

Best of luck as you continue to integrate the GID process into your work and in your planning! Your students will thank you…one day 🙂

Cheers,

Sarah Scholl

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

 

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

Kuhlthau, Carol C., et al. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

 

How do you incorporate reflection into your GID planning?

Ho Hum or Way More Fun?

In my time as a school librarian, I have had the unfortunate experience of teaching the traditional countries research project.  Why? Because it was in the curriculum and I was working with a new teacher BGID (before guided inquiry design). And you know what? I hated it about as much as the kids did.  The final product was the regurgitation of information which does not elicit smiles or excitement, but rather the slumped shoulder comments of, “are we doing this again”? I share this because we have all probably been there with a project.  The type of assignment that we dread as much as the kids. And, as much as we try to revamp it, it is tough to totally drop the curricular requirements without being worried or feeling some sense of guilt for not “doing what we are supposed to do”.  

Which brings me to the element of engagement! The sweet spot of excitement and learning.  This instructional element is part of what makes Guided Inquiry Design so valuable for teachers and students. There are collaboration strategies and inquiry groups and reflection components which are integrated into the process and get our kids excited to be researching just about any topic. Even more important is the entire EXPLORE step.  Providing students the opportunity to see what may exist in the realm of opportunity, engages and motivates students in a way that no list of topics can even touch. However, this valuable step is often the one that gets cut for time, because not all teachers see the value, when in reality it is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the process.  That is because it most closely mirrors the type of research which is being done in real life.

One of the ways I have worked with teachers to shift their thinking about the basic curricular report requirement is through the reimagining of the country project.  Students traditionally would share mind numbing presentations about a country, listing facts about population, climate, language, religion, food, etc. Listening to over 100 of them was the motivation to change.  This is where GID was a lifesaver!

The classroom teacher and I decided a change was needed, but how to make this relevant was the challenge.  In the end, after several ideas bouncing around via email, we decided to go with a concept which aligned with what students were also studying in science, natural disasters.  Students were now tasked with creating a recovery plan for a country which had experienced a hypothetical natural disaster. They were given the United Nations Development Program as a real life model and had to EXPLORE which countries were likely to experience certain disasters.  Then they presented in teams at our mini-UN meeting to apply for funding to help this nation in need.  The were rewarded (graded) in dollar amounts! In their planning and research, they had to learn about the culture, which was the original goal of the country report to begin with. But now, it was being done in a way with a real life connection, choice and collaboration which lead to students who were engaged and motivated to brainstorm solutions as a team.  

The 6th grade social studies teachers and I have been working on this updated project for the last four years  and it has made everyone happier and more willing to engage in what had been quite boring research previously. In changing our project not only is it more engaging, but it has also guided students to think more critically and to understand why knowing about a culture could be important in a real world context.  We provided the opportunity to work in groups, not because it is fun, but because the timeline and requirements make it almost impossible to do alone. Engagement was just an added bonus of following the GID process to get our students to fully engage in a research process which extended their thinking beyond what was required in the curriculum.

Cheers,

Sarah Scholl

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

What are you doing in your instruction to engage students in research using the GID process?

You + Me = We: The Power of Collaboration

Greetings fellow friends of Guided Inquiry Design!  My name is Sarah Scholl and I am a school librarian at Havre de Grace Middle School in Havre de Grace, Maryland!  This is my second round of blogging (original postings 1, 2, & 3) for the GID blog and I am excited to add to the amazing postings which have already been added this year.  

Photograph of four teachers holding awards

Mary Gargano, Sarah Scholl (Me), Anni Obenshcain & Sarah Wein: Curriculum Award Winners

I got started with Guided Inquiry when I first attended AASL in 2015 and learned about this research model as well as the CiSSL summer institute.  I then attended the 2016 summer institute to design and develop a GID unit and began implementing our Challenge and Change project that fall.  Our planning team submitted our Challenge and Change project for the county wide curriculum awards that year and we won!

However, it really is not how I got started that is most important, but rather, why I have stuck with this model for the last three years.  As a school librarian, I have encountered multiple research models, but it is the GID model which has brought the most success for my students.  There are three components which I feel make this model stand out against the rest: collaboration, engagement and reflection. My goal is to address each of these aspects in my postings this week.

 

For school librarians to be the most effective, they should be collaborative in their planning and instruction.  This is one facet which GID reinforces as a crucial part of the process. A first step in planning for GID is to identify the team, which is meant to include a school librarian.  It is explicitly stated that a school librarian be involved in the planning since this is a research process and librarians are research experts. It is truly in the best interest for both the teachers and the students to have a librarian involved, who can curate information, guide students through the exploration, identify and gather phases as well as provide support as students begin to learn how to do those things independently.

