Our book clubs have been a huge success at our distributed learning school, Heritage Christian Online School. We serve approximately 3000 students all over the Province of beautiful British Columbia as an independent partially funded K-12 school. Our students learn with the support of an accredited teacher, using the British Columbia mandated curriculum from a Christian perspective.
We are blessed to work with a large special needs group of students who are also included in our book clubs.
Presently we have 5 book club moderators who run book clubs from a guided inquiry approach either using Lit Circles, or STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationship, Engineering, Art and Math) as a framework.
Everything we do in our learning commons comes from our vision of “Encouraging Christian community through discipleship, literacy and innovation”. We believe in high tech with high touch!
One of the best things about Guided Inquiry is that it allows teachers to allow students to “think outside of the box”. Common Core and many other education initiatives eliminated the ability for students to learn at their own place and in their own way. Guided Inquiry allows for creativity, and self-paced research with the child in the driver’s seat of their learning. With this model, the teachers and librarians guide and encourage students to feed their curiosity and creativity. When we allow students to inquire and create in this way their engagement and learning skyrockets.
The second grade students and teacher at the school where I serve as librarian embraced the Guided Inquiry process when they were investigating Presidents and First Ladies. The student engagement was incredible. Some students said they had never read, learned, and written as much as they did during this unit of study! The inquiry circles allowed students to share what they found interesting and inspiration about our past Presidents and First Ladies. They shared similarities between the Presidents and made connections that might not have been made if a traditional research approach had been used for this unit.
Once the students had completed the Gather Phase for this project, I read What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanock Piven. We discussed the collage-like illustrations and made connections with the materials he chose in order to create several of the President’s portraits. The students used the ideas from this text to brainstorm a list of objects that connected with the President or First Lady they had learned about during the unit. Many students brought things from home, however, I provided many miscellaneous items for them to use for the Create Phase. Our MakerSpace tasks for the month of March was to create President/First Lady portraits. Guided Inquiry and MakerSpace are a match made in heaven. I was very pleased with the growth I saw in students throughout this unit. They learned to take notes instead of copy information from a resource, and they learned how to discuss and share what they had learned with their classmates.
Students could choose to create a collage or pen an “I AM…” poem about their chosen historical figure. Several students chose to complete both tasks. Their products illustrate a small portion of their learning. Below, you can see some examples from the Create Phase of the Presidential Guided Inquiry Unit.
In January 2017, our second grade team approached me about planning and implementing a research unit about presidents and first ladies. This allowed me an opportunity to teach both the students and teachers about the guided inquiry process.
We broke the process into small digestable bites for the students and deliberately modeled the skills needed to gain deep knowledge and understanding. As a class, we read about Harry Truman and conducted a “Stop and Jot”. Over the following week, students immersed themselves in all things presidential. They used the “Stop and Jot” method to explore and immerse themselves in past Presidents, First Ladies or a mixture of the two.
The students made amazing notes and had wonderful inquiry circle discussions. Their notes were very thorough and their connections with the subject matter and their classmates knowledge was much deeper and broader than what I have seen in the past. I have included some samples of their notes below.
Tomorrow I will post some pictures of the Presidential collages and poems the children wrote for the Create and Share phases.
Howdy, from the Sooner State! My name is Jamie Johnson and this is my first G.I. blog post! I have been an elementary school librarian in Norman, Oklahoma for sixteen years. I started learning about Guided Inquiry in the spring of 2015 when Leslie Maniotes shared her knowledge and experiences with librarians and gifted resource coordinators from across our school district. I will be sharing a few strategies that worked for me and our second grade team when we used Guided Inquiry to investigate Presidents and First Ladies last spring.
In my second post, I shared how Sarah worked with me and Karen to implement concept-based research as well as question-driven inquiry. Now we’ll shift to discuss how students conduct research in the Gather phase.
