Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Authentic Learning Needs No Sparkle

Because we are teaching during a technological age, teachers often think that they need to entertain students to captivate their interests.  They create elaborate fun activities that mimic television game shows and reality events. Maybe it stems from the Pintrest age of crafting and setting up environments that are perfect play places.  Maybe it's from the cute lesson plans you can find on TPT.

I don't know what it is, but authentic learning needs no sparkle, no glitter, no gimmicks.

Natural, authentic curiosity is a magical powerful motivator.  Look at this image to the right.  I found this on a beach and couldn't help but wonder what is this?, why is it shaped this way?... The world around us is fascinating, when we open to it.  And believe it or not, so is our curriculum! Our standards offer great opportunities for inquiry, but you have to look at them with your own curiosity!

Inquiry based learning can complicated, but finds its best practice when the learning is intrinsically motivated. To draw out students interests, there's no need for gimmicks.  Here are three ideas to keep in mind when trying to Keep it Simple!

Three Ways to Keep it Simple

1. Kids are Curious!  All we have to do is be curious ourselves and share something interesting about that topic that we are trying to teach, and see what connections they have to it. Ask them what they think about it, what they wonder, what makes them think what they do... simple!

2. Let them learn through experience and rich resources about some basics on the topic. Get out and see something in your town!  Have an experience together, learn from doing something- make a piece of pottery, build something, go on a nature walk or a neighborhood walk, see a museum exhibit and talk about these experiences. With Open Educational Resources (OER) you can connect your students to the world like never before! Share interesting things with your community of learners like non-fiction videos of people actually doing things, to actual images of the past, to art from around the world.  Virtual field trips can take them to places where they can get some feel for what it's like, even if they've never left town. Simple, but powerful.

3. Maintain an inquiry stance. Keep asking questions.  Wonder together and take note of students wondering.  Write down all the questions along the way to show how much you value their authentic curiosities. Keep it simple.

Keep inquiry based learning simple and ground it in students own curiosities! There's no need for glitter or even bells and whistles, when you have the real thing.

Ain't nothing like the real thing (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, 1967)

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Monday, September 18, 2017

Guide Inquiry? Why?

Why did we choose Guided Inquiry Design? Why not just Inquiry Design?

Well, simply put Kuhlthau's studies showed a need for intervention and guidance when students were using multiple resources to learn.  There was also indication of a great need to shift the traditional assignment design to more clearly match the students experiences- and so the inquiry process of GID was born. But the guiding part is a little more fuzzy. Kuhlthau explains that intervention requires a balance between too much and too little.  The timing of that intervention is pretty important, as well.

Adapted from Vygotsky's ZPD Kuhlthau describes the zone of intervention in inquiry learning. "The zone of intervention is that area in which an information user can do with advice and assistance what he or she cannot do alone or can do only with difficulty. Intervention within this zone enables individuals to progress in the accomplishment of their task.  Intervention outside this zone is inefficient and unnecessary, experienced by users as intrusive on the one hand and overwhelming on the other." (Kuhlthau, 2004)

As teachers of inquiry we want to be efficient and effective when guiding students through the process.

Rogoff (2003) talks about guided participation. She says, "children learn as they participate in and are guided by the values and practices of their cultural communities." It includes "social partners."  Guided is "meant to include but go beyond interactions that are intended as instructional."  It focuses on the side-by-side arrangement.  It's participating in a community of practice.

Guided Inquiry is meant to occur within an Inquiry Community.  This is the community of practice for inquiry-based learning.

Teachers can guide by

  1. Structuring children's opportunities to observe and participate 
  2. Structuring direct interaction
  3. Recounting, elaborating, and listening to narratives
  4. Practicing and playing within routines and roles (Rogoff 2003)
We GUIDE inquiry by designing opportunities for students to observe and participate in the learning. We GUIDE by designing student-to-student interaction as well as teacher-student interactions into our plans.  We GUIDE by offering opportunities for students to reflect and elaborate on their thinking as well as co-construct with their peers. And, we GUIDE through the phases as children engage in practicing - they Explore ideas, Identify questions, and locate, evaluate, and use information to learn in Gather, in these ways they participate in the community of practice of the Inquiry Community.

