Teacher Learning Community

Spring 2017 TLC: Developing Classrooms of Inquiry - Activity 3 Resources

Course leader:

Teacher Quality Standards

  • QS III: Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students.
    • Element D: Teachers establish and communicate high expectations and use processes to support the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning

Essential Question: How can teachers systematically utilize tools of inquiry to foster an environment where students engage in deep learning while making cross-disciplinary connections to the real world?

In activity 2, we investigated how to set students up to engage successfully in inquiry. Now, we will consider how to plan and set up for successful inquiry-based learning experiences. Our resources invite us to understand different structures for inquiry-based experiences, a variety of tools to help engage students, and the importance of central concepts.



In this video, 3rd-grade teacher Mona Iehl helps students problem solve and think through mathematical thinking using questions to lead thinking and discussion.  

This article lays out a basic method for incorporating inquiry into your teaching.


This article guides the reader through concepts and strategies to keep in mind with inquiry teaching lessons in mathematics.  It also gives an overview of planning an inquiry-teaching lesson.  

From Engage New York, a 6th grade ELA unit plan that may inspire you and your students to critically think.  

The Foundation of for Critical Thinking webpage houses remodeled lessons from The Critical Thinking Handbook: K-3.

The Foundation of for Critical Thinking webpage houses remodeled lessons from The Critical Thinking Handbook: Highschool.

The Foundation of for Critical Thinking webpage houses remodeled lessons from The Critical Thinking Handbook: 6th-9th Gades.

The Foundation of for Critical Thinking webpage houses remodeled lessons from The Critical Thinking Handbook: 4th-6th Gades.

In this blog by Kathy Knutson, the strategy from Isaac Newton is borrowed students "keep a journal of their questions as they grow their own ideas for personalized learning." 

In this short video, Jeffery Whilhem, from Boise State University, shares about inquiry-based learning.

"This resource explains some of the key principles of inquiry-based learning and offers step-by-step information on how to create an inquiry-based project."

This article extrapolates on the 4 Es model and helps us to understand the importance of the order of tasks in an inquiry model. It also provides some classroom examples.


This video shows a 7th grade ELA class participate in an inquiry-based discussion about To Kill a Mocking Bird.  

This article outlines how project-based learning supports inquiry and how to shift some of your practices to support deep learning for students.


This article lists and explains protocols to use with students to promote student inquiry.  

This is a short video in an 8th Grade Science classroom where students and teacher are working with experiments and learning from predictions.  

This webpage houses Colorado Academic Standards for content and grades.  

This article gives some helpful tools and definitions to help us understand how to focus on central concepts in instruction. Scroll to the bottom to access a focused unit plan template. 


This tool provides teachers with an understanding of how inquiry can be scaffolded in different ways depending on the profile of your class's experience and initiative. The end goal is to allow students to engage in open-ended inquiry, but it can take months of work to get them there and this resource walks you through the different stages. Although this resource is specific to math, the levels of inquiry are applicable across many content areas.

This website, developed by the West Virginia Department of Education, contains a bank of inquiry-based lesson plan examples.

This video demonstrates cooperative learning, inquiry, and supporting students to use evidence-based reasoning during a science lesson.

In this video, teacher of the year Sarah Wessling models a lesson for 4th graders to determine the difference between a concrete detail and an abstract concept. She demonstrates methods to scaffold critical thinking for all learners.

A quick video about student-driven questions

A quick guide to help students turn their questions into exploring answers

This is a quick article that explains the five ways to get students to dive deeper into scientific concepts. There are some great tips and ways to get your students to start thinking like a scientist and be curious about the task at hand.

This video shows inquiry in an elementary classroom.  This classroom is part of a schoolwide focus on inquiry.

This article is found on the Reading Rockets website.  The inquiry chart allows facilitates students' use of several sources of information to answer questions.  Templates and practical suggestions are included.

In this video, students read an informational text using inquiry and use their information to write a report.  In addition, this video illustrates the use of learning targets and the teaching of academic language.

This is a quick article that describes the various ways to help studnets teach themselves how to learn and be curious in the classroom again. There are 5 ideas/tools that are discussed that facilitate critical thinking and student inquiry.

Youth engage in an engineering design challenge. Teams will design, build, and test a bridge model that can hold weight, maintain its shape, and stay standing during a simulated earthquake. In the final lesson, design teams present their final proposed design and demonstrate how it performs during the simulated earthquake test. Teams defend their choice of design and construction elements, including shape, materials, and reinforcements.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD is a video where third graders work through the engineering design process with classroom STEM activities. that describes the process for designing a STEM activity. The students discuss their learning as they work through the process. It is a messy example of STEM learning and shows students in control of their learning, with high engagement and excitement.