But, collaboration can be a challenge.  With differing class schedules, meetings, etc., TIME can be the biggest barrier to doing honest to goodness team planning.  However, when you take the time to make it happen, it is worth every spare minute you were able to devote to the work you are doing and in the end it benefits all parties involved.  Ideally, you would have a half day or even a whole day to sit down and plan, but that is not the reality!

So how do you start?  As a librarian, I often begin with an email or quick hallway chat to gauge interest.  From there, I often jot down ideas and try and plan a time when we can have a quick chat about whether we are headed in the right direction.  I also make sure I am familiar with the content teacher’s curriculum so I can reinforce the ultimate goal of “not creating more work” and show him or her where this can potentially align with what may already be happening instructionally.

After that, I try and schedule at least one hour of time to sit down together with the planning team to generate a rough outline, starting with the GID steps and what students will learn in each step.  We develop a goal or objective and set up the outcome or student product. Often the conversation will include some backwards planning, thinking about what the end product may be; even if the end product is something simple, with more of the focus falling on the process itself.

Finally, we divide and conquer, each taking the portions we are responsible for and developing the daily lessons which will be taught.  There will be the occasional hallway chat or five minute catch up time where we share what we have excitedly created, but more often than not, we rely on collaborative technology like shared Google drive or Office 365 folders, OneNote or regular old email to maintain our collaborative conversation.  Then we check in the day before to make sure all is prepared prior to the first lesson and we continue the daily conversations, making small modification as we co-teach through the GID model. Now, I do use that co-teach term to represent just about every form of co-teaching you can imagine with this process.  Sometimes we are co-lead teachers, sometimes I lead, sometimes the classroom teacher leads, it all depends on what is decided beforehand but, more often than not, the person who designs the lesson leads and then the other assists until they become comfortable with the material and is okay with stepping in to co-lead.

This is by no means, the only way to work through the difficult process of co-planning or working collaboratively with the GID model, but hopefully it will be some reassurance that it can work, even with the most time strapped teachers!

Cheers,

Sarah

Havre de Grace Middle School

Havre de Grace, Maryland

@hdmslibrary

@thebossysister

 

How do you manage time so you can co-plan using the GID model?

 

Previous Postings

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/01/in-good-company/

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/04/lets-start-at-the-very-beginning/

https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/06/wrapping-it-all-up/

Questions? Questions? Anyone have any questions??

We introduced Guided inquiry to our biology students using the DNA unit. DNA was the perfect choice because it offered different avenues to explore: from DNA analysis to the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

Since Guided Inquiry motivates students to develop their interest into a research topic, it only made sense that we start with teaching students how to write upper level questions.

First, we watched a video on how to write Level 1, 2, and 3 questions. Then we practiced bringing level 1 questions up to level 3 questions in groups of three using carousel writing style. For example, a student may write the level 1  question: “What is the function of DNA?”. The next person changes it to the level 2 question: “How is the function of DNA similar or different to the function RNA?”. The next person has the most difficult task, changing the question to level 3: “How would exposure to radiation (UV, gamma, x-rays) affect the way DNA function?”  We did this twice on separate days to get them used to the different types of questions and to learn how to increase the rigor of their question.

Second, to get them ready for the Identify phase, I had students practice taking level 3 questions and breaking them down into level 2 and level 1 questions. I gave each group a large piece of paper with a thinking web containing a level 3 question in the center. I then asked the groups to think about questions that would help answer the level 3 question. Students took a moment to think, but began to branch off simpler questions (“What is DNA?”) and questions that could be answered by looking in their notes or simple web searches (“How do DNA mutations affect proteins?”). By breaking down their question into simpler questions, they had formed a starting point for their research.

Third, once students had identified their research question, I set up a “question verification process”. In this verification process students needed to receive four signatures and comments: 2 signatures from other students, 1 signature from a different teacher, and 1 signature from me. After each signature, students reviewed the comments and made edits to their question. Why did I love this process?? Well for one thing it got students talking to each other and practicing identification of level 3 questions. Also, it cut down on edits that I would have needed to make on each student’s question. By having them review their comments and make edits, all I had to check for was the subject content.

DNA analysis and Genetic Engineering can be difficult topics for adults to undertake, so it was important that we did not make it too hard for our students to understand. Since this was our first Guided Inquiry Unit and they are not used to writing questions (many of them explained to me how much harder that was compared to just answering questions), I knew that structure and scaffolding would be key to their success!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

An Invitation to Learn

In Monday’s blog post, I asked everyone to dig deep and analyze their own attitudes about time. Today, let’s think about how we present the learning process to our students (which definitely relates to time). In short, is learning a drag, something to merely tolerate? Or is it a process of discovery?

