Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guided Inquiry includes the use of technology and so flipped instruction. This article looks closely at the changing role of the teacher when using this instructional model. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Tips to implement flipped instruction

Flipped instruction can change teaching practices dramatically, educator Ed Bates writes. In this blog post, he reveals how he implements flipped instruction. "My role as teacher can now be more of a problem solver, rather than a lecturer," he writes. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education (7/20)

Monday, July 27, 2015

How tweeting and texting can boost learning. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

How peer-to-peer texting, tweeting can boost learning

Students who text or tweet a friend about what they have learned may increase their odds of remembering the information, according to a study from the National Communication Association. Researchers found that the benefits are similar to those experienced by students who take notes. (6/8)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Guided Inquiry often requires teachers to collaborate. Here is a guided to healthy teacher teams. Enjoy! Courtesy of ASCD smartBrief

Educator: How to cultivate healthy teacher teams
A common vision and time are needed to help teacher teams thrive, transformational leadership coach Elena Aguilar writes in this blog post. She offers ideas on organizational structure, such as aligning the team's mission to school goals. (7/16)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

This post discusses two of the key elements of guided inquiry...discovery and community. The joy of both of those drived the enthusiasm surrounding guided inquiry and engage our children. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
June 6, 2015 - Issue #436
The Wow! Scaffold
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
                                                            Mary Oliver
Sugatra Mitra, a professor of educational technology in Newcastle, England, studies self-organized learning and just how much children can teach themselves. He put kid-height computer kiosks in remote villages all over India (computers with programming in English and no directions), and just left them there to see what the children could figure out. The computers were equipped with “remote desktop” technology so that Sugatra Mitra could remotely observe what the children were doing. In village after village, children who began with absolutely no computer proficiency taught themselves English, computer skills, and even science simply by working together and experimenting. In fact, after nine months of “self-organized learning” the children who had never used a computer before had the same level of computer skills as an office secretary.

Next, Sugatra Mitra decided to see if some of the poorest children in India could teach themselves something really challenging: the science of DNA replication.
As a control group, Sugatra Mitra selected students in an affluent, private school who were working with a teacher who was a trained biologist. He found that village children were able to teach themselves a pretty impressive amount of DNA science, but after a certain amount of time, they hit a wall and the children working with a teacher were at a substantial advantage.

So, Sugatra Mitra decided to find a teacher for the village children. He wanted to make sure the teacher didn’t interfere with the children’s self-organization, so he told her to use the “Grandmother Method”--stand behind the children and every time they do something say, “Wow! How did you do that?” and “What will you do now?” With two months of this human connection with a teacher who scaffolded primarily with “Wow!” and prompted students to reflect on their learning, the village children in India improved their knowledge of DNA replication by 50% and matched the scores of the wealthy children working with a teacher who was a biologist.

In education, it is easy to find lots of directions about how to scaffold kids. Publishers sell 37-page prompting guides that tell us what cues to use as children work through books in guided reading. There are whole books about conferring, gathering data, and differentiating instruction. We think these resources have a lot of value; in fact, our bookshelves are filled with them. We also believe, however, that education could use a little more of the Grandmother Method.

What would happen if we carefully designed tantalizing tasks and watched, listened, and said “Wow!” as children dug into them? We invite you to experiment with engaging students in irresistible thinking work and then, standing behind them, say, “Wow! How did you do that?” and “What will you do next?” Maybe excellent teaching is about designing spectacularly engaging tasks and getting out of the way so that our students have unfettered opportunities to amaze us.

This week we look at ways to celebrate and build communities. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Contributors, Choice Literacy
Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their book Reading Wellness is available through Stenhouse Publishers.

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
All hail Ruth Ayres, the queen of literacy celebrations! She shares some useful tips in Respond, Reflect, Rejoice: The 3 Rs of Writing Celebrations:

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan provide two protocols for building community with adults in professional development settings:

Betsy Hubbard created and leads Chalk-A-Bration, a wonderful way to get kids outdoors to celebrate literacy and life. It's a great activity to include in your planning for next year or for regular summer celebrations of learning if you are leading sessions with students in the coming weeks:

Our summer online courses include new offerings from Jennifer Schwanke on how principals can evaluate and support literacy instruction, and from Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan on designing book rooms. You can view descriptions and registration information at this link:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Research is always a part of guided inquiry. Choice Literacy offters some good, practical tips. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 23, 2015 - Issue #434
Starting with "Secondly"
Stories are as important as food and love.

