Testing the Waters: Guided Inquiry (Part 1.)

I’m the TL that works closely with the Year 7 team. All our Year 7 students have one lesson in the library a week and this is where they develop their information literacy skills, they’re introduced to new technology and they learn how to navigate the ever expanding world wide web.

They will be going on a trip in a few weeks to Sydney and Canberra and they will visit all the famous places such as the Australian War Memorial, National Portrait Gallery, Sydney Opera House etc. The Year 7 team stated that in previous years they felt that the students were not getting as much out of the trip as they could be, so we decided to develop a research project aimed at preparing them.

The research project I’m currently working on gives the students the opportunity to get some background information on the places they’re going to visit as well as getting the chance to develop their group work skills by using online collaborative tools. It has been really interesting for me watching how the different classes respond to online collaboration.

Photo credit: Jonny Goldstein via Flikr (2012).
Photo credit: Jonny Goldstein via Flikr (2012).

Recently, in ETL401 we have begun looking at Guided Inquiry (GI) and I thought that it might be a good opportunity for me to trial some of the ideas my developing through the readings, albeit on a very small scale but I thought I would start looking into how I can alter the project to reflect the ethos of GI.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2007) state that GI is an extension of KWL, it’s about getting the students to reflect on what they already know and therefore what they want to learn more about. This started got me thinking about how I might take this approach to test the waters with GI and gain an understanding of how we might ultimately implement this on a larger scale.

Photo credit: Erik Wignall via Flikr. (2011).
Photo credit: Erik Wignall via Flikr. (2011).

Our Year 7 students are in the middle of a unit called War and Conflict. I thought it would be useful to incorporate aspects of this into their upcoming trip to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and take their learning outside the classroom.

My understanding of GI is that we give students more ownership of what they want to learn and get them to be more reflective in their learning. My approach will be to use the KWL chart as a scafold.

The makings of an inquiry based lesson.
The makings of an inquiry based lesson.

We will also focus on asking questions- looking at open and closed questions and how to frame them to help our research.

Once this has been established I intend to show them the AWM website, and make this the starting point for their research, we’ll discuss that they are going there and why it’s important etc. and then make the link between the AWM and their areas of research.

It’s a big plan and there are lots of opportunities for it to fall through, but by testing GI on a very small scale will allow me to see the benefits, potential pitfalls in planning and allow me to better understand how to implement it in the school and introduce it to staff.


Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Guided Inquiry : Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group.


The Information Highway and the Teacher Librarian

As I work my way through module two of ETL401 I’ve started to think about the role of the Teacher Librarian and how we navigate our way through all the information, not just through this course but all the information that is out there on the information highway.  

The video below was shared by a colleague on the discussion board and I had to share it because it really reinforced what our world is. Our students are digital natives, their knowledge/skill is potentially more vast than ours when it comes to ICT. Therein lies our challenge- to keep them curious about technology and the world and the different ways we can use technology to assist in their learning. 

The video highlights just how quickly our world is changing, something that we tend to forget and technology is only moving faster.  In order for libraries to remain an integral part of student learning we must engage with new ideas and technologies, reinventing our role as needed.

This has been occurring as libraries have been thinking of ways of getting students and teachers through the doors, it becomes more challenging as schools go 1:1 with laptops. As my workplace starts preparing for the implementation of 1:1 we need to start thinking of other ways to not only getting students in to the library during recess and lunch but also getting the classes in to use not only the space but our knowledge.  It will be interesting to see how much this impacts our library if at all and I”m sure I’ll be commenting on the process as it gets underway next year. 

Many may think that with the ever growing range of online tools, resources and instructional videos the role of the librarian is being meaningless. I would argue that because of the increasing range of resources and information available the teacher librarian is needed more than ever to guide and help navigate staff and students.


Scott, K. (2014). Did you know? Shift Happens 2014 Remix. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcZg51Il9no

Beginning a New Chapter

Library Way -- East 41st Street

ATIS547 via Compfight

I have commenced a Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship), a requirement of the course is that I create a blog and reflect on my reading, learning and teaching. This blog will not only focus on what I’m learning as part of the course, but also on what I’m learning at work- what I’m teaching my students and what my colleagues are teaching me.

Already a blogger, the setting up of the blog has been fun. I like the opportunities it presents to interact and reflect.  So, let the reading, learning, teaching and reflecting commence!

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy


Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.
Lots of lovely gifts and cards from my students.

I might have been lucky to live in different cities,  but saying goodbye is never easy. In fact I think it’s getting harder and harder. In trying to prepare for the inevitable sadness that will creep up on me on my last day here in the dusty city of Doha I have compiled a list.


Things I won’t miss so much:

  • The cacophony of car horns all competing to heard in the desert orchestra ( which I can hear as I sit and type this)
  • The varying shades of beige that blankets the city
  • Living in what often feels like an oversized industrial heater- fan on high

Things I may miss a lot:

  • Having the call to prayer punctuate the day
  • Hot fresh nutella pancakes from the local women in the souk, who sit there even on the hottest days
  • The pockets of shisha hanging in the air
  • Mr. Chandran’s shop and the gentle whirring of the old-fashioned sewing machines
  • Walks along the corniche on one of the cool, clear days
  • Having a Saturday morning coffee in the MIA park and watching the boats of all shapes and sizes come and go
  • Chatting with friends in the shisha café after a very busy week
  • A cool refreshing lemon mint drink when it’s unbearably hot
  • A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.
    A refreshing lemon mint and a shish, always a good way to the end week.
  • Shawarma, humble yet mighty
  • Ugly, the security cat of my building, knowing that she’s on patrol lets me sleep a little easier at night