When you want to learn more about something, do you reach for a textbook or Powerpoint presentation? Or do you ask a person, do some research, watch a film or video?

 

What can educators do to establish a warm, inviting, exciting mood for learning? In Guided Inquiry Design, the first three phases of inquiry learning (Open, Immerse, Explore) are critical. Kuhlthau et al establish again and again how important it is not to rush students because establishing a learning purpose affects successful implementation of the rest of the inquiry process.

Educators learn from studying the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning that they should not begin a unit of study by handing out an assignment. No learning context has been established! Just yesterday a student told me, “We just started reading a speech in English class today and answering questions about it, but I have no idea who was giving the speech and why.”

In my school, students can take an elective called Media Center Service Learning. We have had success implementing a unit on social justice. When we start talking about it, they all inevitably ask, “What is social justice?” That question shows me their lack of previous knowledge, so imagine how ineffective it would be if I simply handed out an assignment sheet or packet on the day we began the unit.

Units of learning should begin with an open invitation to spark students’ curiosity. Students should be curious about lots of things because they typically haven’t had many life experiences yet, so there’s a lot they don’t know. What would make you curious to learn more about something? (Probably not a textbook or PowerPoint presentation.)

At the high school level, I’ve had success using the New York Times Op-Docs website for short documentary clips to engage students and get them thinking. For the example of our social justice unit, here’s one clip we used, featuring an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Students wrote questions during viewing on a shared Google Doc which we discussed after viewing. The clip prompted some great discussions among students who before viewing the clip didn’t know the meaning of social justice. They were astonished to discover some of the information presented in the clip. Some students went on to research the school because they were curious, naturally leading into the Immerse phase of GID.

In Immerse, educators need to give students opportunities to encounter the breadth of the topic. Building background knowledge is critical if students are going to have enough information to eventually narrow down a topic in the Identify phase of GID. During my unit, the students continued their discussion about the clip. I also arranged for some guest speakers to visit my library. A representative from a local organization which works to help victims of human trafficking attended as well as a representative from a local community center and a public librarian. These three individuals spoke with students about how their jobs involve issues of social justice. This event helped show students the breadth of social justice issues around the world but also in our local community. Students took notes and also participated in discussions in inquiry circles. They were particularly interested in the human trafficking organization (SWITCH).

At this point, students have already encountered a great deal of new information as a group. As we transition into the Explore phase of GID, “students browse through various sources of information to explore interesting ideas and prepare to develop their inquiry questions” (Kuhlthau, 2012). In our unit, we prepared 13 stations each featuring an issue of social justice. Students rotated among the stations, writing down questions. We included books, articles, political cartoons, photographs, video clips, and much more. Remember that students should only be browsing, skimming, and scanning at this point. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and now is not the time to be bogged down in detailed note-taking. As Kuhlthau (2012) states, “when students rush through exploring, their thoughts about their ideas have little opportunity to evolve or develop. As learners slow down and relax, they can read and reflect on the information they are exploring” (79).

Here is proof that GID works: some of my students ended up choosing a topic that was not featured in the Open, Immerse, or Explore phases! These same students who began the unit asking “What is social justice?” had progressed enough to find their own topics. I could not have been more proud of them. And yes, some of these students were reluctant learners.

As an end product, students wrote a letter to a local representative, organization, or newspaper explaining the social justice issue and proposing a solution or course of action. Their end products were much more effective because they were given time to explore issues that interested them and that they cared about. They gained a much clearer, detailed picture of social justice because they moved through the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. Imagine if I had merely provided them with an assignment sheet including a list of possible topics. The students would not have developed an emotional connection with the unit.

All of these activities took time. Use your fellow teachers and school librarians to collaborate. Branch out into your community and see which learning opportunities are available. Ideas provided in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases can make learning so very exciting!

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

 

Time and Patience

“Would your learners come back to your class tomorrow if they didn’t have to?” –Trevor Mackenzie

I have a tall order for a Monday morning: we’re being very honest with ourselves today!

If you’re a more experienced teacher, you might realize upon self-reflection that it’s very tempting to fall into a rut. Because, let’s face it, teaching is exhausting. Tailoring instruction to your specific students, allowing for exceptionalities of all types, being creative, giving constructive feedback, entering grades, calling parents… I’ll just stop the list right there.

However, it does us good as educators to be reminded that our attitudes, tone, and demeanor dictate the paths of learning in our classrooms. I think it’s fair to say that in an average American public school, there are a lot of demands being made on teachers which can obscure our vision. How can we break through that fog to rediscover the joy and fun of educating others?

