8 Google Resources to Spark Inquiry-Based Learning

The best inquiry-based essential questions spark more questions!

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Inquiry-based learning often begins by posing scenarios or questions in which students investigate the collected artifacts to determine more questions, as well as research directions in which they will pursue to gain further knowledge on the concept or topic.

In he article titled The Many Levels of Inquiry by Heather Banchi and Randy Bell (2008) the authors clearly outline four levels of inquiry.

Level 1: Confirmation Inquiry
The teacher has taught a particular concept, theme, or topic. The teacher then develops questions and a procedure that guides students through an activity where the results are already known. This method is great to reinforce concepts taught and to introduce students into learning to follow procedures, collect and record data correctly and to confirm and deepen understandings.

Level 2: Structured Inquiry
The teacher provides the initial question and an outline of the procedure. Students formulate explanations of their findings through evaluating and analyzing the data that they collect.

Level 3: Guided Inquiry
The teacher provides the essential question for the students. The students are responsible for designing and following their own procedures. Students communicate their results and findings.

Level 4: Open/True Inquiry
Students formulate their own research question(s), design and follow through with a developed procedure, and communicate their findings and results.

One “Best Practice” in teaching is Gradual Release of Responsibility. GRR provides a scaffold for learning in which as the teacher’s support lessens, the student independence increases. Aligned to this practice, Banchi and Bell (2008) explain that teachers should begin their inquiry instruction at the lower levels and work their way to open inquiry. Open inquiry activities are only successful if students are motivated by intrinsic interests and if they are equipped with the skills to conduct their own research study.

Consider the following Google resources to aid in inquiry-based learning.

A Google a day – Typically used as a bell-ringer or to reinforce search skills. A Google a Day could provide the spark in inquiry-based learning. New questions are posed daily. 

Google Feud – Google Feud compiles algorithms for most commonly search words and phrases and places the answers on a “Family Feud” type board. Google Feud not only sparks the inquiry into algorithms, but also has students consider bias in on-line searches based on location and history of your previous searches.

Smarty Pins – Smarty pins incorporates Google Maps and “drops” you anywhere in the world. Your charge is to guess where you are based on context clues found around you. Smarty Pins would be a great resource in Social Studies classrooms, begging the students to wonder – Where am I? How do I know?

Google Night Walk – Explore the sounds, streets, and soul of Marseille on this immersive digital Night Walk with GoogleAlthough Google Night Walk only as one adventure in Marseille, the sounds and sights make students wonder – What is this telling me about Merseille? How does the backdrop of night change perceptions? How can I create a Google Night Walk based off of my own location.

My Maps – My Maps is allows users to create and share customized maps. Located in your Google Drive, My Maps is perfect for literature tours, geography, history, etc. Connect multiple locations together and allow students to explore the world, gathering questions as they go. 

Solve for X – Solve for X is a community of scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, thinkers, doers, the young, the wise, men and women from every background across every geography connected by a shared optimism that science and technology can cause radically positive things to happen in the world.

Google Experiments – Google Experiments is a “showcase of web experiments written by the creative coding community”. Not only will students get lost for hours in the awesomeness that lives on this site, but it also allows students to develop questions as to how and why these experiments were developed.

Google Science Fair  – Google Science Fair is an online, global science competition for students. Not only can students design, test and share study results on through this competition, but they are able to hear from past winners.

What Gift Does Your Content Area Give to Children?

Gifts

Creativity, Problem-Solving, Self-Expression, Lifelong Communication Skills, Science, Thrive not Just Survive, Communication through Images; these thoughts, along with numerous other words and phrases that were shared, are gifts teachers give to their students through their content areas. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to work with a group of educators from GHVS. The focus for the day was Cross-Discipline Literacy Strategies. Along with strategies to support literacy skills across the disciplines, I wanted the educators to keep in mind two points. First, every content area offers kids gifts; and second, to remember, they are the best reader and writer in the classroom.