Inquiry is guided through the intentional design of the learning sequence. It is guided through our daily actions of listening to our students to provide "advice and assistance" in that zone, that will take them from where they are right now onto the next level.

Guides can constrain, but they also provide the best opportunities for taking the work to a higher level, that which one cannot do alone...

So, Guide on you Inquiry Sherpas! 

Shout out to my friend Heather Hersey for that title  (She's the Original Inquiry Sherpa)
Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Making Learning Relevant in the Inquiry-Based Learning Workshop

When we think about inquiry based learning in the classroom, it looks like a workshop where students are actively engaged in learning through researching their own questions. In Guided Inquiry Design, we have a simple session plan template for planning for the workshop time.  Workshops begin with a short "starter," include a longer worktime, and conclude with reflection (see figure) 
The "Starter" is often a mini-lesson or can be a grounding exercise that links the learning from one day to another.  In each phase of GId, the starter works to accomplish the intention of the learning goals in that phase. (See more on the phases of Guided Inquiry Design in our books or website.)
  For example, the Learning Team starts in the classroom with an Inquiry Journal ‘quick write’ in the Immerse phase.  Students connect to the concepts of Migration with a teacher prompt like; Who migrates?, Why do you think they migrate?, What are some problems with migration?  These prompts offer an opportunity for students to connect to their own understandings of the concept of Migration before delving into particulars of the content. Students in this unit would go on to Immerse using the Colorado History LaGente online exhibit showcasing the complexities of the latino experience in Colorado from historical, cultural, and social perspectives. (See more http://exhibits.historycolorado.org/lagente/lagente_home.html#migration)  If you're lucky enough to live close by, you could enjoy a visit to the “El Movimiento” exhibit in person to experience more on this topic for an even more powerful Immersive experience!
The Starter would look very different in Explore.  Short mini-lessons on relevant topics during the Starter connect students to concepts or skills needed to accomplish the day’s work. Here, the team would begin in the library with a mini-lesson on skimming and scanning strategies that get students in the mindset of browsing the topic for personal interest rather than reading deeply and finding answers. 
As the examples show, the the Learning Team guides the learning by matching the starter to the phase of inquiry in the GID Framework, providing relevance to each day’s work. (More examples in GuidedInquiry Design in Action: Middle School, Maniotes, Harrington, Lambusta, 2016 Or Guided Inquiry Design in Action: High School and GID in Action: ELementary -forthcoming!). When students see relevance in the instruction, they engage deeply during the worktime.  The GID model provides major supports to teachers to increase relevance for deeper learning. 
Happy Learning!
Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Getting to GREAT Questions for Inquiry: Talking with your students draws out their best intentions

In an inquiry unit on waves, a group of fourth grade students generated the following list of questions. The questions were documented in a collaborative Google Document at the end of the Explore phase in the Guided Inquiry Design process. 

Student Chat - Sound Wave Questions

1.     How are waves created?
2.     In what ways do waves affect human beings?
3.     How do we harness waves?
4.     Why can’t we see waves with our naked eye?
5.     What’s the point of waves?
6.     What makes sound waves waver?
7.     How do sound waves (as in music) make us feel?
8.     How did humans find out about waves?
9.     How many waves are started in a day?
10. Do people always use waves?
11. What creates waves?
12. Do animals use waves?
13. What makes waves?
14. Will people ever see waves?
15. Does electricity carry waves?
16. Do people carry waves? 
17. What start waves?
18. Can waves be dangerous?
19. Can sound waves kill people?!
20. How are waves so dangerous?
21. How much noise would you need to make your hearing worse?
22. Can you make waves by just tapping anything?
23. How many ways are there to make a wave?
24. How did people discover waves?
25. Is there a way to see waves?
26. How big can waves be? How small can waves be?
27. How fast can waves go?
28. How do sound waves get into our ears seriously?!
29. Are waves dangerous?! !!!!!!!!!
30. How are waves invented? 
31. Why do we have waves?
32. Are waves different?
33. How many waves types do scientist think there are?