Let Guided Inquiry Design lead the way! This inquiry model isn’t effective solely for the students, but also for the educators. When was the last time you put yourself in your learners’ shoes? Done something you’d never tried before? Read something about which you knew absolutely nothing? Read something that you knew would be very difficult? Put yourself outside of your comfort zone? Engaging in these things makes us feel like learners and discoverers again, which means remembering what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and anxious and overwhelmed. We know this is exactly what happens to learners thanks to the Information Search Process research conducted by Kuhlthau and reaffirmed over the past 2 decades!

This week, I’m going to share some ideas that I plan to present next week at the South Carolina Association of School Librarian (SCASL) conference in Greenville, SC.  I will be encouraging fellow librarians to take steps to foster an inquiry mindset with their students based on the GID model, sharing some successes and struggles I have had. In this blog post today, I’m going to focus on two issues which I personally believe greatly influence our level of success: time and patience.

How many times today have you already said, “I don’t have time for that!”? Keep track and analyze your results. Time hasn’t changed; we still have 24 hours each day! Librarians hear that response a lot when we suggest alternatives to students taking notes from PowerPoint presentations or reading from a textbook. Although we do live in the age of standardized testing, there are still a lot of courses at the high school level which are not tested. Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time with your students. You don’t need to worry about drill-and-kill with content area knowledge if students are encountering your content in authentic texts and authentic learning activities (like visiting a museum, listening to a guest speaker, interviewing their local government representative). Remember yourself as a student. If you didn’t like to read your textbook when you were a student, then there is no chance your own students do.

Have you ever passed out a research assignment to students as the beginning of a unit? Do you only allow students a day or two to find information? Librarians know from experience that research is often presented in this way. If you find yourself dreading a research assignment as much as your students, then you know it’s time for a change. Students who feel pressured to complete work quickly will not turn in quality work, nor will they probably care because an intent to learn has not been established. Yes, exploration and discovery take time. But what a useful way to use the time we have! Partner with fellow teachers and librarians in your building to help brainstorm and share resources. There is never a reason to go it alone.

Be willing to honestly examine your own attitude toward time. You teach your students about what is important through your words, actions, body language, and tone. Make exploration and discovery something you can’t wait to do either, and be the learning role model for your students. As Kuhlthau (2015) states in Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, “Guided Inquiry has the power to excite students about using resources for learning” (114). Furthermore, “Sources from the community enliven the inquiry process” (115). Use your time to find resources beyond your textbook or PowerPoint presentation: the school library, fiction, objects, museums, experts, parents, public library, business professionals, community officials.

Guided Inquiry Design states that during inquiry, the learning team “uses modeling, listening, and encouraging” to engage and guide students. Prioritize time in your classroom and library to model curiosity, listen to students throughout their process of discovering information, and encourage questioning.

These ideas naturally lead into the second issue I believe is greatly important: patience. I am the first to admit that I struggle with this one! Patience and time are directly linked. If students are going to build their own knowledge through an inquiry stance and develop information literacy skills, then they have to be the ones doing the learning. We don’t need more research and books to prove that to be true again and again. How many times did it take you to truly learn something well enough that you could teach it to someone else? Probably more than once! Allowing students to make mistakes, maybe even on purpose, so they can learn from them is critical. Avoid telling students answers. Use questioning to guide their thinking.

Moreover, being patient with someone shows that you care. Being patient shows that you are willing to give your time to someone else. When students trust their educators, a safe learning environment is established and they are willing to take more risks which can lead to more discoveries. Be patient with learners as they reflect on their abilities in order to make goals, then give them the time to reach those goals.

Dedicating time and patience to the inquiry process has many rewards! Return to the question which begins this post. Do you even want to return to your classroom? Being excited and curious, having patience, and using authentic sources of information will influence how students answer.

In my next post, I will share some ideas for the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of GID and why they are so important to the inquiry mindset.

–Jamie Gregory, NBCT Library Media, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm   jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Past GID blog posts: https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/19/it-all-starts-with-a-question/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/21/concepts-and-questioning/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/23/keyword-inquiry-log/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/25/individualized-reading-plans-and-reflection/

 

 

GID is a Fluid Flexible Process

The definition of Guided Inquiry Design states that it is “a fluid flexible model” (2012, p. xiii).  But it is presented as 8 distinct phases.

So what’s flexible about it?  Shouldn’t you always go through those phases?

Well, the answer is, yes, BUT….

