Teacher Tap


In How To Use Your Eyes, James Elkins urges us to “stop and consider things that are absolutely ordinary, things so clearly meaningless that they never seemed worth a second thought. Once you start seeing them, the world – which can look so dull, so empty of interest - will gather before your eyes and become thick with meaning.” (p. xi)

Encourage students to explore unusual aspects of a common topic. Example the snow crystal graph from Weather Queries Blog. For instance "I’ve seen many images of snowflakes, but I never really thought about what impacts their shape. I’m going to refocus my inquiry."

Use real-world and virtual experiences to provide context. Consider materials such as Ocean Explorer from NOAA that apply professional experiences to student learning.

Varied Resources

Students often begin by exploring library and online resources. When guiding graphic inquiries remind students about the use of visual resources such as photo collections, atlas, artwork, and illustrated books. Consider the wide range of graphic resources that might provide different perspectives on a subject.

Expose students to many methods of communication. Infuse a wide variety of resources into learning materials.


Explore the following materials related to the study of Charles Darwin.

Facilitate Inquiry

Use guiding questions to facilitate inquiry:

  1. What does this problem involve?
  2. What information do I have?
  3. What information is not needed or useful? Why?
  4. What additional information is needed? Where can it be found?
  5. What are the facts of the situation? How are these facts connected?
  6. How have I tackled similar problems in the past?
  7. How can I break down the problem into smaller pieces, fewer numbers, or chunks?
  8. Can I use a chart, graph, time line, drawing, or other visual to help visualize and organize thinking?
  9. What strategies will I use? What's my plan?
  10. What tools will I use? Calculator, online tools?
  11. What are my guesses? What's the range of solutions? What's the wrong answer? What guesses am I rejecting?
  12. What information do I need to solve this problem?
  13. How do I know what I know?
  14. What structure do we need to visualize our thinking? Would a concept map, chart, graph, help me visualized?
  15. How do I simplify and attack a complex problem?
  16. What's the relevant and irrelevant data?

Exploring and Technology

Use technology to structure exploration and collect data:

Questioning and Exploring - A Recursive Process

Real-world data such as the infographic Earthquakes can help bring scientific data alive for learners. Exploring leads back to questioning. Questions may be refined, restated, or new queries may emerge. Encourage inquirers to be risk-takers. Ask:

bugStudents often forget that inquiry is recursive rather than linear.
How will you help students remember to address these questions?

cycle of question and exploreMany students are looking for the quick answer. Encourage students to move from the shallow to the deep end of thinking through supporting cycles of questioning and exploring.

In Info Tasks for Successful Learning, Koechlin and Zwann (2001) suggest evaluating the quality of student research questions by asking:
Focus - Does your question help to focus your research?
Interest - Are you excited about your question?
Knowledge - Will your question help you learn?
Processing - Will your question help you understand your topic better?

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Encourage young people to explore related topics. Introduce the book Tracking Trash by Loree Giffin Burns.

Provide quality resources to begin the investigation including statistics about the problem. Explore Hi-Cone Ring Recycling - Vital Statistics.

Encourage young people to explore different perspectives on a particular topic. As students if they agree or disagree with the following article: Should you cut up six-pack rings so they don't choke sea birds?

For a more in-depth exploration, read the graphic book Graphic Inquiry by Annette Lamb and Danny Callison available from Libraries Unlimited, 2011.

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