LLED 469 Learning Log 1.3

Module 7: Inquiry learning by design and/or re-design

Traditional Research Projects are described as:

  • Little evidence of collaboration between librarian and teacher
  • Designated list of topics to choose from
  • Little choice in project presentation mode
  • Librarian pulls out books and websites to fit the clear parameters of topic
  • Reliance on ‘cut and paste’ type of research

Inquiry Research

  • Student-driven questions
  • Explores multiple points of view
  • Involved in process of selecting resources and evaluating them for relevancy
  • ‘cut and paste’ is not possible
  • require critical thinking and problem solving
  • encourage the use of ‘resources beyond the school’ (Module 7, p.2)
  • authentic and worth learning about
  • includes self and/or peer assessment

Excellent resource to encourage change towards inquiry projects:

  • Fontichiaro’s blog posts and articles, in School Library Monthly titled “Nudging Towards Inquiry”.

So, I don’t want to just re-design and tweak existing projects but want to move towards full-out inquiry design. What steps do I take?

  1. Engage students in creating worthwhile questions that will provoke critical thinking
  2. Consider the end goal (what do you want students to know, understand and be able to do); create a checklist of “I can” goals for students
  3. Use the project as a springboard for direct instruction of research skills such as how to evaluate a website, how to take effective notes, how to cite resources
  4. Collaborate with teacher-librarian and perhaps an additional teacher or specialist

Inquiry is grounded in curiosity” (Module 7, p. 4). 

I think of this each time I hear a child ask a question about the world around him/her. I so remember that stage of life when my own children were preschoolers. “Why, Mommy?”  “Why is the sky blue? Why are those fish swimming only in one direction? Why are those people looking so sad?” The questions seemed endless but questioning is a way of learning and a way of exploring.

I encourage questions in my classroom and I don’t hesitate to say, “that is an excellent question and I don’t have the answer. Perhaps you can do a bit of research and report back to us within a few days.”  I have a glass jar in my class and a stack of coloured pompoms. When a student asks a thought-provoking question, he/she chooses a pompom to add to our Thinker Jar.

Discussion Prompt:

We were asked to consider whether our unit/lesson is “worth teaching” based on the questions posed by Harvey and Daniels (2009).

  • “Is the topic potentially interesting to and engaging for students?
  • Does the topic lie at the heart of the discipline? Is it worth learning?
  • Does the subject require uncovering?
  • Does the subject connect with everyday life? Does it have practical, immediate applications to the world we live in? (p. 166)

This is a great question and caused me to really think about if what I am teaching is of value. Is it just for the immediate purpose of learning a fact and regurgitating on a test or does it have value beyond the immediate.

  • Harvey, S. & Daniels, H. (2009). Collaboration and Comprehension: Inquiry Circles in Action (pp. 169-197). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

My post to the discussion:

“I watched a movie on Thursday evening called, “Mully”. In this movie, one man has been working hard in Kenya to change the climate and the landscape of his area. He realized that the lack of water and drought were a result of the lack of trees in the desert. So, he has been re-building the landscape and changing the climate by planting trees. Mully’s Children’s Family has planted over 2 billion trees and the climate has changed. The rivers are now fuller, the rain has returned and crops are surviving. As I watched the movie, I was reminded of my ecosystem inquiry project in Science 7. As we study about forest fires, drought, floods and slides, I want my students to see how these impact situations in real life. I heard another story this morning about an area in northern Afghanistan in which the USSR had deforested the entire area many years ago. The land is now completely barren and is a dust bowl. People are desperate for water. Hope International, a non-profit agency, has been at work to restore the land by planting trees and building wells for water.

I want my students to make connections between what they are studying and researching and how this may impact the local and global world. In my upcoming research project on ecosystems, I want my students to consider the “so what” (Donham, 2011, p. 6). As described by Harvey and Daniels, a successful inquiry project is worth teaching and worth learning. I like to think of this as the “what’s next?” How will what I am teaching or what students are learning be carried forward? What impact will it have on their lives or the lives of others? Inquiry projects should be meaningful and lead students towards action.

The readings this week further encouraged me to consider the impact of what I am teaching and to challenge my students to think beyond just the classroom. I am hopeful…perhaps some of my students will be interested to take the project beyond British Columbia and research global examples of human impact on ecosystems. Wouldn’t it be cool if this research led my students to get involved in fund raising for wells and trees in Afghanistan?”

