Relationships, Dystopia, and More: Literature and GI

Greetings from sunny (finally!) Vancouver, B.C.! My name is Jennifer, and I am an English teacher at St. George’s School. You may have seen posts from other teachers at my school, like Marc Crompton and Elizabeth Walker. These two have GI figured out!

I will say this now: I am by no means a seasoned practitioner in GI but am developing a better understanding of how to incorporate GI practices in the classroom each time I use it. It’s a fantastic tool to keep in your metaphorical teaching tool belt.

Affinity Protocol: Students brainstormed types of relationships and categorized them to open our Romeo and Juliet unit.

I was introduced to Guided Inquiry through Marc, our senior school librarian extraordinaire. Together, we worked on a GI project for my Grade 10s last year that connected Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with the concept of relationships to allow students to personalize the play. We also built in protocols from the National School Reform Faculty as our idea to work on this unit together actually came about during our training for this certification. You can read all about it in Chapter 8 of Guided Inqiry Design® in Action: High School.

I also had the chance to meet with Leslie when she came to our school in the fall of 2015 to work with a team of Grade 8 teachers. Our team of nine teachers (teachers of Science 8, English 8, and Socials 8) were trying to plan a cross-curricular, guided inquiry style project. It was wonderful to have her input on how GI could open up the realms of possibility and create both direct and indirect connections between the three subjects.

One Grade 8 student’s “What does it mean to be human?” creation. He compared the anatomy of pigs to humans.

After completing the aforementioned GI units with my students, I was left with some questions that I wanted to try to address the next time I attempted a GI unit. My questions included:

  • How can I ensure that the creation is clearly linked to the literature we are reading?
  • How can I check in with students about their understanding and progress without over-assessing?
  • What is the base that students need to complete to be successful? How can I ensure less motivated students are on track and successful as well?

These questions arose from both the collaborative unit with our Grade 8s and Marc and I’s unit with my Grade 10s. For example, with our 8s, we sometimes had too many steps for the students and it actually slowed them down rather than propelling them forward. With my 10s, the creations were thoughtful and, for the most part, well-researched, but there weren’t enough references to Romeo and Juliet to demonstrate understanding of the play.

This Grade 8 student created a 3D printed brain accompanied by a PowerPoint to explain what it means to be a human intellectually.

This week, I am going to be sharing my Grade 11 English unit on Fahrenheit 451 with you to share my newest discoveries and perhaps some viable solutions to the challenges I mentioned. We explored the dystopian narrative, and the students used this understanding to write their own. Students had ideas that ranged from a post-WWIII era to the post-climate change charred earth and even schools of “un-learning.”

Stay tuned for more about this unit and my reflections and learning!


Jennifer Torry

English Teacher

St. George’s School

G’day, Mate!

A big hello to my fellow GI devotees, from Brisbane, Australia! It is such a privilege to be participating in this blogging event, and to be given the opportunity to share, and reflect upon, some elements of my journey with Guided Inquiry.

My name is Judy Bolton and I am the Head of Information Services at St Paul’s School in Bald Hills (a suburb to Brisbane’s north). St Paul’s is a Pre-Prep to Year 12 Anglican School, with a total enrolment of approximately 1400 students. Whilst it is one (very!) large campus, there are three sub-schools: Junior (Pre-Prep to Year 6), Middle (Years 7 – 9) and Senior (Years 10-12).The School was opened as a boys’ only school in 1960, changing to co-educational in the early 1990s.

Aerial photo SPS


I came to my “new” profession of Teacher Librarianship after 25 years of classroom teaching in both State and Independent schools in Queensland. I had enjoyed my time as an English / History teacher (Years 7 – 12), but when the retirement of a staff member in the Library meant that there was a spot to be filled, I happily accepted the chance to have a “sea-change”. I was able to begin teaching in the Library immediately, with responsibility for teaching Years 5 – 7, and studied externally for my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) through Charles Sturt University in Wagga.

It was during the first subject of my studies that I was introduced to Guided Inquiry. Having been given the task of comparing and evaluating  two inquiry models, I chose Guided Inquiry as one of these. To say that this represented a “light bulb” moment for me is a cliche….. but also most definitely true! Finally, someone was explaining to me why I, as a learner, had struggled at certain stages of research (and still did….. returning to study was an eye-opener!) . Someone was explaining to me how I, as a teacher, could assist those in my care to navigate this process successfully and to reassure them that the feelings they were experiencing at certain times were common and predictable. Someone was explaining to me how I, as a lifelong learner, could use this information search process to assist me with any search / decision making process; it was a skill that I could truly recommend to students as worthwhile. And so began my continuing passion for Guided Inquiry.

To give some background. Our Library is divided into two parts, with internal access from one to the other: the Junior School area (a reasonably recent addition) and the Middle School and Senior School area. At the time I arrived we had three teacher Librarians: one who had a weekly Information Literacy / Literature lesson with Year 1 – Year 4s; I taught weekly lessons to the Year 5-7s, and the third TL was responsible for assisting and resourcing the Year 8 – 12 classes. Naturally, armed with my new knowledge and passion, I was keen to “show and tell” the teachers with whom I worked about Guided Inquiry. This enthusiasm was met with a mixed reaction: from disinterest (“We have the planning from last year, and we want to use that”) to gentle hostility (“I haven’t got enough time to work with you!”) to trepidation (“So how will I know what to do?”) to enthusiasm and eagerness to have a try (“Great! Come down and we can work together on the planning”). Sound familiar?

Ten years down the track, I am still as passionate as ever about Guided Inquiry and I have had some successes and have learned a great deal. I have hosted a number of seminars and professional development courses for staff on GI, I have enjoyed and received immense satisfaction from working with many colleagues on really successful projects, I am improving my ability to do a sales pitch (aka “Why you really need to collaborate on this GI unit” and I do believe, with the help of a similarly passionate educator, that Guided Inquiry is beginning to make an impact on the learning of our students. This is what I will hope to share with you over the coming week.

Judy Bolton