I just finished my 4th year working as a school library media specialist, and I was a high school English teacher for 8 years before that. So I have a general idea of how a typical student at my school searches for sources: Google (most likely typing in an entire sentence or question), or at best a cursory glance at a database assigned by a teacher. We are continually striving to make the research phase more meaningful in order to support lifelong learning skills. Librarians crave more time with students in order to introduce them to all the databases available to them. And then databases function differently, requiring time for students to search within them and learn how to find the information they need.
This past February, I read “Doubling Up: authentic vocabulary development through the inquiry process” by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci published in the February 2017 issue of Teacher Librarian. (A new fiscal year is starting soon; be sure to get your subscription to Teacher Librarian!) When I saw this article and read the first paragraph, one word came to mind: genius! I knew I wanted to implement the keyword log introduced in the article because it just made sense, like the GID model. And I found just the teacher willing to collaborate with me on this project.
Jena Smith teaches the Public Speaking elective at my school, and she is a strong supporter of using library resources with her students. We collaborate frequently throughout the semester. Her students came to the library after selecting topics for their researched argumentative speeches. She created a Google Doc for students to record their topics. Sharing it with me helped me prepare mini-lessons targeted toward their chosen topics. It also taught the students to revise their topics as they began to do research, as some realized their topics weren’t going to work or weren’t quite argumentative in nature.
The rationale for using the keyword log, as presented by Maniotes and Cellucci, is to promote academic vocabulary growth as well as knowledge of information searching strategies. Even if students know what a Boolean operator is, they need to have some knowledge of the vocabulary specific to their topic. Luckily, unlike Google, databases provide keyword searches that will give students suggestions. In EBSCO products, you can search in Subject Terms at the top of the page to learn synonyms.
I mentioned ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher database in my second blog post. It’s super easy to search related subject terms for vocabulary development. The subject terms are listed at the end of each article, which students can click on.
I introduced them to the keyword log and modeled a few sample searches using the topic an at-risk learner chose in order to provide some targeted scaffolding. I added a few columns to the log described in the article just to ensure that students were providing detailed explanations.
As intuitive as I thought this log would be, we encountered a few obstacles during implementation. To start, students aren’t used to slowing down! They wanted to rush through the research process. We met some resistance when we told them they would be recording each search they tried. Of course the whole point was for them to discover that the Gather phase should take time in order to discover the best possible sources of information that would help them develop their researched argumentative speech.
Here are some of the first searches I modeled to the whole class (it’s not perfect; I tried to keep it simple at first):
Below is an excerpt from a reluctant learner’s keyword log. I sat with him as he completed his searches to show him different search strategies. In the first entry, you can see that he realized he wasn’t even searching for one of the main parts of his topic: how do violent video games affect children? His reflection in the second entry shows how I asked him to record his true search behavior, and what we know to be true from research: most searchers do not even scroll down on the first page of results.
I also spent a good deal of time telling them to type more in the results and reflection columns. As the research assignment progresses, students will see how useful the log is the more specific and detailed their responses are.
We discovered that we can really learn about how students conduct research simply by watching them and asking them to search how they would if they were on their own. Start with where they’re at as learners to gather information about their current skills and how they think about research. Then address misconceptions and a lack of skills as you see them.
There is an often overwhelming number of research skills that students can learn: how to search the open web using advanced search strategies and limiters; discovering special interests groups, independent groups, research organizations; picking which database fits their information needs; how to search different databases; how to paraphrase; how to cite. Yikes! But this keyword log provided an organized starting point. My goal is to work with more teachers to use this log at the beginning of their classes and tailor research assignments to target specific research skills instead of trying to teach every skill every time.
Most of the students shared in a survey when we were finished that they had never been taught Boolean search strategies and that the keyword log helped them stay organized. They gained a clearer understanding of how databases work. And remember that the GID model works in any discipline. Information literacy skills should be embedded in each and every course if we want our students to truly learn these lifelong skills.
The key here is that authentic learning does take time. Using databases isn’t always intuitive, and students need practice after direct instruction. Partner up with your school librarian to build these skills into your research units. It’s an investment that pays off in the end.