  • Donham, J. (2011). Assignments worth doing. School Library Monthly. 28(2): 5-7.
Follow up discussion post from a classmate: 

Author: Heather Romaine Date: Monday, October 16, 2017

Subject: RE: Module 7: Inquiry Learning by Design and/or Re-design

“Wow, Yvonne. I would like to be in your class!  A neat virtual field trip to add to your ecosystem inquiry unit is Cootes Paradise Marsh, in Ontario.  85 % of native plant life was lost before work was done to turn the ecosystem back in the right direction to save it.  A connection to a Canadian place where an impact was made” (Romaine, H. Oct. 16, 2017, blog post).

I dug around a bit to see if I could find some resources related to this virtual field trip.



(in looking up some details, the information that would be presented during this virtual field trip sounds perfect with my inquiry unit, however, the cost is $130. Something local may be more worthwhile.)

Further Notes and Thoughts on the Readings:

Donham (2011) encourages educators to consider both the “so what” of the concept driven projects and the higher order skills required (p.6). By completing the unit, students would develop skills of “analysis, synthesis and evaluation” (p.6).

In recent discussions with colleagues, we have debated the use of technology in classrooms; to what extent is it lending to higher order skills or is it a distraction? I appreciate the following quote:

“While educators feel pressure to integrate technology into instruction, technology should not be a distraction from deep learning, but rather an enhancement. Technology can decorate an otherwise cognitively simple task and take time away from the deep learning that should be our priority” (p.7).

I remember spending hours and hours as a child simply making and creating. Our Barbie dolls always had new “furniture” made out of such things as cereal boxes and empty spools from thread. Whatever we didn’t have, we made. Thus began my journey into ‘making’. It does seem to be a lost art in today’s culture of consumerism and of shuttling our children from one organized lesson to another.  I love the maker movement as it encourages creativity, innovation, tinkering and authentic research skills.

In my school, we are going to attempt something new as part of the Applied Design, Skills and Technology curriculum. Our gr. 6 & 7 students will be divided into 7 or 8 mixed groups to rotate through different modules. At the end of November, we plan to host our first series of modules which will run on two days from 10:45-2:45. In those six hours, we will teach a few basic skills, design a project and spend time ‘making’.  As the future teacher-librarian, I am heading up this venture of collaboration which includes four grade 6 & 7 teachers, the Development Director, the IT support person and the vice principal. In addition to my role as coordinator, I am in charge of the Textiles Module.

As part of the design phase, I want to challenge my students with a real-life problem. The Society Task Force to End Homelessness in Burnaby collects small toiletry bottles (you know, the ones you get at a hotel) and then distributes them to those in need. I invited the Director, Wanda Mulholland, came to my class in June. She presented us with a challenge; to collect toiletries and then package them into small kits.


So, my idea is to design a sack that is washable, reusable and can be used to hold these toiletry items. I was thinking of something similar to a lunch bag closed with a button or Velcro.

As I am totally supportive of the maker space movement, I spent some time digging around articles on this topic. I began with:

Fontichiaro describes a maker activity as one that “transforms materials: bulbs into circuits, code into games, yarn into crochet. We help students develop skills and techniques while avoiding projects with prescriptive instructions and same-product-for-everyone” (p. 48).

On Saturday, I went to a local fabric store to see if I could find a suitable (and easy) sewing pattern. I left disappointed as I didn’t see anything that could be suitable for this project. On Sunday, I scoured some different websites to see what I could find. I started with the sites listed in Fontichiaro’s article. (makezine.com, diy.org, or instructables.com)

I dug deeper and came up with a few ideas. I got a bit side tracked and excited with the additional possibility of sewing mini grab and go snack bags. Wouldn’t it be cool to introduce something like this to my module group and have them create little sacs as a fundraiser? Perhaps we can raise additional money to donate to the Society to End Homelessness. Hmmm…one idea leads to many!

Fabric snack bags and lunch bags:





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ks7sfeZ1Gk (this is a great one!)


Pentland reminds me to reflect on my research projects and consider if they require students to think critically and to interact with the material. Time, student choice and questioning are important elements when planning a successful research project. In collaboration with the classroom teacher, carefully allocate time for introducing/brainstorming, conducting research, working on the product and then presenting in small groups (Pentland, 2010, p.10). Giving students choices in terms of the topic, type of project and even the audience helps to engage and motivate students. A successful research project is one that requires students to seek answers that involve critical thinking.