Within the GID process, we have to allow students room to make it their own. We have to find that balance between going through the phases and creating their own meaning. We need to keep it natural, yet blend in protocols that support student thinking and perseverance. This is the challenge of the inquiry guide. This challenge is not static with an easy one-time answer, as it will shift with each new group in front of you. But, what we can think about are some concepts that guide our actions.

In Kuhlthau’s research (2004) some students weren’t successful at getting a focus. They just thought they could gather information and “smush it all together.” As a result they had a more difficult time with the latter phases of the process and in the end weren’t very satisfied with the results.

One of the reasons we created Guided Inquiry Design was so that teachers and librarians wouldn’t find students floundering through the process with no direction. We wanted all students to use the process to create meaning for themselves and learn about themselves as a learner.

The first three phases of GID prepare students to arrive at the Identify phase with many possible directions. Then, with our guidance, they determine their path. But a common question for teachers is, “when do you know you can move onto the next phase?

While visiting and coaching teams at Saint George’s School in British Columbia, the grade six team was guiding students to move from the Explore phase to the Identify phase.  They were wondering about when to move onto the next phase- are the kids ready to Gather? What if some students are ready and others are not?

The hard work the students had put in was evidenced by their Inquiry Charts (mind maps) of questions on a variety of topics. Not only had they created these detailed mind maps in class, but each student had prioritized their most interesting ideas (see photos -highlighted or circled questions).

During the session where I observed, the students were meeting with an advisor in Inquiry Circles prearranged by topic.  It was all hands on deck for this session.

All the students had an opportunity to vet their ideas and talk about the viability of their questions within a small group with the guidance of an advisor. They each shared their prioritized questions with the group and they discussed how the questions could be blended or adjusted, where the holes might be and so forth.

After the session, two of the advisors met with me to reflect on the work.

Knowing that all students will not identify their question at the same time, makes the Identify phase a logistical challenge. This requires flexibility. We have to teach our students to be flexible too. They want hard fast answers just as much as we want a clear plan. To bask in uncertainty is uneasy. But having a pretty good idea, and some direction, is what we are looking for here. Moving into Gather, we want students to have a clear direction yet feel open to new ideas. Perhaps their question will shift and change a bit through the Gather phase as their information points to new ideas. Naturally their topic will narrow in as they search and seek information. But they have to remain open to new ideas (Our students need to assume an inquiry stance throughout, just as we do!).

If students are reflecting on what they are doing all the way along- there is no harm in moving forward knowing that some students may be a little more fuzzy than others about their direction. When you are using the process, embedding the tools, you are providing them with ample opportunity to engage the necessary work to be successful. Moving on, and continuing to check in, will be the best move for all of you, in that case.

The decision to between supporting the few to get there and staying until everyone has identified a perfect question and moving on is not an easy one. But when you trust the process, and have set them up for success you can feel easier to move forward.  These teachers did move forward even though every question wasn’t perhaps “ideal,” the preparation work that was completed by all the students gave them the time and resources to plan a direction. They had given a lot of thought to where they were going and they had some sense of it.

So how do we know if students are on the right track, in the advisory. Well, one teacher in this set of advisors was trying to get to the bottom of why the students wanted to know the things they were asking, what motivated them to find out about the illegal drug trafficking between Mexico and the US? He prompted them to make clearer connections between themselves and their questions.

Third Space is critical to having the right question. Curiosity, real questions, and relevance enter into those inquiries that engage the Third Space. So, asking why is this important to you, is a worthwhile prompt.

Knowing the resources is also critical (typically in the wheelhouse of the school librarian). When students are asking questions of which there is limited information available, their question will naturally have to shift. This can be addressed at this phase of the inquiry. Or, it can wait until Gather and be sorted out then. But be aware, that students who have difficulty finding information, will need more guidance in the Gather phase as they rethink their direction. These students will need to remain open to new ideas. They’ll also need conversation to assist them in articulating new directions. Some think about this as a mini cycle, at this point, back to Explore– through Identify and on again to Gather (Talk about flexible! Something many of us have learned through using the model is that knowing the purpose of each phase frees us up to recognize when these kinds of cycles are a support or a hinderance. In this case the student may not have accomplished the purpose of Explore, but without forward motion they couldn’t move anywhere, so the cycle back sets purpose to the work and hopefully provides a good outcome). This, of course, will take extra time, but if given the space to do so, when necessary, the end learning result will be much improved over slogging on down a path that was less interesting or fruitful.

So, tomorrow I’ll share some key concepts to keep in mind when maintaining that balance between flexibility and sticking with the phases.

Thanks to the folks in Grade Six at St George and the Advisory team for allowing me to observe your amazing practice and share it with this community.  Together we are stronger- each time I am in Guided Inquiry I learn something.  I hope you do too!

