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Inquiry Strategies

U.S. Inspector and Immigrants
U.S. inspectors examining eyes of immigrants, Ellis Island, New York Harbor. (ca. 1913). Underwood & Underwood. Library of Congress.



In recent years, there has been a growing consensus that History and Social Science educators must explicitly teach inquiry and historical thinking. A vital yet challenging aspect of inquiry is to teach students to generate and to investigate their own meaningful and effective questions.  (See Alfie Kohn's thought-provoking article on supporting students’ questions: Who’s Asking.) Students with Disabilities and English Learners have a right to learn inquiry skills, and they often bring distinct strengths to well-structured investigations. 

Emerging America employs multiple strategies and tools to help teachers and students develop the skills necessary to deepen analysis and investigation. Primary sources are central to all of them, a point emphasized in state and national academic standards. See, for example, National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) C3 Framework and Massachusetts 2018 Framework. Please explore the strategies below to choose those that work best for your classroom and students. For each, link to a "how-to" explanation.

Browse the strategies below, and more, with a search for "Teaching Strategies" in the Emerging America library of Teaching Resources


Overall Inquiry Strategies for History and Social Science

Graphic lists the elements of Stripling model of inquiry in a circle.


Instructional Tools to Promote Inquiry with Primary Sources


Additional Recommended Resources


Model Lessons that Demonstrate Inquiry Strategies and Tools

Injuries and Disability in 19th Century Industry – Stripling Model of Inquiry, and Read and Analyze Non-fiction (RAN) chart

Immigration:  The Making of America –  Visual Primary Source Analysis Tool - Quadrant Analysis

Propaganda Posters in the Spanish Civil War – Observe, Reflect, Question–Investigate tool

Screen cap of teacher looking over students working in team.
Teacher Joshua Beer demonstrates the QFT.


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