While a common misconception is that cross-discipline literacy requires the use and study of non-relevant texts in content areas (ex. the teaching of Huck Finn in Industrial Technology), this was NOT a belief shared by the staff members at GHVS. A separate post could be written about the administration team at GHVS, but for now, I will simply state, the climate and culture in this district is one I wish I could share with others around the globe. First, the administration team has a clear focus and it is communicated with staff members, who they treat as professionals. Secondly, staff members believe that all students are the responsibility of ALL staff members. Finally, each educator came to the day with an open mind and collaborative spirit, helping each other through the sharing of strategies and practice is a norm for this staff!

With a positive culture, educators can do anything! And although the gifts that they felt their content area gave to students differed, they all agreed that promoting content-related literacy was something that helped to make these goals achievable. Providing instructional strategies, reading strategies, and writing strategies that are applied to content-specific “texts” increase comprehension and students’ ability to create similar forms of communication. We want savvy consumers of information, but also creators of content!

My passion, in education, is helping to support these gifts we give to students, specifically in the areas of literacy and technology. Here are a few of the strategies we used during the learning, as well as technology to support:

Sharing Cross-Discipline Literacy EDventureTo kickoff the day, staff members were randomly sorted into teams. Each group was given a pre-made set of slides (click on the image to the left to view an example set of slides). On each slide there was a link to a “point” on a Google Map that contained a text type and questions to answer. After each slide was filled out for the appropriate “point”, teams clicked on the next link (located on the bottom of the slide) which took them to the next “point” and text type. Staff members felt this game-based competition was engaging, relevant, and immersed them into thinking about text types! In fact, they have set up a time for further training on how to create a Google Map Adventure to use in their own classrooms.

When the Skill is Lacking, What Strategies  Will You Use to Make Meaning?

Cross-Discipline Literacy- A Focus on Pedagogy, Reading, and Writing (1)

 

Reading Strategy #1: Question and Purpose   Each staff member was required to bring 2 pieces of “text” that their students would read/view with them to the Professional Learning day. After the opener, they paired up with someone who was not in their content area. Each person shared their “text” and their partner then answered the following questions: If the “text” is the answer, what is the question? and What is the purpose of this text? This activity was eye opening. Staff members recorded their thought on a Padlet.(a virtual bulletin board where one can post text, images and video; collaborative and easy to use).

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Reading Strategy #2: Text/Me/So                    For this next strategy, the teachers actually applied it while digging into the Cross-discipline reading standards (click the image to view the template). This strategy requires the reader to use text evidence in the “Text” column, interpret and write in own words in the “Me” column, and finally make the connection or explain their understanding or application in the “SO” column. This effective strategy can be used on any “text” and is an easy fit cross-disciplines.

Cross-Discipline Literacy- A Focus on Pedagogy, Reading, and Writing (3) Reading Strategy #3: KWHLAQ                       This reading strategy takes a contemporary spin on the traditional KWL charts (click on this image to make a copy of this template to use in your classroom) that we have used in the past. While applying this strategies, educators read the Iowa Core cross-discipline writing anchor standards. The “K” column helps to activate prior knowledge by asking the reader what they already know about a topic or concept. Each letter of this acronym provides a specific task/purpose for the reader. This strategy could be used for a short piece of text, or could be utilized across a whole unit (for instance, when we studied Romeo and Juliet, my students used this organizer).

RAFTs Writing Strategy #1: RAFTs                                RAFTs strategy is a writing to learn strategy to help students understand lens and bias. (click on the image to read my blog post detailing RAFTs strategies). Staff members applied their notes from the KWHLAQ reading strategy to RAFTs. Each team chose a specific role (which could be anyone or anything,from a teacher or future boss to the voice of a pencil), a specific audience (student, parent, board member), format (letter, blog post, list), and purpose in the form of a strong verb. The topic was the same in each piece written: Iowa Core Cross-discipline Writing Standards.