Cheers!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author/Professional Developer and Coach for Guided Inquiry Design

Asking the Questions, Connecting the Dots…

 

In my previous post I shared how app(roach) smashing the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) within the GID Framework is not only worth trying, but well worth doing.

So now to the nitty gritty—where exactly might you use the QFT within GID?

Open Phase:

The opener is the hook that sparks curiosity and paves the way for inquiry. One way to do this could be to use an artifact, object, image, photograph, quotation or video related to the curricular focus and use that as a QFocus.

Immerse Phase:

In the Immerse Phase, everyone builds collective background knowledge via a particular experience or interaction, from reading a common text to watching a performance or role playing in a simulation. The QFT could become a possible post-immersion activity, using collaborative crowdsourcing to leverage what everyone has picked up from the Immerse phase. The cool thing about doing the QFT after the Immerse phase (or Explore phase) is that students now have some prior/background knowledge in order to ask higher-order, open questions beyond basic fact-based ones. Students could use these as “under the radar” questions in their minds as they enter the Explore phase, without making any serious commitments to a particular research focus as of yet.

For example, in a recent WWII/Holocaust collaborative project between 8th grade reading and English at my campus, our learning team structured the Immersion phase as study of various nonfiction articles about the time period students read and discussed in their reading classes, while students studied the book Night in their English classes. Then before going into the Explore phase, we set up a double-class QFT involving 9 different “QFocus statement stations” based on core historical themes and issues paralleled in their collective readings. The Explore phase was an online interactive LibGuide that hosted these QFocus areas in more depth through varied multimedia content.

Explore Phase: During or After

As students explore in this phase, they “survey” myriad sources, “read when they find something interesting,” and “reflect on questions that begin to shape their inquiry.” They still remain uncommitted to any driving question(s) or collecting information from what they discover; the point is for them to “keep an open mind” as they explore, read and reflect on what they come across. While doing this, the questions generated by a QFT done between the Immerse and Explore phases can help dovetail into guiding students into narrowing down what they want to explore in more depth at the end of Explore, moving into the Identify phase. Their level of questions will also be higher, since the “Exploring strategies are designed to put the ideas generated in the Immerse sessions to work.”

Identify Phase:

In this “pause and ponder” phase, students identify their inquiry question that will propel them forward and decide the direction they will take through the remaining GID phases.

There are three ways a QFT could work in this phase:

  • To help students develop driving questions individually
  • Through a Learning Team intervention
  • Through smaller inquiry circles or classmate consults

Students could revisit a previous QFocus and generate additional questions via their own QFT, or use a specific area of interest they uncovered or explored during the Exploration phase.

The Learning Team could check the pulse of inquiry and see where students are, using any formative assessment “intel” to then shape into a more solid QFocus either for the class or individual students.

Another option is to pair down an inquiry circle into a classmate consult pairing of questioner and listener. The questioner seeks feedback on any “emerging insights” as potential fodder for a QFocus and subsequent questions, and the listener offers feedback by listening and making suggestions based on their interchange.

The QFT lends itself to these peer conversations by using co-construction front and center; if the QFT is done individually at some point in GID, then students and the LT can still collaborate and share ideas for QFocus statements and related questions in smaller inquiry circles or pairs, and larger inquiry communities that comprise the entire class.

Some ideas for helping students to generate a QFocus on their own or via a classmate consult or LT conference/conversation:

  • Use a title or significant quotation from a discovered source, image, etc, that they found most intriguing
  • Make a visual diagram of the pit stops of exploration, and choose one to generate more in-depth higher level questions from that
  • Use a question of interest from any previous QFT activities and turn it into a statement

Getting Meta about Inquiry

There’s another connecting thread between the QFT and GID—that of reflection and metacognition.

The last essential step in the QFT is reflecting on the process itself; this step mirrors that of Evaluation as the last phase in GID. In GID, the Evaluation phase focuses on evaluating the student’s product and their own process used to create it.

As cited in Make Just One Change, metacognition is an essential part of learning how to learn. As students reflect on the QFT process they have just used, they are doing more than that—they are using metacognition to cement the process and see themselves as agents in their own knowledge construction.

Likewise, the Evaluation phase in GID asks students to evaluate how they have learned along the way by assessing their process along with any products they’ve created as a result of the inquiry process. Students self-reflect on how they internalized the inquiry process to propel their own learning and develop their own self-directed processes for learning in the future.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

In reflecting on my own process and learning through this week’s blogging experience, my mind keeps coming back to something Seth Godin asks in his TEDX Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams: On the future of education & what we can do about it, which admittedly I just recently watched for the first time. Besides everything he says, one line keeps resonating with me: 

Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?

