Introduction to Inquiry Kindergarten Animal Unit Grade 1 Water Pollution Unit Grade 2 Weather Unit

Draw to Learn “Inquiry is not a method of teaching or set of procedures to follow, but ‘rather, it indicates a stance toward experiences and ideas – a willingness to wonder, to ask questions, and to seek to understand by collaborating with others in the attempt to make answers to them'”. – Maloch & Horsey 2013, quoting Wells 1999


Nonfiction Inquiry explores kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms where inquiry units allow children the opportunity to build and apply their literacy strategies to informational text in meaningful and engaging ways. Over a two-four week unit, Kindergarteners study animals of their choice, first graders discover and promote ways to prevent water pollution, and second graders become experts on how to stay safe in different kinds of severe weather. We recommend beginning the module with Section 1, Introduction to Inquiry, which provides background information on the characteristics, benefits, and structure of inquiry units, as well as student preparation before initiating them. Facilitator Notes for the Introduction to Inquiry are provided.

Each subsequent section features specific lessons within one of the three inquiry units. Through video clips and commentary, three Kindergarten, two first grade, and five second grade lessons are examined. Each featured lesson also includes information about the lessons that occurred within the unit that were not videotaped, through teacher interviews, sample student work, anchor charts, photographs, lesson plans, and/or written explanations. These are usually found in the Prior to the Lesson or Reflections and Next Steps segments of the lesson. Facilitator Notes for leading a PLC session are also provided for each lesson.

Each unit is roughly divided into four stages: Immerse, Investigate, Coalesce, and Go Public (Harvey and Daniels, 2009). To best understand the development of an inquiry unit and the effects of the process, we recommend viewing the lessons within a unit in the sequence in which they were taught. Additionally, teachers already familiar with inquiry may want to view individual lessons for ideas about incorporating the techniques used into any research unit.

We recommend that all primary teachers view clips from all three of the grades. Doing so will help elucidate the process of inquiry from beginning to end. The phase of inquiry illustrated by each lesson is shown in the table below.

Go Public
Kindergarten Animal Unit    
Grade 1 Water Pollution Unit      
Grade 2 Weather Unit  

There are also unique contributions to building an inquiry unit displayed at each grade that are applicable across grades. For example, teachers at all grades can learn from the approach to stations and the use of the Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction (RAN) chart shown in Kindergarten, the implementation of inquiry from authentic experiences in first grade, and the development of a culminating project and how it was self, peer, and teacher assessed in second grade.

It is helpful before initiating inquiry for both teacher and students to have a general understanding of how to comprehend informational texts. Therefore we recommend that teachers utilize the Reading Comprehension module on this website before studying Nonfiction Inquiry. This module lays out the fundamentals of the strategies used for good comprehension across genres, lesson structure using gradual release of responsibility, and assessment opportunities. Through videotapes of primary classrooms, sample lessons in the Reading Comprehension module (Activate Schema, Ask Questions, and Determine Importance) show how these fundamentals are practiced using informational text.


Harvey, S. & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Maloch, B. & Horsey, M. (2013). Living inquiry: Learning from and about informational texts in a second-grade classroom. The Reading Teacher, 66(6), 475-485.
Wells, G. (1999) Dialogic inquiry: Toward a sociocultural practice and theory of education. New York: Cambridge University Press.