Four Ways to Create a Climate of Inquiry at Home

Parents and children lying on rug and reading book in living room at home

Shared Inquiry™ empowers teachers to use interpretive, evaluative, and factual questions to help students dig deeper into whatever they are reading so they can express themselves, listen to others, and synthesize new ideas from the input they receive. Parents and caregivers can reinforce the Shared Inquiry mindset their students are developing at school by following the four steps below!

Like all vital skills, Shared Inquiry gets stronger with practice. Extending Shared Inquiry beyond the classroom and using inquiry practices at home ensures that students are getting more practice asking questions, engaging in discussions about things that interest them, and listening carefully to what others say. Ultimately, it enables learning communities to be more inclusive. Here are some creative and practical suggestions to get families and caregivers involved in the process. Pass them on!

  1. Create a climate for Shared Inquiry by modeling curiosity. Ask open-ended questions about any subject, and invite answers from your children and family. Allowing your family to witness you seeking information instead of assuming the posture that you know all the answers will help foster curiosity and questioning. Share your wonderings and ideas with your children, and listen to their ideas. Find ways to learn with them instead of only teaching or telling them something.
  2. Present open problems to show children that their perspectives matter. Sparking a dialogue with children about their perspectives can be exciting because their answers will definitely surprise you. Plus, they will be energized because you are asking them what they think! This can be as simple as, “Is there more than one way to get to school?” Then follow up with, “What do you like about each way?” Talk to your learners in this manner regularly, and encourage them to ask questions of you.
  3. Keep it civil and collaborative. Help make sure that everyone in the family gets a turn when a discussion is under way. No matter what the discussion is about—the weather, how a favorite sports team is doing, an item in the news—make sure that others are listening when someone is speaking. Model listening carefully and responding respectfully. Ask questions that encourage adding or reacting to what someone else said so children can see how our ideas improve and problems get solved when we work together.
  4. Find multiple ways and opportunities to engage with rich texts. If your child is involved in Junior Great Books at school, offer to read and reread the stories and texts that they are assigned with them. Everyone benefits from reading texts multiple times—there are always new details to pick up and shades of meaning to appreciate upon subsequent readings!

    In addition to Junior Great Books stories, you can use the limitless reading materials you have at home to reinforce reading and questioning! Children love to read, or have you read to them, the same books and stories over and over. Encourage that habit by exploring other ways to read and engage with a text. Is there an audio version? Has your family tried doing shared read-alouds or dramatizing key scenes? Consider creating your own illustrations or finding artwork associated with the text, then be sure to discuss the words and pictures together using your Shared Inquiry skills!

Inquiry-based learning is wonderful in school, but the practices students and teachers engage in through Junior Great Books are applicable in every aspect of life. Creating safe spaces for children to express their ideas and reinforcing good communication through listening and asking questions make civil discourse and continued learning fun and fruitful!

To learn more about Junior Great Books and the Shared Inquiry method, we invite you to download sample lesson plans for grades K–8, which feature texts that are specifically selected to be rich and complex enough to read and discuss multiple times. To learn more about ways to train parents and other volunteers to assist with Junior Great Books in the classroom or to conduct JGB as an enrichment program, please select your state or location below and arrange a meeting with your Great Books educational consultant!

Professional Learning Consultant As a teacher, Joi Arceneaux built her classroom culture around civil discourse and a love of literacy. After seven years in education as both a classroom teacher and literacy coach, Joi joined the Great Books Foundation as a professional learning consultant. Passionate about literacy and driven by her fervent belief in quality education for all students, Joi is thrilled to support teachers in using the Shared Inquiry approach with their students.