Yes, we are asking them to connect the dots. Every time we try something like Guided Inquiry or the Question Formulation Technique, we are creating experiences that lead to new connections for our students and for ourselves. But likewise through these approaches, the students are doing the real connecting, thinking, and learning. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for letting me share my own experiences and ideas connected to Guided Inquiry via this blog. I am excited to be a part of this community, and want to stay connected and keep learning with and from you all. I have learned so much from reading and reflecting on the posts already shared, and look forward to what I can read next here in 2018!

-Teresa Diaz

Related Posts:
And so on, and so on, and so on…
A Fresh Take on App Smashing

@teresa_diaz

tamarindster@gmail.com

https://curioussquid.net

 

A Fresh Take on App Smashing

 

Click here to read my introductory post in this series

Flipped Classroom. Formative Assessment. Differentiated Instruction. Blended Learning. These terms are just a few among the growing list of popular approaches gaining traction in today’s classrooms, either because they offer innovative twists on valued instructional methods, or uniquely pair new and old strategies that work effectively together.

Take Blended Learning, for example—a mash-up of familiar face-to-face instruction with technology-rich digital content or activities that offer students a way to learn that’s multidimensional, differentiated, and engaging. Then there’s App Smashing, another form of blending specifically involving technology tools—a mash-up of various tablet-based applications to “create projects or complete tasks” that play upon the apps’ strengths to augment the learning experience for students.

This kind of Conceptual Blending may be considered de rigueur, but is actually one of “six essential aptitudes” Daniel Pink spotlights in his book A Whole New Mind, coined as Symphony.

According to Pink, we no longer live in an Information Age, but are actually in the midst of a Conceptual Age—where the Symphony “aptitude” is one we will all need to flourish, student and teacher alike:

[Symphony] is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.

In the spirit of conceptual blending, one way to embrace our own symphonic abilities and cultivate those among our students is to try blending or “smashing” approaches that might work together synergistically. Like chocolate and peanut butter, sometimes two great approaches can work well together, and as a result, become something more powerful as a sum of this new combination.

Pink calls this use of conceptual blending the “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Theory of Innovation,” which ventures that “sometimes the most powerful ideas come from simply combining two existing ideas nobody else ever thought to unite.”

Take the Question Formulation Technique and the Guided Inquiry Model―two approaches that make sense to “smash” together based on their complementary attributes.

What is the QFT and How Does it Work?

Just as the GID framework offers a fresh way to approach research with students through inquiry-based learning, the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) offers a fresh way to approach and cultivate the art of questioning with students.

The QFT “requires one small but significant shift in practice”—students asking the questions instead of the teacher. In Guided Inquiry, a parallel shift happens—from the usual norm of curriculum-dictated research questions to one where the students generate them on their own via a multiphase process of inquiry.

Blended together, these two approaches make for a powerful pairing, highlighting inquiry through questioning.

Developed by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana of The Right Question Institute, the QFT is a deceptively simple technique designed to get students to produce, improve, and prioritize questions centered on a Question Focus (QFocus). Through a step-by-step process, students engage in sophisticated, complex thinking and subsequently deeper learning.

Rothstein’s and Santana’s book Make Just One Change offers explicit instruction on how to put the QFT into action, providing examples of how other teachers have used the technique across disciplines. You can also join the Educator Network for free and gain access to the Educator Resources that include downloadable presentations, guides and handouts for you and your students.

I first discovered the QFT by happy accident, and since then, have become not only a huge fan but an active practitioner, self-taught facilitator and devoted advocate after seeing firsthand how effective it can be in transforming the questioning abilities and thinking capacities of those who try it. You can read more about my experiences with the QFT here. In the summer of 2016, I was lucky enough to attend one of their conferences, gaining a deeper working knowledge of the technique through lots of hands-on practice.

Since then, I look for every opportunity to use it collaboratively with teachers and students. During our October campus staff development day, I trained interested teachers in the QFT using our school mission statement as the QFocus. Last week, students practiced it to generate questions about the novel The Outsiders. In the upcoming weeks, all 8th grade students will use the QFT to generate guiding questions for their own Genius Hour projects. See this slideshow for examples of QFT questions generated by my campus students and teachers.


QFT in a Nutshell

Facilitating the QFT centers on following this step-by-step process:

{Note: The explanation of these steps is paraphrased from a more detailed document available in the Educator Resources}

  1. A Question Focus (QFocus)

A stimulus; a springboard you will use to ask questions; it can be a topic, image, phrase or situation—but it CANNOT be a question

  1. The Rules for Producing Questions
  • Ask as many questions as you can  
  • Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any questions  
  • Write down every question exactly as it is stated  
  • Change any statement into a question
  1. Producing Questions

Formulate as many questions in the allotted time, remembering to follow the rules!

