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Entering the LAUNCH Cycle: LAUNCH Book Study Part 2

I have dived into reading the next 3 chapters (Chapters 4 - 6) of LAUNCH by John Spencer and A. J. Juliani which cover the first three steps of the LAUNCH Cycle. The book does a great job going into depth about what each step entails and what it looks like with specific examples.  I would be doing the work of the authors a great disservice trying to create a Cliff’s Notes version of their text, because what resonates with me for my classroom practice may not resonate with others.  Also, the text is so rich that it needs to be read.  It’d just be retyping the book. I think that’s plagiarism. In lieu of that, I hope to provide some of my highlights below.

Step 1: Look, Listen, Learn

I love the way that this step is framed.  It’s the why of the process.  But, it’s clear that the “why” is not an extrinsic motivation.  The desire to create comes from the student.  So, this first step is seen as raising interest or awareness. The authors go over 7 different ways to tap into student awareness and build intrinsic motivation to find want to learn. They go into great detail on each of the 7 ways to get students all in.  I’ve created a rough graphic below differentiating the different ways to tap into student awareness.  Consider this iteration 1.  I look forward to going back and refining it. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Step 2: Ask  Tons of Questions

Spencer and Juliani frame this step as the bridge between awareness and research.  But, they are careful not to say it’s just about asking questions. If the first step is about raising awareness, this step is all about wonder.  This means that learners should not be afraid of stupid questions.  They should “think like a three-year-old”.  Students should open the floodgates of questions.  I have found in my experience that students are not great question crafters. They don’t ask enough questions to get deep into the topic, and they don’t ask questions that are specific enough for research.

In my class, I am the one asking the questions.  So it shouldn’t surprise me that students are at ease with answering questions and struggle with crafting questions. Juliani and Spencer make it clear that by wondering and asking questions regularly, students will become better question askers.

The authors provide 14 different strategies to help students ask better questions.  These cover all content and span different age groups.  Here are some that I found powerful and can’t wait to put into practice.

Wonder Days: Days where students choose a topic they are curious about and research it. Then, they summarize and see what new questions they have.  Love this.  They recommend doing this early in the year to create a culture of questioning. I plan on pulling this out week one.

Give Feedback: When students develop questions, they need feedback.  This feedback will lead to refinement.  This is not just teacher feedback, but peer feedback.  With today's digital tools it’s easy to share and comment.  When peers provide feedback, this helps everyone learn what better questions look like.

Model the process with your own questions: Too often I come up with dummy questions.  I really think it would be great to go through the process with students using my own interests.  I am doing it with this book, why not put that on display for my students as well. If it’s good enough for them, why am I not doing it too?!

Provide support: The book offers great sentence starters for questions.  I won’t share them here.  You’ll just have to get the book.

Simply asking more and more questions students begin to see the scope of their problem.  So, the act of asking questions defines the problem being solved.  That was a great insight!  Too often I’m ready to jump to research without this important bridge step.

Step 3: Using the Information

I feel like the research process has gotten to a point where students dread it? How did it get to this point?  The authors and my students are in agreement.  When research is more about the structure and filling out forms it has gotten away from discovery and into task completion.  I am guilty of this.  I resolve to correct the error of my ways.

Yes, it’s important for students to record findings of their research.  But, there should be flexibility. The authors recommend providing scaffolding, but not too much.  Research is not linear.  Students may have to take a break from research to reevaluate questions.  But, even before beginning research, the authors recommend students go back to their questions and narrow that massive list down based on these factors:
  • Connection to main topic
  • Specific
  • Object- and fact-based
  • Will it help find a solution

The authors also look for students to move away from simply using written text as their only source of research. What else is there?

Multimedia: many of my older students have discovered the greatness of YouTube for finding videos on topics.  But, just as good are podcasts and TED Talks.  The authors point out another great thing about using multimedia.  It helps build a key success skill, media analysis.  Students need to learn more than how to determine reliability of written texts in their daily lives.  They will be encountering multimedia on a greater basis.  So, this is an important life skill for them to develop. Question everything!

Exploring Data: The ability to analyze data sets is huge for many professions.  Not to mention, most standardized tests.

Interviews: The rise of social media means that we can connect with a world of experts we may never meet face to face.  I had students do this as a part of a personal learning project and I was amazed at how willing local and national experts were willing to respond and answer the questions my students posed.  This is powerful stuff.

Hands-on Research: As a science teacher, this is a big one. Conducting trials and collecting data is research. This is research that the student owns! The key is that students record their data.  Again, it’s important not to make this a rigid format. But, it does need to be recorded accurately.

No matter what form the research takes, the authors are clear on this point:
"The goal is for them to connect their research to their inquiry question so they can understand the larger problem they are trying to solve."

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