Greetings from South Carolina! My name is Jamie Gregory, and I am a public high school media specialist in the Upstate of SC at James F. Byrnes High School. I taught high school English for 8 years (including 1 year of French) and just finished my 4th year as a media specialist. I completed my MLIS degree in 2012 from the University of South Carolina, and I was introduced to the GID model during my time there as a graduate student. While I also learned other inquiry models, I found the GID model particularly effective and applicable because it is research-based. Also, Kuhlthau’s ISP model is life-changing. Reading the research on the emotions and behaviors underlying the research and learning processes really changed how I approached the research process while I was still a classroom English teacher.
South Carolina recently adopted new ELA standards, specifically dedicating a strand to inquiry-based learning. Let me tell you, we are doing some great things in SC! Major props to the standards committee for recognizing the proven effectiveness of inquiry-based learning. The state standards document even goes so far as to explicitly state that inquiry-based learning should be incorporated by all classroom teachers, not just ELA:
Can I get an AMEN?! (or whatever you’d like to shout enthusiastically!)
So, given all this change, my district decided to offer a professional development cohort called Inquiry in the Classroom. When the head of professional development asked for volunteers to lead it, I knew I wanted to jump in so I could also promote the role of the media specialist in inquiry-based learning.
I led Inquiry in the Classroom, a professional development cohort of 18 English, Social Studies, Science, and special education teachers grades 9-12, from January to May of 2017. We met once per month, and I knew I wanted to share the GID model with these teachers. I also knew that I wanted to have teachers begin to implement aspects of inquiry-based learning throughout the semester so that we could have brainstorming sessions at our meetings to share successes and opportunities for improvement.
My posts this week are going to feature my collaborations with 3 English teachers at my school: Sarah Plant, Jena Smith, and Michael Jett. They are truly awesome educators and I can’t thank them enough for working with me this past year.
I spent a lot of time during the cohort sharing resources about the importance of questioning. (I also highly recommend the book Cultivating Curiosity by Wendy Ostroff!) Meeting students in the Third Space so they can choose topics and ideas that interest them and affect them personally is so important, and educators can help them discover new topics that students didn’t even know they wanted to learn more about! By the time we get our students in grade 10, some students have already “gotten by” with being passive learners. So when they are asked to be curious, ask questions, and engage in real-world issues, they truly aren’t sure what that looks like.
But don’t worry, we always have a few tricks up our sleeves!
In our March cohort meeting, I had the teachers watch a brief video about coal mining today.
I chose this particular video as an example to use with students in a science classroom because information literacy skills can be embedded along with science content knowledge (have students question the source of this video! Challenge them to find a video from an opposite bias!). In order to model how you might use the above handout in the classroom during the Open and Immerse stages, as a cohort we brainstormed some questions we thought we had about coal mining today before watching the video. Then while we watched the video, each person wrote down questions. After the video, we wrote even more questions after sharing! This activity works really well to show students the recursive nature of questioning and learning. Then the bottom of this handout addresses metacognitive skills as well as information literacy skills! So wonderful!
Idea #2! For middle and high schoolers, there are a number of wonderful nonfiction series to help students research argumentative topics. We particularly like At Issue, Critical World Issues, Current Controversies, Opposing Viewpoints, and Thinking Critically. Some of these series provide questions as chapter titles, which we used with some classes. Some databases like SIRS Issues Researcher also provide questions related to various topics which can be used for scaffolding. Partner up with your media specialist to learn what resources you already have in your school library! These resources can effectively be used during the Open and Immerse stages, particularly if you have your media specialist set up a gallery walk with stations.
In this screenshot, SIRS Issues Researcher (a ProQuest product) suggests various subtopics related to Military Ethics and represents those subtopics by questions!
In this screenshot, you can see how SIRS Issues Researcher provides a few critical thinking questions when students click on a topic. Don’t miss the essential question in the background!
I will feature ideas and student work from Sarah Plant and my library service learners in tomorrow’s post to continue the discussion about questioning, and I will include how we focused on developing concept-based research assignments. Stay tuned!
