For roughly two and half weeks in August, my seniors have been mucking around and exploring topics related to the future of work through reading frenzies, reading rumbles, birds of feather groups formation with compass points discussion and question planning, and a philosophical chairs discussion.

The Writer’s Notebook Invitation

This past Wednesday, August 30, we began class by responding to these six questions in our writer’s notebooks (this was Writer’s Notebook Invitation 6).

From Individual Notebook Work to Group Sharing with Carousel Stations

After thinking and responding to these questions in our writer’s notebooks, students visited seven stations—six of them represented the six questions above, and we had a 7th “wildcard” question/reflection station.  Students could visit the stations in any order and share their responses.  The only restriction was that you could not replicate a previous response from another student.

We then formed groups of three and four; each group received a “question station” and was asked to analyze the range of responses they saw in front of them.  Students worked together to look at the range of responses for their station question and formulate a 3-2-1 response to share with the class:


After completing their small group work, each group shared out their findings, and we discussed their responses and how it might relate to our project we were starting. Each group discussed the responses and then formulated a 3-2-1 response that was eventually shared with the class and posted in our hallway gallery.  Here is a summary of their findings:

Why Are We Doing This?  Building a Collaborative KWL and Gathering Data for Formative Assessment

This activity was designed with a few purposes in mind.  First, the activity helped us think about what we already knew about research, what didn’t know, and what we wanted to know.  I think it was helpful for students to see patterns of response within our class from one station/question to another.  Secondly, the student work compiled individually (I scanned every poster created along with the 3-2-1 reflections)  and in small groups has provided me rich data for formative assessment that can inform future mini-lessons and better understand strengths as well as gaps in understanding.  Going through that data and compiling it helps me now think about what mini-lessons students will need as we move forward.  Finally, the activity also helped set the stage for our inquiry project and how we are going to rethink how we conceptualize research.  My instructional design is rooted partially in my previous experiences as a school librarian and English teacher, but this marvelous post from Moving Writers is also informing the design of this inquiry unit–not just the research aspect but the content creation and study of mentor texts for informational writing text structures.

The data I collected through this activity could easily be a blog post in and of itself; if time permits, I will try and compose a separate post with some observations and reflections on that data.

Next Steps:  Introducing the Project Framework, Our Research Guide, and First Mini-Lessons + Finalizing Our Birds of Feather Groups’ Lines of Inquiry and Jobs

Finally, I formally introduced and reviewed the “birds of feather” inquiry project; we then reviewed the project guidelines together. You can view our research guide in progress by clicking here.

Last, birds of feather topic groups met to finalize responsibilities and research questions they self-select; during the previous week, groups used the “Compass Points” talking points (adapted from Making Thinking Visible)  to tease out their ideas and thinking about their self-selected group topic as a springboard to developing questions and lines of inquiry to pursue in the first round of research.

I captured each group’s planning work with my ScannerPro app and saved each file as a PDF; I then uploaded these a shared folder in my Lanier Google Drive.  Each group has a copy of their planning sheet in a shared folder in Google; this folder is accessible only to them their school account, but here is a snapshot of the shared folder (the link to the shared folder is posted on the home page of our research guide):


Mini-Lessons to Prep Us for Our Initial Round of Research

On Friday, September 1, I did a series quick mini-lessons on the following skills in the first third of our ninety minute block class time:

  • Accessing our research guide and the resources available/how to navigate
  • How to sign up for EasyBib and create a project folder
  • How to export a citation from any EBSCO database (we get quite a few through GALILEO) to EasyBib
  • How to send a resource from EBSCO to your Google Drive
  • How to export a citation from any GALE database to EasyBib
  • How to send any article from a GALE database to your Google Drive
  • How to share your saved articles in Google Drive with your group members if you would like to do so
  • Web-based starting points for research, including Google News and TED Talks
  • The CRAAP test

We then used the remainder of the period to begin work on our first day of research; students were asked to save every article to EasyBib to begin building a working bibliography (even those articles they may eventually discard) and to send to their Google Drive when possible.  Students were also asked to complete the following graphic organizer with a goal of finding at least three articles; those who needed more time can finish over our long Labor Day weekend.

Looking Ahead to Our Work in September

We’ll move forward with more research next week before coming back together to evaluate our next steps and to inquire about how the information we’re finding will drive the types of informational text structures we may create and focal points for a 2nd round of research later in September.  I’ll be writing more about these learning structures and strategies later this month!