SOS: Inquiry Chart

Creative, research-based instructional strategies – presented by teachers, for teachers.

The Spotlight on Strategies series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating Discovery Education digital media into your curriculum in meaningful, effective, and practical ways.

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Special Thanks: This strategy was contributed by Discovery Education Professional Development.

Inquiry Chart

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The Inquiry Chart (I-Chart), developed by James Hoffman in 1992, provides students with a scaffold that guides them in using multiple sources to research a topic. As students collect information about a topic, they use the I-Chart to record what they find. The chart helps them think critically about the results of their research, especially when they find discrepancies between two different sources of information. It also supports students in their efforts to synthesize multiple sources of information into a cohesive and meaningful product. Teachers have found that I-Charts are suitable for whole-class, small-group, or individual inquiry, making them a versatile tool in a variety of subject areas and grade levels.


Copies of teacher-prepared Inquiry Chart graphic organizer, three to five Discovery Education media assets (video, reading passages, transcripts, images, audio, etc.)
  1. Determine the research topic students will be studying.
  2. Identify three to five media selections that you want students to use as the basis of their research. These could include video, audio, reading passages or transcripts. List these on the I-Chart graphic organizer.
  3. Preview the media selections and develop three to five thought-provoking questions to guide student thinking. List these on the I-Chart graphic organizer.
  4. Provide students with a copy of the I-Chart graphic organizer you’ve prepared and the media selections they should use for
  5. research.
  6. Ask students to take a minute to fill in any information they think they already know.
  7. Provide time for students to review each media selection and add information to the I-Chart. Be sure to point out that there is a place on the organizer for them to record additional information they think might be important, as well as new questions they have as a result of their research.
  8. Finally, after students have explored the media selections and completed the chart, ask them to synthesize the information and write a summary of their findings.

Being able to gather information from a variety of sources is an increasing necessity in the 21st century. The Inquiry Chart enables students to explore a topic, compare and contrast information from a variety of sources, and organize their thoughts.

Have students work in pairs or small groups using a Google Doc that is set up with a prepared I-Chart. Assign each student a font color that they will use when contributing ideas to the chart. Doing this helps distinguish who contributed what pieces of information to the chart, ensuring accountability for all group members. Ask students to then work together to compare and contrast the information and create a comprehensive summary. Tip: Have students start with different sources so each has expert knowledge to share.


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  1. Kim Hepburn said:

    I really like the idea of the Inquiry Chart. I teach fourth grade, and in addition to the other benefits, I think it would be a useful tool to help them keep track of their sources in order to cite them on a reference page. It also teaches them to incorporate information from multiple sources, instead of relying heavily on just one. This is an important and often overlooked skill in fourth grade. I am also really interested in trying out the last step, More Ideas. I am going to use this and the color coding in my class this year. I will let you know how it goes! Thank you for the great idea!

  2. Sirce Perez said:

    I teach Special Ed in middle school, and citing sources and evidence is a must and a challenge. This resource is great for that, especially because students list multiple sources, which is something that students need to know how to do. The template is helpful for organizing ideas and information, especially for my reluctant writers. . I am going to use it on my next research based writing lesson. Thank you for the resource!

  3. papas sushiria said:

    I always appreciate this type of post which are based on the strategies something business and another things .Thanks a lot for sharing

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