At the start of the History Day project last September, the single biggest challenge I confronted was designing instruction to assure that all students ended up choosing a workable topic for a project about a subject they were passionate. At the same time, I wanted them to be open to learning about new things, so I did not want them to select something entirely familiar either. I wanted to see an increase in passion and interest as they progressed in their research.
As I mentioned before, the History Day timeframe allows for an unprecedented amount of time to develop a thesis, and I wanted to maximize this time. Still, my instructional time with the students was only 6 days of 45 minute periods from the open and introduction of the NHD theme and the due date of the Thesis.
I consulted numerous sources for ideas, including the GID Design book and a blog post by Buffy Hamilton regarding “pre-search” strategies. I was completely overwhelmed with the task of fitting stages of GID from the Immerse to the Gather stages or the full pre-search lesson cycle in the time allotted, so I tried to identify the essential ingredients of both and put a lot of emphasis on reading outside of class. I wanted the students to begin with the entirety of world history and pick and single individual or group that they felt met the HND Theme criteria for “Taking a Stand” and the stand should be meaningful to the students in a deeply personal way.
Additionally, I was looking for ways to truly individualize and differentiate the instruction so that could guide each student or group toward a better topic and better reading material on their topic.
My plan combined formative assessment strategies using Google forms to checkpoints in the form of worksheets that asked students to back up their current thinking with credible sources of information.
Another aspect of my plan involved a 30 minute meeting with each group. The students would set an appointment with me using appointment slots on Google Calendar. In these meetings I could help groups with any number of issues, ranging from group dynamics to locating suitable sources. This was the most useful strategy albeit a very time-consuming one.
These meetings with students were incredibly revealing regarding the success of my teaching strategies. The truth was that half of the groups did not do nearly enough outside reading on their topic to constitute real inquiry on their part. With the other half of students, I was satisfied that they read broadly enough to select a good topic with sufficient evidence to support a thesis aligned with the NHD theme.
What were the shortcomings of my plan? While it is tempting to blame the students for being too lazy to do outside reading, I must admit that the students did not all have intrinsic motivation and a clear purpose for reading. My plan certainly lacked good scaffolding for the vital Immerse and Explore stages of Inquiry, and my initial library lessons emphasized skills for the Gather stage. I also put Gather before Identify.
In spite of my instructional shortcomings, I was immensely proud of the students’ work and can’t wait to see what next year’s group does. Here are a few of the judges favorites.
I am writing this blog post as a means of reaching out to fellow inquiry fans who are interested in National History Day. I sincerely hope I have inspired some of you to undertake History Day next year and I would love to have dialog with the GID community refine teaching strategies that help students find a compelling topic and go deep within that topic and create an inspiring NHD project. Thanks for reading. Please connect via by email or Twitter or LinkedIn.
At National History Day is students from across the nation and around the world come together united by their love of history. In their work, they display that passion through many modes of creative expression. I was emotionally uplifted by … Continue reading →
Today, I’m going to try to explain the current GI unit that my students are wrapping up. This year was my first year teaching English 11 and, therefore, my first time teaching this unit. I was very excited for the unit as many of my grade 11 students are opinionated, motivated, and informed, and I was interested to see how they would communicate their ideas through dystopian fiction—a genre that they have read quite a bit of but have probably never written before.
This unit proved to be rewarding and inspiring for me as a teacher because of the thoughtful and powerful ideas that my students were able to tap into in their narratives. The unit also proved to be challenging for other reasons: I was off work due to a concussion, so we started the project a little later than intended as I sorted out unit/lesson plans with teachers covering for me. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to host our book launch party, but we are still planning to publish an anthology in ebook format to keep in the library.
The objectives for this unit were:
Understand how to communicate opinions and ideas through fiction
Apply understanding of dystopian fiction to own writing
The first objective was important to me because I often teach students how to write stories, but I don’t necessarily ask them to use story to communicate a message. This requirement adds a layer of complexity and causes the students to be more selective in devising their plot.