  • Dhows bobbing on the water, decked out in the most radical fairy lights

    The old and the new
    The old and the new

Lady of Shalott/ Mariana Mashup

In my last post I was talking about teaching ballads and trying to find ways to make it interesting. The majority of the class loved the creative task and of course I joined in. Below is my example plot outline for the creative writing task- a mashup of Lady of Shalott and Mariana:

Plot Outline

  • Sir Lancelot meets Lady of Shalott at a banquet in the castle Camelot
  • He really likes her, but has to leave on a quest to slay Pentagon the Dragon

    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.
    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.
  • He tells the Lady of Shalott that he will write to her everyday
  • They part ways, both feeling elated that they have found their one true love
  • Sir Lancelot’s journey is harrowing. The towns are abandoned, the villagers have left in fear of the dragon and its trolls who patrol the area and steel turnips and chickens
  • Sir Lancelot starts to panic when he realises the post office is no longer in operation, how will he send his letter to his dear lady?
  • Meanwhile, days pass by and the Lady of Shalott continues to sit in her tower and weaves her tapestries which are becoming famous in the South Shire
  • On the dawn of the fifth day, Sir Lancelot hears the beautiful song of the bluebird, a sound that was thought to have been silenced by the dragon and its trolls
  • Sir Lancelot decides to use the skills of Bertie Bluebird to deliver his message to the Lady of Shalott.
  • After much explaining andfluffing of feathers, Bertie flutters away in the wrong direction

    Bertie Bluebird
    Bertie Bluebird
  • Meanwhile, Mariana (another fair maiden) was about to feast upon cheese, apple and bread when a bluebird flew into her room
  • Mariana tried to shoo the bird away but realised it had a piece of parchment attached to its leg
  • It read: My dearest love, I think about the day and the beautiful emerald dress you wore. It is this that keeps me going and I long to see you upon my return. With affection, Sir Lancelot.
  • Elated, Mariana thinks back to the other day in the market when she caught the eye of a young lord. Never in her wildest dreams did she think it was the famous knight, Sir Lancelot!
  • Weeks went by and the two passed letters back and forth Lancelot winning her heart with tales of bravery and compassion
  • The Lady of Shalott grew restless, she couldn’t understand why Sir Lancelot hadn’t written, she started longing for the outside world and the markets of Camelot
  • Unbeknownst to the Lady of Shalott, the gold thread that she bought in the market weeks ago was cursed by the old lady who lived in the boot by the river
  • The Lady of Shalott got into her boat and sailed across the moat into Camelot
  • Mariana, looking out of her window and thinking about her dreary life saw a small boat sail by
  • By the time the Lady of Shalott arrived on the banks of Camelot she had died, her soul now trapped in her tapestry in the tower, encased in the gold thread
  • Sir Lancelot, who had ridden all night to get to return to his love happened upon the boat and to his horror saw the pale, beautiful face of the Lady of Shalott
  • Angered by her death he vows to find out who killed her and why and he immediately sets off to consult with the Knights of the Round Table
  • Meanwhile, Mariana is sitting by the window looking out at the moat wondering what all the commotion is and wondering who that handsome man is on a white horse.

“My life is dreary, he cometh not” she said

Mariana in the moated grange  (Image from artmagik.com)
Mariana in the moated grange (Image from artmagik.com)

I’m not going to lie, sometimes English Literature can be depressing.  We might consider certain texts classics and ‘must reads’ but the fact remains that some of the most famous and important texts of our time are in fact filled with sorrow.

Trying to make these texts interesting to a bunch of teenagers can become tricky, especially when a large portion of the class are not native English speakers.  Keeping things relevant, exciting and engaging is often the bane of a teachers life, but it’s also a highlight when we find something that does inspire creativity.

Two texts I’m using at the moment are The Lady of Shalott and Mariana. It wasn’t until we were discussing them that I realised just how depressing these ballads are. Both women are shrouded in melancholy and one of them dies; they are completely hopeless. Not exactly the poster women for feminism and independence!

So, how do you make these woeful texts interesting to teenagers and, in particular boys?

Both ballads offer an insight in to these women, we never really know who they are pining after, only that a man is at the root of their sadness.  We never know who Mariana is waiting for and why he never makes it. So, I decided it was time to find out…

The task for my class was to write a story from his perspective that would offer some reason for his delay, the additional challenge was to somehow include information from the Lady of Shalott too. It could be a reference to Sir Lancelot, Camelot or the lady herself.

A collection of notes
A pile of stories

The stories were an excellent read and the class offered up some rather interesting reasons for Mariana sitting and waiting- “my life is dreary/ He cometh not”

  • The man suffered memory loss;
  • He was imprisoned;
  • He became obsessed with the Lady of Shalott and forgot Mariana;
  • It was a game of hide and seek that went very, very wrong;
  • A modified memory from Merlin….

As usual I joined in the activity and got a little carried away with my idea. It involves a bluebird, miscommunication and a letter delivered to the wrong address…


Procrastination? Inspiration? Madness?

It’s exam time, that means there’s a stack of papers waiting to be marked.  It’s a sign that summer is fast approaching when I am buried under a pile of exams.  It’s always an intense time for those taking the exams and for those marking them. I find that it’s when I go a little loopy…

As a time out I went to visit a friend, something that is a normal occurence for most people, myself included. However, I also decided to create a comic strip illustrating my journey, as well as a limerick and the opening of a short story.

My journey
The visual interpretation of my journey…
The opening of the story scribbled on scrap paper...
The opening of the story scribbled on scrap paper…

Why? I have no idea, it’s not like I had hours of time to spare, I’m in the middle of marking exams.  The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s a way to give my brain a break.

The brain
The brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)