Cross-Discipline Literacy- A Focus on Pedagogy, Reading, and Writing (4)Writing Strategy #2: Mindmapping                 Another writing to learn strategy is mindmapping. Here students demonstrate their understanding of a concept or topic through a visual, in the form of a map. Using Google Draw, the staff members created their own mindmap (cause-effect, flow chart, sequential) utilizing Google Draw to demonstrate their own understanding of a group members “text”. (Mindmaps are great for graphic organizers. Google Draw could also be used as formative assessment, think Exit tickets)

Cross-Discipline Literacy- A Focus on Pedagogy, Reading, and Writing (5)Writing Strategy #3: Infographics                   In almost every content area, Infographics can be used as a writing to learn strategy. Analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing; all of these cognitive operations can be applied to a text and then comprehension demonstrated through the use of an infographic. Canva (click image to access website) provides free templates for creating professional-looking infographics.

The day ended with a return to the gifts that we give to students in our specific content-areas, a sharing of the work that we did during the day, and a reflection on the value placed on pedagogical practices that support the students’ comprehension and creation of “text” across the discipline. On the way out the door, a student teacher stopped me and said, not only was this a fun day, but in college, it is hard to understand your role in literacy as a music teacher. Having a collaborative environment that even the physical education teacher could share ideas for me to use was nothing like I ever experienced before! I am a teacher of literacy, and the gift I give to students is communication through music!

My Mission – Accomplished!

All of my slides from the day can be found HERE

A Google Refresh Just In Time For School: 3 New Updates to Your Favorites

By now, I am sure you have noticed the change in the Google Logo.  According to the Salesforce.com blog, the evolution sparked by the fact that Google is no longer just a search engine people use on a desktop computer, instead, ” we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”

largeNewGoogleLogoFinalFlat-a                                             newgoogleicons

But there are three other Google updates educators should be aware of:

  1. New Templates in Google DocsScreenshot 2015-09-03 at 9.42.47 PM – Find templates for many things, including resumes, essays with MLA format, lesson plan, brochures, and even flyers.  Access the templates by clicking on the “Docs Home” while in an opened Google Document.

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Screenshot 2015-09-03 at 9.46.30 PM2.  Google Forms also has a fresh, new look. New colors and options in images and question types, plus a sleek interface, will allow users to customize forms in a unique way.     ****(If you want to create a form using the new Google Forms, opt in to the new version. When editing a form created using the old Forms, you may also see a link at the top to try out the new version.)

Screenshot 2015-09-03 at 9.51.12 PM3. Voice Typing allows inputting your ideas into a document vocally a snap. A great alternative to typing for students. Access this feature under the “Tools” tab in a Google Document. Upon initial test, the voice recognition was accurate to what I spoke!

Happy Googling!

RAFT Prompts & Technology: Writing to Learn Across the Disciplines

RAFTsStudents need an arsenal of literacy strategies to apply in their personal and academic lives. The ability to locate, evaluate, synthesize, analyze, and compose content across multiple communication platforms demand educators to reevaluate their role in literacy. Middle school and high school teachers find this a daunting request, often confusing “Learning to Write” and “Writing to Learn,” and struggle to incorporate strategies to help students Read, Write, and Think in content areas.

“Learning to Write” involves explicit instruction, ranging from Kindergarten lessons in decoding, to understanding grammar or tone as Juniors. Learning to write focuses on a writing process to guide instruction. It can be used across the curriculum; having students construct a persuasive essay in social studies in support of democracy is an example. Through feedback, revision, and conferencing the social studies instructor is supporting the student through a writing process.

“Writing to Learn” provides opportunities for students to explain their current understanding of the learning and concepts being explored in the classroom. As a catalyst for future learning, writing to learn strategies have students recall, question, and clarify what they know and what they are still curious about. Writing to learn strategies often include a teacher developed prompt, but differ in that they are not typically writing pieces that students edit, revise, and take to the publishable state. Instead, students reflect, apply, and demonstrate their current understanding; teachers use this information to help guide future instruction as a type of formative assessment.