Wiggins and McTighe (2012) offer another way of planning and designing a unit. They suggest working backwards by identifying the desired results, determining the assessment evidence, and then planning the learning experiences and instruction accordingly. This reminds me of how we establish a mission and vision statement for our school. We first think “what skills, attitudes and knowledge do we want our students to have by the time they leave our school?” Then we consider the question, “how will we know they have achieved this?” and finally, “how do we move our students from where they are to where we want them to be?”

On p. 4, an example essential question is given that relates to my inquiry unit in Science 7. To bring students to a deeper understanding of how “the geography, climate and natural resources of a region influence the culture, economy and lifestyle of its inhabitants” consider the question: “How does where we live influence how we live?” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2012). When planning the assessment and learning activities, the authors state the importance of including all three types of goals: transfer of learning, meaning making and acquisition of content (p. 6).

Zmuda’s (2013) article reinforces that the success of library programs depends on the following criteria:

  1. It is a space truly owned by the learners.
  2. It is a space grounded in relationships
  3. It is a space where everyone is a “maker”— someone that moves through the dynamic cycle of problem-solving, creation, and failure.
  4. It is a space where “information overload” doesn’t exist.

I appreciated the focus on the learner. Zmuda reminds me of the importance of developing relationships with the learners and of seeing the immense potential in each student.

The following quote jumped out at me:

“Many educators continue to train students to live in a predictable world. They are training students to:

  • compartmentalize one discipline at a time.
  • see knowledge as static.
  • focus on getting the “right answer.”
  • function as individuals given the nature of how we evaluate learning” (p.10).

I continue to challenge my students to “be flexible” in their learning, both in their day to day planning and in their expectations of themselves and others. Flexibility and adaptability are key skills for healthy and balanced individuals. As McTighe phrases it “what we want students to be able to do when
they confront new challenges—both in and
outside of school” (p.11).

The Year of the Learning Commons has excellent resources, examples and inspiring stories to help guide my school through the process of setting up a Learning Commons. I sent this link to my Vice Principal to check out.

Walter’s “50 Ways to love your library” is a great resource! In looking through, I chose my favourite top ten that I would like to start with in my future library. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Announce the winner (#22): celebrate the annual children’s books awards in January
  2. Build a portfolio (#3) of the significant effects my library
  3. Collaborate with teachers (#5)
  4. Celebrate special days (#8)
  5. Build a community of readers (#11) through book club parties and storytelling sessions
  6. Extend my program (#19) by developing a user-friendly library website
  7. Recruit volunteers (#20) encourage student leaders
  8. Tell a digital story (#39) give students opportunities to compose and share their stories with a global audience
  9. Read for pleasure (#47) cultivate a love of books with the students
  10. Poll my users (#46) survey students about their reading preferences and suggestions for new books (Walter, 2008).


Donham, J. (2011). Assignments worth doing. School Library Monthly. 28(2): 5-7.

Ekdahl, M. & Zubke, S. (Eds.) (2014). From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change. Vancouver, BC: BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association (BCTLA).

Fontichiaro, K. (2009). Nudging toward inquiry – Re-envisioning existing research projects. School Library Monthly 26(1): 17-19.

Fontichiaro, K. (2014). Nudging toward inquiry – Makerspaces: Inquiry and CCSS. School Library Monthly30(6): 48-49.

Fontichiaro, K. (2015a). Nudging toward inquiry – Framing inquiry with scenarios. School Library Monthly 31(3): 50-51.

Fontichiaro, K. (2015b). Nudging toward inquiry – Building inquiry understanding with colleagues. School Library Monthly 31(5): 49-51.

Pentland, C. (2010). Nudging research toward critical thinking. School Library Monthly 26(10): 10-12.

The Year of the Learning Commons. (April 2015-May 2016). Celebrating the transformation of school libraries and computer labs into learning commons. [blog]. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/yearofthelearningcommons/home

Walter, C. (2008). 50 Ways to love your library. Saskatchewan School Library Association. Retrieved from https://bctf.ca/bctla/pub/documents/libraryprogram/50%20Ways%20To%20Love%20Your%20Library_cwalter_fall08.pdf

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2012). Understanding by Design FrameworkASCD.

Zmuda, A. (2013). CCSS (Common Core State Standards): A window and fresh air for learning. School Library Monthly 29(4): 9-12.

Module 8: Driving inquiry with questions

When I encourage students to develop their own questions about the topic we are studying, the learning is much richer. They become motivated to seek answers. I feel that we move from spoon-feeding (of knowledge) to a smorgasbord (constructing knowledge).

