Saturday, September 7, 2013

Evidence-Based Inquiry Lessons (Made Easy)

Social Studies classes have gotten a bad reputation.  They've become a place of notes, powerpoints, and textbook reading.  If you ask me, this is a result of less money/resources for the social studies classroom...And sometimes social studies classes are taught by a dedicated math, ELA, or science teacher who's been asked to teach some SS classes on the side.  Since teachers don't have many resources, they go to the old standby--notes, powerpoints, and textbooks.

I am guilty of this, but I only teach social studies.  I have no excuse!  Our county has recently started pushing the idea of evidence-based inquiry lessons.  Usually, the focus of these lessons is history (using primary documents).  However, I've found a quick and easy way to do this with any lesson.  Enough blabbing from me! Here is an evidence-based inquiry lesson made easy:

Step 1: Make your students really pumped about being "detectives"!!

A dramatic re-creation.

Step 2: Either give kids a graphic organizer (to write their "findings") or show them how to create one on their own paper.

Something like this.

Step 3: Give the class a higher level thinking question--the focus of the "investigation".

Pulled straight from the standard.

Step 4: Give them a couple of different resources.
Now this is a tough one because many of us don't have these ready-to-go.  We have to search the internet for them, print them out, purchase them, etc.  So what do I use?

Resource #1) CRCT practice book
It covers every standard with information and multiple choice questions.
The only standards-based textbook we have.

Resource #2) CIA World Factbook

Since I teach SS, the CIA World Factbook website really has everything I need to teach my class.  Ideally, all kids would have iPads and would be able to use the website or app when necessary. 

We do not have iPads or computers for each child.  Instead, I go to CIA World Factbook, pull the data & information I need, cite my source, and print out class sets of information pertinent to the lesson of the day.

Resource #3) Articles
My favorite articles come from Mental Floss,, & How Stuff Works.  Obviously, any article that fits your standard will work... But make sure you always preview the article before giving it to kids.  If the article is really long, cut out any information that strays from the main focus of you lesson.  Less is more.

Side-note story: I received an advertisement in the mail yesterday (somehow they knew I was a teacher) offering me "Loans for teachers who need to buy classroom supplies."  WHAT!??!  People actually think I would take out a loan and go into debt for my classroom supplies?!!!  This is so wrong!  Unfortunately many teachers are forced to do things like this to have supplies for their classroom.  This upsets me!  The leadership at my school would never expect me to take out a loan for my classroom.  They would thoroughly discourage it!  It is so frustrating to think there might be a teacher in such a tough spot that this is their only recourse.  :-/


Step 5: Walk-around the classroom like your hair is on fire (checking for understanding, questions, and on-task behavior).

A dramatic re-creation.

Step 6: When students ask you questions, try to answer the question without giving them the answer (by asking another question).


Step 7: At the end of class, ask students what their final decision is.  What is the outcome of their investigation?  The goal of the lesson is the investigation, so as long as their answer makes sense according to their information, then the answer isn't really the important part.

FINAL WORD: The first time you do this lesson, it might be a little rough.  Students are generally accustomed copying, low-level questions, and the absence of opinion.  Trust me when I say it will get better!  Every time you do an inquiry-based lesson, it will get easier and easier.  Just keep up the good fight and you will be pleased with the eventual outcome. 

That should be it!  Not too bad, right?  As always, feel free to leave your comments or ask questions.  You can contact me directly at

Let the investigations begin!

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