The second objective was more summative in nature considering we have read many dystopian texts throughout the year. Students have shown understanding of the genre and the messages these authors communicate through analysis pieces but had not had a chance to experiment with the genre themselves. In my mind, this application piece was the students’ opportunity to show a fully developed understanding.
Please note that while students consulted dystopian texts and news articles through this unit, they were not directly quoting or paraphrasing information in their narratives. Therefore, their Works Cited page became a list of sources that informed or inspired their narrative rather than a list of sources that were referenced in the traditional way within their final product.
Below is a rough outline of the unit:
Discussion of what we’ve learnt from literature and how communication through fiction differs from non-fiction formats
Read and analyze Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Read and discuss “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Daily journal about a current event in the news that they found interesting/applicable
Record articles referenced in journal
Create a premise for the narrative
Create a list of sources that were most influential/informative for generating the premise
Create assessment rubric as a class
Consult both dystopian fiction examples and non-fiction sources to find more information
Write a character description and a setting description—conduct more research if more details are needed
Generate a first draft
Peer edit first drafts
Revise and draft a final version of the story complete with an MLA Works Cited page for sources of information and inspiration
Format stories into a class ebook to be published in the school library’s collection
Have a “book launch” party to celebrate their achievement
Self-assessment on the rubric
Reflection on what they have learnt and what they would do differently next time
Teacher evaluation of final product and self-regulation through the process
Through conversations I have had with students over the last two weeks, most students are quite pleased with their progress and the project itself. Not once have I had a student ask, “Why can’t we just write an essay?”—a lament that often occurs in longer, inquiry-based units. Furthermore, students have been exploring some very interesting concerns from their lives: stigmas towards students with accommodations, the impact of elite athlete training, schools of unlearning to train students to think a certain way, the impacts of climate change, growing economic divisions in societies, and more!
On Friday, I hope to share more of my reflections and even some excerpts from the students’ writing to further highlight the process of this unit and the overall results of it.
For the library renovation project, students knew to market their proposals toward school librarians and other relevant district personnel since the county is planning to complete such a project within the next few years. Perhaps what was a surprise to them though was the extent to which guests would listen and take into consideration their suggestions!
Not only did school administrators, district curriculum directors, school librarians and the district superintendent watch our students present their rationales and suggestions for the school library renovation, they also saw the impact of student choice and student voice in authentic assessments. Students were invested in this assignment. They prepared for the part, dressed the part, and spoke the part. Their ideas were original, varied, and focused on making our school library different from all the others in the city. Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk told me after a series of presentations he observed that these students’ feedback would definitely be included in the decision making process when it’s time for our school library to be renovated. That’s powerful!
Other guests in the audience were intrigued by what they saw in the presentations and out of that came great (but unexpected) PR opportunities as well. Feature articles were written by district personnel and the city’s local newspaper. You can read those articles here and here. The superintendent, too, is creating a video series about student choice and its impact in schools and found many sources to interview for inclusion in their project. How cool is that?
While the attention this project garnered is by no means the goal, it is evident that school and district leaders value these types of learning experiences for all students. Any why not? Having student choice and student voice embedded throughout the year helps to create ownership of learning and student engagement increases as a result. Perhaps as a result of publicity, there may be other teachers now willing to incorporate guided inquiry design into their classrooms and experience the impact it can have on student engagement and academic achievement for themselves.
So what’s next? In less than a week, the core learning team will be presenting a session about Guided Inquiry in mathematics at the Innovations for Learning Conference to share our experiences. It is our hope that others will be inspired to try it too. After that, we will continue to brainstorm ways to bring guided inquiry into additional units and disciplines and seek other venues to share our GID experiences with others.
Let’s keep the conversation going about Guided Inquiry Design! Please post comments about today’s blog post in the comment section below and consider contacting Leslie Maniotes about blogging about your Guided Inquiry experiences so that we can learn from you!
Thanks for reading, reflecting and sharing this journey with me!