34. What are waves made of?
35. Why do we need waves?
36. Why are waves so important?
37. How are waves made?
38. On an average, how fast do sound waves travel?
39. Why are waves so apart/different?
40. How and why do waves move in different directions?
41. How are waves made?
42. Are waves fast?
43. Who invented waves?
44. Are waves slow?
45. Why are waves so important?
46. How are waves made? 
47. Why do we need waves everywhere?
48. Why do we have waves?
49. How do waves move? 
50. Where are waves?
51. How many waves come a year?
52. How many waves are started in a day?
53. How fast can waves go?
54. Why do we need  waves everywhere?
55. Why do we have waves?
56. How do waves move? 
57. How are waves made? 
58. Where are waves?
59. Why do we need waves?
60. Do wave do more than they’re supposed to?
61. Do waves help people or animals?
62. Do waves hurt animals?
63. Why do animals use physical sound waves?
64. Can animals hear waves?
65. Are  waves invisible?
66. How fast do waves go? 
67. How do you make waves
68. Who makes waves moves and how?

Thanks to @LansfordsLines and her Learning Team for these ??'s

At all levels (K-12), through Guided Inquiry Design, students benefit from conferences with the teacher or librarian when transitioning from the Explore to Identify phases. The purpose of this student conference is clarifying. A quick conference with just the right timing helps the student bring life to their seemingly simple questions and transforms them into more complex and interesting ones.

At first glance, some of these questions (above) might seem better than others for inquiry and research. But, the goal of Guided Inquiry Design is that our students choose their own path for inquiry and research. Each of the above questions has the potential to be a worthy inquiry question. A short conference with the Learning Team clarifies meaning, draws out student interest, and provides direction for the Gather phase.

Here are some sample questions from the list above that students chose, and how members of the Learning Team conferred with the student to clarify the ideas. Each conference concludes with the student ready to move forward into the Gather phase. Notice how the Learning Team goes into the conferences with an Inquiry Stance, not a judgmental tone, but one of authentic curiosity for students’ ideas. Notice also that these are short conversations not requiring more than a few minutes of time.
***If you have time, end these conferences by engaging in a quick Google (or catalogue) search with each student after they write their question down. That way, they have a clear direction for key words, some resources, and their immediate next steps increasing independence in the Gather phase. 


There are four important things for the Learning Team to think about when entering into this conference.

1.     Students have good intentions. We need to reach inside our students’ intentions. Asking questions helps students to clarify the connections they are making. A conversation like the ones above draw out the information the student used to arrive at their question and elaborate on their thinking to get more specific.

2.     No question is a bad question.  Yes, some questions that elementary school students come up with are “right there questions” that have easy answers. But even those questions can hold the seeds of deeper thinking. If you take the time to dig a little bit into student thinking, conferences can really help students tell us more about the great thinking behind those seemingly simple questions.

3.     Students interests drive their meaning making.  Students will have more to tell you if you ask them, “what interested you about this?”, rather than asking, “why did you pick this question?”. Focusing on their interest takes the pressure and judgment off and opens the conversation to their Third Space.

4.     Paraphrasing students shows listening and support. Listening is a key to clarifying. Paraphrasing what students say will help you to be a better listener in the conference.  Using “OK so” or “Oh so” as you talk with students will help you to paraphrase their words so they can “sign off” with their intention.  (See examples above.)

Student questions are the core of inquiry-based learning! Hope this helps you get GREAT questions from your kiddos, the ones that they are interested in and spark deeper learning through research.
Leslie Maniotes, PhD