Great Books High School 9–12

The Great Books High School program combines high-quality literature, student-centered discussion, and activities that support reading comprehension, critical thinking, speaking and listening, and writing. We provide outstanding classroom materials and inspiring professional development. We help students get the most out of reading and interacting with their teachers and classmates, while providing instruction and support in Shared Inquiry, a method of learning that gives teachers the approach they need to help their students succeed.

For more than 50 years, schools that integrate Great Books materials and our inquiry-based approach to learning into their curriculum have been helping their students become independent readers and thinkers while enhancing the instructional skills of their teachers.

  • Balancing literary and informational texts
  • Building knowledge in the disciplines
  • Providing a staircase of text complexity
  • Requiring text-based answers
  • Focusing on evidence in writing
  • Expanding vocabulary


“How do we challenge students to get to their very best selves and their biggest potential? In that, you have to be able to think critically. You have to be able to write well. You have to be able to articulate your thoughts. You have to collaborate with others—we think Great Books enhances all of these abilities for us.”

Debra Ciochina
Director of Teaching and Learning-Secondary
Duneland School Corporation
Chesterton, IN

The Shared Inquiry Method of Learning

Shared Inquiry is an active and collaborative search for answers to questions of meaning about a text. It is a research-supported method of learning that promotes deeper thinking through reading, discussion, and writing. Shared Inquiry enables teachers to work with students in an exciting intellectual partnership through a range of interpretive activities that stimulate students’ thinking. The Shared Inquiry approach develops students’ reading comprehension, critical thinking, and communication skills in the context of thinking about genuine problems of meaning raised by a rich work of literature.

Teachers who learn Shared Inquiry:

Rooted in the Socratic method, Shared Inquiry is distinct in its focus on high-quality texts and the participation of a trained leader who helps participants arrive at their own well-reasoned interpretations of the text. There are a variety of ways to implement Great Books programs, but Shared Inquiry always involves close reading, questions, collaboration, and reflective thinking.

  • Meet key learning standards through inquiry-based, collaborative approach
  • Engage all students in higher-level reading, thinking, and discussion
  • Integrate critical thinking and social-emotional learning into the curriculum to provide essential skills students need to be college and career ready
  • Prepare students to thoughtfully consider different points of view, listening to others and responding appropriately


“Discussions are a great way for students to get to know each other and listen to each other’s thoughts and ideas. Great Books Shared Inquiry helps me hit the essentials every time—close reading, well-reasoned writing, and formal discussion.”

Marc-Paul Johnsen
English Teacher
La Academia at Denver Inner City Parish
Denver, CO

“As a curriculum director, I work with teachers to use the Shared Inquiry process to provide the most rich and rigorous literacy program possible so that all students, regardless of neighborhood or social-economic background, have the ability to genuinely be ‘college and career ready’ through the interaction of authentic literature and development of true critical thinking.”

Natalie Flores
Curriculum Director
Brooklyn, NY

Students who learn Shared Inquiry:

  • Use reading comprehension strategies purposefully
  • Develop their own opinions and claims about a text
  • Support ideas with textual evidence, and weigh evidence for divergent ideas
  • Go beyond initial responses to think deeper about issues
  • Develop social and emotional intelligence through respectful dialogue and collaboration
  • Create a collaborative classroom community with support from their peers and teachers

Great Books Program Features

In Great Books programs, students’ critical thinking develops through careful reading, attentive listening, thoughtful speaking, and purposeful writing.


Critical Thinking

Students explore problems of meaning by:

Generating ideas
Giving evidence
Responding to each other



  • Read aloud fluently
  • Annotate a text
  • Interpret word meaning
  • Recall facts and cite details
  • Generate ideas about meaning
  • Infer, evaluate, and revise ideas
  • Find evidence to support ideas



  • Routinely write notes and questions
  • Organize, develop, and support ideas
  • Edit and revise writing with peer review
  • Use different writing forms for different purposes

Speaking and Listening


  • Share questions
  • Express and clarify ideas
  • Explain and support ideas
  • Listen and respond to others’ opinions
  • Recall ideas and evidence heard in discussion

Research-Based Learning with Fiction and Nonfiction

Trained Over


Impacted Over


More Than

Schools Have Used Our Materials/Training

Great Books has over 50 years of experience imparting key principles and practices of inquiry-based teaching. Our method, known as Shared Inquiry, has been used in thousands of classrooms across the country and around the world. Our programs are currently in use in countries worldwide, including Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. No other organization or company has more history or expertise at making inquiry-based teaching and learning succeed than Great Books.

Great Books inquiry-based programs have been recognized as effective by the US Department of Education, and independent research has shown that regular, sustained used of Shared Inquiry improves reading comprehension, writing, and critical thinking for students from a wide range of demographic backgrounds and achievement levels.

High-Quality Literature

The Great Books High School program features outstanding literature by award-winning authors. Stories are selected for their engaging, vivid writing and for their ability to support multiple interpretations and thought-provoking discussions, as well as for their diversity of settings, themes, genres, and writing styles.

William Faulkner

William Faulkner, author of “Barn Burning”

Standards and Alignments

Great Books programs combine classroom materials and an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning to provide the essential elements students need to meet and surpass the goals of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

Great Books programs help teachers develop the competencies and skills outlined in the Danielson Framework for Teaching, adopted by school districts as a road map of professional practice designed to guide, support, and evaluate teachers. Great Books programs promote the most effective teaching practices outlined in the Danielson Framework.

As your school implements the NAGC recommendations for gifted education, Great Books materials and professional development can help you meet the classroom practices and teacher learning components described in the NAGC’s six programming standards. The table below highlights the student outcomes and evidence-based practices met by Great Books programs.

Our training and follow-up consultation services focus on Shared Inquiry as a method—and on the shift the teacher makes to become the model of an active learner who is leading, facilitating, and enhancing the learning of others through questioning and gradual release of responsibility to the students. This emphasis on teacher development and growth and on student-centered learning harmonizes with both Danielson’s Framework for Teaching and Marzano’s Teacher Evaluation Model, specifically in the areas of questioning and discussion strategies, the teacher’s role in Shared Inquiry, and content and preparation in a student-driven learning environment.

Customize Your Approach

Our materials help your students develop the critical thinking, close-reading, and analytical skills they need to be college and career ready. Our questioning and discussion techniques help teachers become better discussion leaders.

If your teachers and students are not sure how to integrate inquiry-based teaching and learning into their daily routines, we can help you identify the key problem areas for your students and teachers. No matter what curriculum, literacy program, or textbook you’re using, we’ll work with you to develop a customized approach that integrates our products and/or professional learning into your classroom routines. Please contact us to schedule a time when we can meet and start developing the approach that works best for you.