IBD-ize: Inquiry By Design Becomes a Verb

I was working with a group of teachers in Alameda Unified School District in California a few weeks ago. A district leader got up to welcome teachers and make a few announcements before we launched into our work for the day. Among the announcements she made was this item.

“… and on such-and-such a date we will have our IBD-izing planning day, so bring whatever texts and materials you’ll need for that.”

The teachers in the room all nodded and marked their calendars without question. I was the only one a little bewildered.

“IBD-izing?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she explained. “We’ve turned you all into a verb. We have at least one planning day each semester where teachers can bring in whatever they’re using besides their Inquiry By Design units, and then we take those texts and content and we design sessions that emulate the same kind of inquiry-based pedagogy and tasks from our Inquiry By Design units. We use IBD as a template and a guide for all the work we do in our ELA classrooms—social studies too. The teachers started calling it IBD-izing years ago.”

A few weeks later I discovered the same trend happening in Texas. A ninth-grade team in Lewisville Independent School District recounted how they have been teaching epic poetry for years and it’s never really been successful. The only student success they could point to was sending students on to tenth grade with a vague memory of having encountered “that Odysseus guy” somewhere along the line. It didn’t seem meaningful. They didn’t see students making connections.

After attending an Inquiry By Design curriculum institute (Being and Unbeing: A Study of Four Poets), the team wondered how they might make their epic poetry unit more meaningful. They sat down with their coach to plan and built an IBD-ized Epic Poetry unit. They pared it down to one week and were “A-mazed” at the student response.

“We paired the texts with Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar.’ I never imagined my students could have a moment of profound learning with a pop song, but the song helped scaffold the work with the poems and they were able to see things they’d never seen in years past. It was A-mazing.

“All of the kids did really well with it, but our 4th period class really surprised us. They are our rowdiest class—almost all boys. They’ve just had lunch and played football and it’s the end of the day. That week they struggled willingly, and they fought through it and solved problems and discussed in a focused, respectful way. On the Friday we circled up to reflect on our learning. One of the boys observed that we, the teachers, had never given them the right answer, and instead noted that they had to work really hard, and that thinking that hard hurts. They had made all kinds of meaningful connections with the poems. Then another student said, ‘This is what you mean when you say we are here to learn skills that help us in life not just in class, right?’ If we hadn’t IBD-ized this work, these kids never would have gotten close to that kind of critical thinking.”

IBD-ize: Inquiry By Design has become a verb.

Do you have a story to share about re-tooling content to make it more inquiry based? Share it with us!