Inquiry Activities
Stars Beneath Your Bed—Inspiring Inquiry »
Dr. Dean shares how she uses the picture book, Stars Beneath Your Bed, to demonstrate the inquiry process. Used as a model, this book takes the potentially boring topic of ‘dust’ and brings it to life by assimilating the information in an interesting way.
  • Inquiry encompasses both prewriting and invention.  It is not simply a gathering of information but rather the writer’s assimilation and experience with the information that sets inquiry apart from traditional research. Moving beyond brainstorming and gathering can be difficult given the time constraints of the classroom.
  • Inspiring students to achieve higher-level thinking is no simple task. It must be modeled, experienced, and fostered. Building a classroom environment in which curiosity, questioning, and wonder reign are key elements to promoting meaningful inquiry.
  • Questions about the genre and writing task itself are also part of the inquiry process and should be considered in addition to content.

Further Reading:

A great book to help teachers implement inquiry into students’ understanding of a variety of texts
A beneficial resource for understanding the implementation of inquiry approach in the classroom

Supplemental Materials:

Inquiry Lesson Plan & Reflection

Student Instructions

History Research Rubric

Go Beyond What You Know

Sample inquiry projects:

Student Inquiry Project


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My first experience with writing a research paper came in the form of a squirrel report assigned by my fourth grade teacher. To this day I can still picture the well-crafted crayon drawing I created to accompany my report but (for obvious reasons) cannot recall any of the information I regurgitated from the encyclopedia used to gather the information. This experience highlights, for me, the importance of allowing students to generate, create, and demonstrate their own understanding (in this case, my drawing), rather than asking them to simply repeat the ideas of others.  Asking our students to form their own questions, their own opinions, and their own interpretations of the topics they study will benefit them far more than asking them to simply find information and restate it.  With this in mind, consider the following questions:

  • How do you think inquiry differs from traditional research? Do you notice any similarities?
  • What are some of the current uses of inquiry used in your classroom?
  • What are some ways the inquiry process helps teach students how to think?  (120) How might inquiry process writing assignments differ from the traditional research paper assignments of the past?
  • Describe how Ray uses inquiry for genre strategies to promote writing “under the influence” in her classroom.  (pg. 121) What can you do to promote writing “under the influence in your classroom?
  • Explain the importance of a safe classroom in which students are encouraged to ask effective questions and the ways in which teachers can foster that safe questioning zone.  (123)
  • “Helping students practice inquiry with all their writing aids is establishing inquiry as a part of the writing process.”  (126)  What are some of the methods teachers can use to encourage inquiry throughout the writing process?

“How many pieces of this kind of writing have we read as teachers?  How many research papers that bore us to tears because they are nothing about real learning or real inquiry…but merely a string of other-people’s-ideas masquerading as a student paper?” (119).

  • Considering the elementary school weather inquiry example on page 119, generate 3-5 ideas for authentic inquiry practice in your classroom.  How might these activities help students to develop their own inquiry-based projects?


After reading this chapter, compile a list of inquiry based writing ideas that will promote authentic pieces of writing in your classroom.

Consider the ways in which the I-search projects of today differ from the traditional research projects many of us were assigned as students.