  1. Categorizing Questions

Identify open/closed questions; change one closed into an open & vice versa

  1. Prioritizing Questions

Prioritize your top 3 questions; if working together, this must be a consensus decision

  1. Next Steps

How will these questions be used?

  1. Reflection

Reflect on the process of generating questions; what have you learned and how can you use it?

In the Educator Resources you’ll find some very handy presentation slides to easily guide you and your students through the process. The QFT’s magic dwells within the step-by-step technique and the QFocus itself. Choosing an effective QFocus takes some finesse, hovering somewhere between an art and a science. But when you find that sweet spot, you will be amazed at the types of questions—and the types of thinking—that students share and show.


A Perfect Pairing: Where the QFT Connects to GID

When looking at the GID framework and the QFT together, their overlapping qualities make a strong case for interweaving them instructionally.

Asking Questions

Both GID and QFT move students beyond basic fact-finding questions to those that involve higher-order thinking by prompting them to develop their own questions about a notable concept, issue or problem. In GID, students “form their own questions through experiences, reflection, conversation, and writing in the early phases of the inquiry process.” In QFT, students utilize the technique to form their own questions through a systematic process that reflects their own curiosities and as a result, their own thinking.

Third Space

As in GID, the QFT has a similar intention to merge the worlds of school and student by allowing students to construct their “new worldviews rather than having to take on the teacher’s perspective or those mandated by the curriculum or textbook” via developing their own questions and using those throughout the inquiry process.

The QFT uses a streamlined formula that draws on students’ own world by allowing them to generate the questions without bias or intervention, versus answering those generated from the curricular world. In that sense, students can then begin creating the Third Space themselves in a way through the questions they are generating.

Self-Determination Theory & Zone of Proximal Development

Self-Determination Theory and Zone of Proximal Development are key players in making both Guided Inquiry and the Question Formulation Technique dynamic and impactful methods to use with students.

Self-Determination Theory is based on three conditions that underpin and foster intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The Zone of Proximal Development is that “sweet spot” between what students can do with help, and what they can do on their own.

Both GID and the QFT strategically place students in the driver’s seat of their own inquiry. In GID, students use their own gravitations and emerging questions to propel their inquiry, developing independence and control over what they learn during the inquiry process. Since the QFT doesn’t layer on stringent parameters as to the kinds of questions students can ask, this stylistic freedom creates autonomy.

Both approaches layer in competence (the feeling of being capable enough to reach success) and relatedness (the ability and opportunity to make connections to each other) through the structure and nature of what is asked of students. In GID, the Learning Team designs and plans specific guidance in the form of feedback and interventions for students as needed to ensure that they are still on track while comfortably struggling within a “zone of intervention,” based on the Zone of Proximal Development.

With the QFT, students can be grouped in a variety of ways that leverages interpersonal connections through collaborative brainstorming of questions, which are then classified and evaluated in a team-based format. Along the way, teachers act as guides on the side, facilitating without intervening, avoiding modeling the questioning process while keeping the students actively caught in that “sweet spot” of learning on their own, the only safety net being the technique itself.

Creating a Community of Self-Directed Learners

The QFT and GID work toward the same goal—creating a community of inquiring minds who want to know, and can learn on their own. Guided Inquiry provides a pathway to developing a “dynamic inquiry learning community” by creating a safe atmosphere that encourages consideration of “varied points of view” from both information and from learning peers. The QFT leads to a new kind of self-actualization and empowerment in the classroom by encouraging students to take learning in their own hands; this in turn helps create “an informed citizenry” that can move beyond questions to making decisions and taking action:

“This way of learning prepares students to think for themselves, make thoughtful decisions, develop areas of expertise, and learn throughout their lives.”

Just as developing fluid and sophisticated questioners doesn’t happen through one QFT experience, building an Inquiry Community will take practice and time. The QFT can be a lynchpin strategy to not only build questioning capacity in students and lead to thoughtful and provocative guiding research questions, but also play a significant role in building an Inquiry Community within GID. Using the QFT embedded within GID offers the Learning Team and the students additional opportunities to cultivate independence, divergent/convergent thinking, and metacognition via as-needed intervention experiences.

My next post will share specific points within the GID framework for integrating the QFT. As I’m guessing you can tell, I love to talk about the QFT, so feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@teresa_diaz) or via this blog to continue the conversation.

To see my first post for this 52GID Challenge, click here 🙂

-Teresa Diaz