When teaching primary, I intentionally taught students how to ask a variety of questions. We called these “green, yellow or red level questions”. Through Literature Circles, my students became quite adept at formulating thought-provoking questions. In the intermediate grades, I found the Question Formulation Technique to be very effective. The Right Question Institute has fantastic resources available to help guide students through this process. http://rightquestion.org/education/

Questions formulated by the students leads them to pursue “things worth knowing” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005).

  • Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Chapter 5, “Essential Questions: Doorways to Understanding?” Understanding by Design(pp. 105-125). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

My Thoughts on the Readings:

  • Koechlin, C. and Zwaan, S. (2007). Power up your inquiry questions. Q Tasks: How to empower students to ask questions and care about answers (p.73). Markham, ON: Pembroke.

This chart is an excellent resource to keep handy for my students when formulating their inquiry questions. I would like to practice with my students by introducing different “hooks” and having them write questions from the different categories (questions that focus or look for relationships).

  • Wilhelm, J. D. (2012). Essential questions. Scholastic Instructor 122(3): 24-27.
  • Wilhelm, J. D. (2014). Learning to love the questions. Knowledge Quest 42(5): 36-41.

Wilhelm (2012) defines essential questions as those that “frames a unit of study as a problem
to be solved…[and] connect students’ lived experiences and interests to disciplinary problems in the world. And it should connect what they learn back to the real world, where they can put their new understandings to work” (p.25).  I appreciate Wilhelm’s approach in guiding students through process rather than focusing on the product. The questions inspire the product rather than the product dictating the type of research one must find.

During the process of digging deep into one’s questions, students may need to learn strategies such as interviewing, narrative or comparison writing. The learning becomes authentic as there is a purpose served.

  • Green, J., & Fontichiaro, K. (2010). Using Picture Books to Jump-Start Inquiry in Elementary Learners: “The Tiny Seed”. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 6-7.

Using a chart as suggested in this article is a great idea during the hook part of an inquiry lesson. I like how students first record what they think they know and then conduct some research to find new learnings. Through the process, they can move their sticky notes to “what we learned” or to “misconceptions”. This could be handy during a read aloud in the library.

  • Fontichiaro, K., & Green, J. (2010). Jump-Start Inquiry: How Students Begin When They Don’t Know. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 22-23.

To build better questions, Fontichiaro suggests the following:

  1. Build prior knowledge (with picture books, letters, poems, piece of writing, image…)
  2. Scaffold with the four quadrants (“what we think we know”; “questions”; “what we learned” and “misconceptions”)
  3. Read a well-chosen text or conduct some research
  4. Record additional questions and learned facts/misconceptions
  5. Report their learning
  6. Reflect on their learning (through a Google Docs, exit ticket etc…)

 In preparation for an upcoming field trip, I wanted to put questioning to the test and work to make my lessons worth learning so that my students are impacted beyond the immediate. I described my lesson in a discussion blog post on Oct. 24, 2017. (LLED 469)

“In November, I am taking my classes to the Nikkei National Japanese Museum in Burnaby. The exhibit is focused on the Japanese internment camps in BC during WW2. This is not a topic that many of my students ever heard of. I started off using the Question Formulation Technique and brainstorming on questions on the statement “Canadians judge each other based on their differences.”  The students came up with fantastic, thought provoking questions such as 

“Why do they judge? Why is it only white people are racist? What good results do they get from judging? Why do people think it is okay to judge? Why are we racist? Why just Canadians? Is this based on ethnic differences or cultural differences? Does it make one feel powerful? What kinds of differences do they judge on? Do other countries also do this? Did prime ministers or presidents talk about racism?”

(in this technique, we don’t analyze the questions at this first stage but use them to prompt our thinking)

I then showed them the first of these video clips and then the students wrote their thoughts. I then showed the last 2 video clips and they could add to their writing. Students were thoughtful, reflective and admitted feeling shocked and saddened that this went on in Canada.  I wish I had a bit more time to reflect with the students but the bell rang. So, I will continue next lesson following Fontichiaro’s advice of researching and then changing our questions to “misconceptions” or “Things we have learned”.

Teen Kids News. (Dec. 7, 2016). What ere the Japanese Internment Camps?. . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Q_7TJ34Nphg

Historica Canada. (Mar. 21, 2016). Japanese Canadian Internment. . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/VmXX6Jz5wsE

sjaydub7. (June 7, 2007). Canadian Japanese Internment Camps. . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/8mqSfnZ7D2I


A professional development book on my MUST READ list is:

Rothstein, D. and Santana, L. (2011). Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions



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