                                                     Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In her beautiful TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes her childhood perception of the houseboy who worked for her middle class family in Nigeria. Her mother told her that the house boy was poor, and chided Chimamanda when she didn’t eat all her food, describing how hungry the houseboy’s family was and how they would love a plate of food like hers. One day Chimamanda’s family visited the houseboy’s village where she saw a beautiful, handwoven basket made by the houseboy’s brother. Chimamanda was startled that his family had such talent and skill, and that they were obviously so hard working. Her single story of the houseboy was that he was poor.

For the last 12 years, I have worked in high-poverty schools in Georgia in various capacities. Inevitably, poverty forms a strong story line for those of us who spend a lot of time in schools where economic need is obvious. We say things like, "Ninety-eight percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch," or "Her mother has two jobs and doesn’t have time to make sure she gets her homework done." But this poverty story line is already well known, and its familiarity interferes with authentic connections with students, which are essential for teaching and learning.

The problem with single stories, Chimamanda explains, is that they impede relationships. It is very difficult to connect with someone when we see only one dimension of them, when we let our stories “flatten” them. Chimamanda suggests that rather than telling and retelling single story lines about people, we can go straight to a second story, a story that elevates them to the place of shared humanity. By attending to children’s second stories--starting with “secondly”--we can create a more balanced narrative about them, which affects them, us, and our interactions.

The children with whom we work are much more than the income or formal education levels of their families, and we cannot reach or teach them well until we see their second stories first, learning to appreciate the ways they are more like us than different.

What are your students' second stories? What can you do to make your students’ second stories your first memory of your experience of them this year? How will you lead with these second stories as you communicate with the teachers who will work with them next year?

This week we look at student research. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jan Burkins
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jan Burkins collaborates with Kim Yaris at Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their new book, Reading Wellness, is available through Stenhouse Publishers.

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Gretchen Taylor is streamlining research check-in with her middle school students by using Google Drive, and in the process gets data that is far more useful for her teaching

Late in the year is a great time to reflect upon what really matters in teaching and learning beyond test scores. Katherine Sokolowski does just that in What I Know to Be True:

You can access
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk "The Danger of a Single Story" at this link:

Create a DVD professional library instantly and save big with our DVD Bundle Sale. Order the 24 DVD Collection and save 50% off the list prices of individual titles. The bundle includes over 40 hours of video and features Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Franki Sibberson, and many other master teachers working in classrooms with children. Choice Literacy members receive an additional discount of $100 off the sale price:  

Join Lead Literacy or renew your Lead Literacy membership online in May and receive a free copy of Heather Rader's book Side By Side, a $25 value. Offer expires May 31 and is for online credit card orders only:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The evolving technology of tablets is benefitting education and can be extremely useful when collecting data for guided inquiry. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief

Educators find ways to make the most of tablets

Children Interacting With Tablet Technology
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Educators are finding more interactive and collaborative ways to use tablets. For example, some educators are using tablets to connect with external sensors or robots and combine physical play with digital tools. Others have used wireless technology to collect scientific data for science fair experiments. T.H.E. Journal (5/6) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This may seem like an odd place for this post. However, a large part of guided inquiry is reflection. If a teacher can not reflect they can not teach reflection. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Reflective teachers are more effective: Improvement doesn't happen by accident
Reflective educators are intentional in their actions, accurately assess their influence, adjust their actions on the fly and engage in ongoing reflection. On the most recent episode of the Whole Child Podcast, panelists explore how to develop and grow your capacity for success through self-reflection and its effects on student learning, the quality of schools, and the state of the profession. Listen to the broadcast.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Guided inquiry is applicable at all ages. Here is a great project fo young and older students alike. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Postcard project sparks global connections
First-graders at an Ohio school have used postcards, e-mails and webcam calls via Skype to connect with students in 90 locations in North America, South America, Africa, Asian and Europe. Students participating in the Postcards Around the World project are expected to reach students in 100 locations by the end of the year. Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is a great post. Guided Inquiry creates performance tasks by its very nature. Take a look and see what you think. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

What is a performance task?
"A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency," explains ASCD author Jay McTighe. In a recent ASCD EDge blog post, McTighe shares seven characteristics of performance tasks and explains why they are important. Read on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Finally! A global awareness. It must be in place for our students who use the internet...and we have to start with our teachers. It is a beginning. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

