Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Your Schoolby Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari

Chapter Four: Invitation to Inquiry, Open Minds, and Stimulate Curiosity

(Carpenter Group 2012)

Open is a distinct and important phase that sets the tone and direction of the inquiry. It is an invitation to the learner, it helps establish an Inquiry stance, and it engages the community.

An effective opener starts with what students already know and expands the learning outward in ways that can't be predicted in the planning.

  • This is the "hook" that catches students imagination and opens their mind to the inquiry.

  • How would you change a "Bird Unit" to make the learning deeper? (Loertscher. 2005)

  • Could you use the Open to engage students and make them think differently about their topic?

  • The key portion is the Essential Question. How can we reframe the question to stimulate their curiosity?

In a webinar on the EdWeb network titled: Off to a Great Start! Five Strategies for Opening Guided Inquiry Units,, Dr. Leslie Maniotes discussed these strategies.

1. Video - In a typical Biography unit, we usually ask the same questions about their early life, education, family, their accomplishments, and why we should study this person.

Major Concept: Biography

(TEDX Orange County: Rodney Mullen On Getting Up Again)

Essential Questions:
What leadership skills did this President exhibit in order to be elected President? Why was he elected and not his opponent?
  • What makes a good citizen? Why were these Patriots chosen to represent good citizens? What characteristics did they exhibit to distinguish them from their fellow citizens?

  • What makes someone great? Is the person who watches a video over and over to learn a jump? Or the person who creates that jump in his/her head and lands it in competition for the very first time?

  • Watch the first two minutes of this video to help students begin to think about what characteristics make someone great.

2. Photographs

Major Concept: Scarcity of Water?
water bottle.jpg
Essential Question: Is water scarce?

  1. Wikimediacommons. Would this be a good hook to a Science lesson on the scarcity of water?

Do you think this would be a better hook?
or maybe this?
National Geographic: The Burden of Thirst

3. Paintings

Major Concept: Westward Expansion
Essential Questions: What is Manifest Destiny?
How does the photograph American Progress represent Manifest Destiny?
American Progress

Social Studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Grade 5.21A Culture. The student understands the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. The student will identify significant examples of art, music, and literature from various periods in U. S. History such as the painting American Progress, "Yankee Doodle", and "Paul Revere's Ride."


4. Objects

s"Objects make powerful connections as an opener. Objects make links to the past. Think of an object from a time period. Objects from the past can tell much about the people who owned them, their values, and the time, place, and even economic conditions of the time. Objects such as museum artifacts, realia, unusual objects, and everyday objects can draw students into a problem for inquiry. Museum artifacts or reproductions of artifacts can connect students to the past in concrete ways. Realia, such as a train ticket can act as a story starter that makes the time, place, and people come alive. An unusual object can come from another culture or time period and serve as a puzzle. The students can use the unusual object to problem-solve and figure out how the object was made or how it is used." *(p. 58).

5. Podcasts

Podcasts, especially of radio programs which tell a story, can be powerful connections. Look for stories that illustrate your big idea. Try RadioLabs, iTunes, or NPR for podcasts that evoke an emotional response to the subject and make your students look at information in a different way.

What are some of your favorite ways to "hook" students into a subject?

One librarian used Pokemon cards to introduce the idea that Information is Organized. She told the students they could begin the lesson by playing Pokemon. Once they began sorting their cards into groups, she stopped them and asked them to explain their grouping pattern to the other students. Then she placed a stack of books on each table. Each stack had at least 2 ways they could be sorted. She asked students to sort the books on the tables. This led to a discussion that information is organized.

How will you build on your hook to encourage students to brainstorm big ideas?

How can you help them connect with their world? Remember the Third Space where curriculum goals meet student's background knowledge?

One way is to use topics of interest to students to help them make connections. For example, Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs or MMOGs) are very popular now. Several books like 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek, and Chopstix have tie ins to MMOs. How can you use these books to help students make connections?

Change Your Focus from:

"What does the teacher want me to do?" to "Why is this relevant/important to me?"

Establish your inquiry stance

by accepting all answers.....even if you know them to be wrong. You can correct those later. Here is one example. (p. 54)

Modeling the inquiry process with students

How are you identifying connections and misconceptions students may have?

How are you encouraging divergent thinking, opposing viewpoints, and an inquiry stance? (p. 55)


Describe how you are encouraging students to generate good ideas and questions that incorporate students's background knowlege.

Are you listening for connections and misconceptions students may have? You should not correct those yet, but give students an opportunity through the inquiry process to learn what is correct. (p. 56)


Encourage questioning, divergent thinking, opposing viewpoints, and an inquiry stance. (p;.56)

What is the learner doing?

"Collaborating and Conversing in their inquiry community before constructing their initial thoughts and understandings about the topic. Conversation calls upon the students to express thier thoughs about what they know that is sparked by the opener. Coversing helps them think through new ideas that have stimulated their coursity, Conversation that leads to learning occurs in a safe environment where students know they cna try out ideas and change thier minds." (p. 56)

Used with permission from Leslie K. Maniotes. Based on material from:
Kuhlthau, Carol C., Maniotes, Leslie K., Caspari, Ann K. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Libraries Unlimited., Santa Barbara, CA. 2012. p. 51-59.