Students can learn perspective during writing to learn by using RAFTs Prompts. This acronym stands for:

  • R – Role (who is the writer, what is the role of the writer?)
  • A – Audience (to whom are you writing?)
  • F – Format (what format should the writing be in?)
  • T – Topic (what are you writing about?)                                                                                   and typically added
  • S – Strong Verb (why are you writing this? or purpose:Inform, Argue, Persuade, Entertain)

Gradual Release of Responsibility will help set students up for writing RAFTs prompts. At first, students may answer the same prompt:

  • R – A Jewish prisoner in a Concentration Camp
  • A – Cousin who fled to America
  • F – Letter
  • T – Their living conditions
  • S – Express

When students grasp the RAFTs strategy, student can play more of an active role in the design of the prompt by choosing to fill out the letters themselves . Allowing students to demonstrate understanding through a particular lens and chosen format increases engagement, relevance, and ownership. RAFTs Prompts can be used as formative assessment, to spark discussion, can be created from course content or readings, and can be completed individually or in a small group.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 5.04.13 PMThrough the addition of technology, teachers can use this strategy as an exit ticket, responded via Google Form. The responses are collected in one spot and the form can be reused. This snapshot of understanding is perfect for determining focus for the next day’s instruction.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 4.47.59 PMHave students create a comic strip demonstrating understanding of a concept  using Comix. Easy and free to use, comix allows any child to show their creative-side one thought bubble at a time.

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Understanding informational text or a sequential process can easily be demonstrated through Canva. Students can choose from many different layouts and design options to create a professional and free infographic that can be downloaded and shared!

 

 

 

RAFTs Prompts, used as a writing to learn strategy, provides students time to read, think, and write across multiple disciplines and using multiple modes and genres. Allowing student choice in part or all of the selected components increases meaning and engagement, launching our students into the mindset of utilizing writing to work through their understanding of concepts!

 

Fisher, Frey. Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work. Columbus: Pearson, 2008.

 

 

Kicking Off Back to School with Camera Fun

As we prepare for the start of school, and hundreds of eager minds bouncing into our buildings, many educators kickoff the school year with activities to foster community within their classrooms. When designing an appropriate “start of the year” activity, one should consider:

  1. How will this activity invite students to share something special about themselves?
  2. Will this promote relationships and foster an inclusive community?
  3. How can this activity be a scaffold or act as “jumping off point” into the learning that will be taking place?

With these considerations in mind, I offer you Four activities to Kick Off Back to School with Camera Fun! Whether using the camera on their phone, laptop, or tablet, students use of images plays tenfold in the classroom. First, it provides a perfect opportunity to embed learning of a tool they will use throughout the year in a meaningful task. Second, utilizing the camera contributes to the further understanding of communication through images. Third, talking about digital citizenship, which would include copyright, is important to thread throughout the year, why not start early! Finally, it is fun! We live in a world where a daily “selfie” is a norm.

Passion GIF

A GIF is a perfect way to have students share a passion, create an animation, dig into Google Photos or other GIF apps, and would be applicable in furture projects. GIFs are easily embeddable, tweeted, and shared.
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6 Word Memoir 

6 Word Memoirs, a favorite with my seniors, are a great way to gain insight into a student’s life. This reflective activity asks students to examine their life “journey” and summarize who they are in 6 words. A picture with the text is a great addition to this activity and has students consider how images enhance their message!
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Shelfie

This summer, Beth Holland shared a strategy with me that helped her learn names and build community, which has inspired this one. A “Shelfie” is when a student takes a selfie with their fovorite book or current read. As a literacy lover, making reading social while sharing good titles with classmates is a win-win. Beth used this “Selfie” idea during a workshop and had participants embed their picture, name, position and learning goal on a Padlet wall. In the classroom, this could serve as a way to learn names of students and classmates; add a learning objective or sharing point and viola’… a digital wall of “Shelfies”.

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Visual Seating Chart

A great introduction and foundational activity to complete with students is to create a visual seating chart. Using the camera found on their device or phone have students snap a picture, change settings to auto-flip pictures, rename the image, and attach to an email. All of these steps will help students create and organize in future projects. A visual seating chart is especially appreciated by subs and visitors.

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As Devin Schoening says, “Say No to Nonsense!” and while many educators and students detest icebreakers, these activities are meant to be embeded within content, aligned to learning targets, and help to build relationships within the classroom. While there are many other activities that educators could do with “camera fun” to start the school year (and even more with video options) these are a few ideas that are sure to get your students engaged, active and honing skills that will be applicable throughout the year! Have a great start to the school year!