Teacher-training programs focus on global competence
Some teacher-preparation programs are expanding their offerings to include lessons on meeting the needs of students from other cultures. Educators who complete one such program at Columbia University in New York earn a global-competence certificate. District Administration magazine online (4/13)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Here is an engaging project using guided inquiry. Enjoy! Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Students become detectives in Mystery Skype challenge
Elementary students in a French-immersion class in Ontario, Canada, recently participated in a Mystery Skype challenge. The students connected with another class without knowing where they were and used skills such as critical-thinking, research and geography to determine their location. The Whig Standard (Kingston, Ontario) (4/6)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Exciting news. I am posting this information here because it is opening the door for guided inquiry. With the appropriate guidelines and instruction, students will be able to locate, validate, and process information on the topics they are studying. This has great potential! Enjoy! Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Data: Textbook sales are down under Common Core
Textbook sales in 2014 among some of the top publishers declined about 3% from 2009, according to a report from the Association of American Publishers. Potential reasons for the decline, according to this article, include schools choosing free, open-source materials for implementation of Common Core State Standards and some schools waiting for textbook editions updated for the standards. The Hechinger Report (3/31)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Although we missed the date for Digital Learning Day, I agree with the author. This should be a year long celebration. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

How to celebrate Digital Learning Day all year
Digital Learning Day -- an initiative organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education -- is Friday. In this commentary, Marcia Powell, an instructional coach and curriculum consultant, notes that the topic is too big to be "confined to one day or one activity." She shares several ways schools can integrate Digital Learning Day themes throughout the year. Education Week Teacher (tiered subscription model) (3/10)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Art Costa is one of my favorite thinkers of our time. Here is a great resource from him addressing content versus inquiry. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Make it a habit of mind
"You have to give up the idea that acquiring content is the main goal of education," writes ASCD author Art Costa. What does a culture of responsible risk taking look like? How do schools make room for mistakes? In a recent video, Costa shares why risk taking is essential to success. Watch the video.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Inquiry as a form of assessment? Here is a article on gaming as assessment. I think the rationale is a strong one. See if it might be a fit for you and your parents. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief

The gamified classroom
"Imagine the psychological impact of calling a quiz a quest," writes ASCD Education Update author Kathy Checkley. In her March Education Update article, Checkley explains how elements of gaming -- even gaming language -- can motivate students to achieve mastery. She also shares tips for integrating game play into almost any lesson. Read on.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Students need to learn to ask questions in order to engage in guided inquiry. Here is a great resource to help students learn to question. Notice the section they have on technology and collaboration. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Are your students stuck in "answer" gear? Q Tasks helps you develop a questioning culture and empower students to think critically, with 103 activities on curiosity, question types, building good questions, comprehension, opinions, interviews, surveys, writing, and more. The new edition incorporates technology tools and collaborative learning.

Note:  Available on - in paperback and digital.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This is a great book. I strongly recommend it. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Researching in a Digital World: How do I teach my students to conduct quality online research?
In this new ASCD publication, author Erik Palmer provides a step-by-step guide on teaching students to conduct deeper, smarter and more responsible research in an online environment. He also shares dozens of tips and strategies for building students' digital literacy. Learn more.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Here are some excellent ideas - defining - on student research. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
February 7, 2015 - Issue #419

Rereading the Classics
Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.
                                                                     Italo Calvino

