How to be an Inquiry Superhero

By on March 3, 2015

Essential to students' success in school and at work is their ability to think critically, ask questions, and seek solutions. Practicing higher order thinking skills like problem solving, application, synthesis, and evaluation is vital to students' intellectual growth.

Critical thinking begins with the teacher. We should incorporate higher-level questions and tasks into our daily plans and use those "in the moment" unplanned learning opportunities to increase exposure to higher order thinking skills and inquiry-based thinking.

Here are some easy ways you can use LiteracyTA tools to become an Inquiry Superhero.

Let’s start with effective questioning techniques. The questions we ask our students and the way we ask them can make all the difference.

To earn your superhero cape, ask questions that get students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. Think about it like this: if an answer can be found in a book or on the Internet it is most likely a low level question that requires very little brain power to answer. To challenge students, we need to get them thinking. We need to teach thinking by modeling how to ask higher level questions and by giving students time to wrestle with the answers.

When we ask questions, we should give students at least 10 seconds to think before they respond or ask them to write before they speak or speak before they write. The goal of wait time and quick write and pair-share activities is to engage as many brains in the room as possible. I adopted a simple belief from Mark Reardon a few years into my teaching career: all minds on. This means, get as many students thinking as possible for as long as possible.

Once students have had time to think and process, use LiteracyTA’s Responding Techniques to elicit student responses. You can have a lot of fun with these teaching strategies. My favorite techniques are The Queue and and ID What you See. The whole concept behind responding techniques is to make sure all students are thinking and not letting the two or three kids in class--who typically answer all of our questions--do the thinking for everyone else. If the technique is right, the majority of students will think even if they are not raising their hands and sharing their ideas with the class.

To be an Inquiry Superhero, you will need more than a cape. All superheroes have special powers. The following activities won’t give you special powers, but they are indeed powerful. Close reading activities, Socratic discussions, and working with sources are all excellent ways to engage students in inquiry-based thinking.

Close Reading

When students read closely, they slow down to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information in a text. They ask questions about word choice, purpose, structure, context, and motivation. The following close reading skills will lead students through inquiry-based thinking and model the types of questions good readers ask while reading.

Socratic Discussions

These academic discussions will engage students in conversations that promote analytical thinking and synthesis. Students learn how to listen and respond to complex ideas and ask higher level questions that can be explored through authentic discourse.

Research Skills

Engaging students in authentic research activities is a great way to teach inquiry-based thinking. Research should be driven by a series of questions that lead to new understanding. Here are some of LiteracyTA’s research skills to help support the research process.

Our expectation should be that students engage in high levels of cognitive work as often as possible. They should have multiple opportunities per class period to complete tasks that are cognitively demanding. As an Inquiry Superhero, you have the tools and the experience to facilitate this type of learning environment for your kids.

Come learn how to be an Inquiry Superhero this summer at LiteracyTA University. Register for Asking the Right Questions: Inquiry-Based Thinking Workshop. Read the full description at Shop LiteracyTA.

Share with Colleagues and Friends

Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

LTA Toolkit Free
You have clicked on premium content only available through LTA Toolkit.