I recently met several of my reading friends for brunch.  We talked as we always do--rambunctiously and enthusiastically, with our words coming rapidly and spilling over one another.  We are always so excited when we get together--we love to talk about what books we have read, podcasts we have enjoyed, and texts are helping us grow as teachers. 
When it was my turn, I told my friends how my current reading has been an inadvertent re-visitation of classics.  It all started when I read The Mockingbird Next Door, a story of an unlikely friendship with elusive author Harper Lee.  That had led me to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.  Which led me to seek out other classics from my reading past.  Buoyed by a holiday break at school, I worked my way through many of the books I remembered as important to me as a student, from Where the Red Fern Grows to Anna Karenina to Light in August.
I told my friends over our omelets, "It's fascinating how my reaction to these books now, as an educator in my forties, is so different from how I remember my reaction the first time I read them."
"How?" someone asked.
"Well, for example, The Great Gatsby," I said.  "I read it when I was 16.  And then again at 20, maybe?  At the time, I thought the characters lived such exotic, complicated, dramatic, difficult, wonderful lives. I envied their sophistication.  I thought it was high-class to drink cocktails for breakfast.  To throw elaborate parties.  To gaze longingly over Long Island's north shore in hopes of seeing someone you loved deeply.  To travel into the city to carry out an elaborate extramarital affair." 
"What do you think about the book now?" one of my friends prompted.
I struggled to find the right words.  "Now, I see the characters as deeply unhappy.  They are people with insurmountable problems--depression and alcoholism mostly, but other stuff too. They hurt one another, over and over, for selfish and meaningless reasons."
My friend Gretchen, a high school English teacher, made a sound that mixed a squeal and a wail.  "I just had this conversation with my students!" she said. "They drive me crazy with their reactions to Gatsby.  They think--especially the girls!--that Gatsby is the ultimate romantic character.  They swoon at all the things he does to get Daisy back.  They think it's sweet."  She paused a moment.  "But in reality, his behavior is delusional."
Those girls aren't wrong. They love how Gatsby loves Daisy. They love the lengths he goes to in his quest to show his love.  It's genuine and real for them. Just because we (older readers who have seen too much to admire Gatsby's efforts) may not agree, we have to respect where our students are when they read a text.
Our brunch conversation reminded me how a reaction to a book we read changes depending on where we are in life--what we are experiencing, what we are managing, who we are spending time with.  It's a pendulum, really--our connections to a character or a story swing gently back and forth over time.
That's why it's a good exercise for teachers to go back and reread classics that made an impact on us when we were students--even if they are not texts we will actually teach. It gives us a simple reminder how our thinking about texts is never set in stone. Our reactions will be fluid and dynamic.  Keeping that perspective will give us a broader net to cast when helping our students analyze texts.
This week we look at student research. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio.

Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Ruth Ayres uses an analogy to explore the research process in "We Gather Together": On Research and Weddings:
Melanie Swider and her fifth-grade students are taking A Peek into Nonfiction Research over at the Two Reflective Teachers blog:
A feasibility study is a great way to explore with students whether a new project makes sense. Don Wettrick over at the Genius Hour explains how they work:
Anna Gratz Cockerille has suggestions for helping students conduct effective internet research:

Franki Sibberson is offering two online courses next month, The Tech-Savvy Literacy Teacher (March 4-15) and Text Complexity in Grades 3-5 (March 18-29). Each course includes three webcasts, a book, DVD, and personal responses from Franki on the class discussion board. For more details or to register online, click on the link below:


Thursday, January 29, 2015

I am posting this invitation here, because many of the educators who practice guided inquiry, knowingly build on the brain's natural processes. I encourage any of you to submit an article. Good luck. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

ASCD Express call for content: Minds-on learning
How do you design learning that strengthens connections in the brain, accounts for processing time and working memory capacity, engages multiple sense for deep inquiry, and otherwise capitalizes on how the brain learns? What myths about the brain and learning persist? What new discoveries are most promising (and relevant) for educators? ASCD Express is looking for 600-1,000 word essays on the theme "Minds-On Learning." Submit your story.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Here is a great idea for students who are using the internet to research and write on a regular basis. Courtesy of ASCD SmarBrief.

How Creative Commons can help students choose online images
In this commentary, online professor and education technologist Kathy Shrock highlights the Creative Commons project. She notes that a lesson on Creative Commons can help teach students about how to choose and cite online images. eSchool News (free registration) (1/6)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

This type of technology is another step towards expanding guided inquiry by enabling student to student interactiion. Enjoy! Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

Experts predict more connected classrooms in the future
Learning devices of the future will allow for anytime, anywhere learning and allow students to share data and material more easily across devices, according to a young innovator, a futurist and the CEO of the One-to-One Institute. In this article, they speculate about what classrooms will look like in the future. T.H.E. Journal (1/5)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Learning management systems are important and useful. Here is a great article on the topic. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How an LMS can help solve some big challenges
Learning management systems can help educators solve a host of education challenges, Martha Barwick, coordinator of instructional technology at Harford County Public Schools in Maryland, writes in this commentary. She lists 12 key challenges that the right LMS can help address. eSchool News (free registration) (12/22)