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An inquirED Blog

Tips for Distance Learning with Inquiry Journeys

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

inquirED Inquiry Journeys Elementary Social Studies Curriculum

Welcome! Just as inquirED's Inquiry Journeys lessons are delivered to you online with meaningful questions, tasks, and sources, these same elements can be adapted and printed for home use or delivered through an online learning platform.

Below you will find general ideas and suggested accommodations for implementing Inquiry Journeys during times of distance learning. Of course, not every suggestion will be right for every school! We trust you to select the strategies and practices that make sense within your context.


General Considerations for Distance Learning

Never fear! Inquiry Journeys can be done in a distance learning model. It will take some creativity and customization, but this moment, more than ever, is a time to embrace inquiry-based social studies. Social studies helps students understand their world — and inquiry engages students and gives them the tools they need to question, investigate, and make an impact on the world.

Inquiry Journeys uses the Inquiry Process in all its units — and the modules of a unit (Launch, Investigation, and Action) can be implemented in distance learning models. Certain adaptations and considerations apply to the unique features of each module.

The Launch Module

The Launch Module is made up of two lessons. These lessons hook students into the inquiry, introduce the Inquiry Question, and help students generate questions to guide their exploration.

  • Hook Lesson: Reserve synchronous time for the Hook Lesson. This is your chance to introduce the Inquiry Question and build excitement for the entire unit. You will need to be creative and tweak, but you shouldn’t need to reinvent or imagine a brand new lesson.

  • Generating Investigation Questions: In this lesson students are introduced to a modified version of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to generate Investigation Questions that will guide their exploration during the unit. The Right Question Institute, the organization that developed the QFT, has shared options for facilitating the QFT in a distance learning model. Visit RQI for virtual QFT options.

Investigation Modules

Each of the four Investigation Modules in a unit is framed by a unique Essential Question and contains lessons that guide students through the investigation of a specific topic related to the inquiry. When adapting Investigation Modules:

  • Review Module Description, Objectives and Checkpoint Assessment

    • Explore the central learning of the module.

  • Prioritize content

    • Core lessons are those lessons in a module that are sufficient to address the module objectives and content standards.

    • Extension lessons provide deeper dives or additional scaffolding.

    • Read through the lessons to prioritize the content you will address. You might select entire lessons, or portions of lessons, to adapt.

  • Adapt lesson content for your unique context. Consider:

    • What activities need to be tweaked?

    • What learning experiences will be most valuable in a synchronous setting?

    • What will provide clarity and reduce barriers for students?

    • What will promotes collaboration and builds community?

    • What is fun/inspirational and will draw students into their learning & make kids want to come to remote-school

    • What connects to district’s priorities for synchronous instruction (ELA, SEL)

Action Module

During the Action Module, students take Informed Action, shifting the focus of their work to planning and implementing an action that impacts their world. As part of this process, they create an Inquiry Product that supports their action, then share their efforts with a public audience. When adapting the action module for distance learning:

  • Keep in mind equitable access to materials.

    • Students will have different materials available to the. Keep it simple. You don't want to set up a barrier to students engaging in the work.

  • Leverage the tools that kids are familiar with using and be open to tools students are excited about.

    • Obviously, digital tools are most readily available in a distance learning model. Explore and make use of them! Keep in mind, though, that each new tool comes with a learning curve, so it might be best to stick with those students know how to use.


Sample Schedules

In the Partner Webinar (see recording below) we talk through each of the following schedules:


Specific Strategies and Suggestions for Distance Learning

Generating Questions with the Question Formulation Technique (QFT)

Send Home

  • Print the QFT protocol and send home.

  • Students follow the steps on their own or with a family member to generate, improve, and prioritize questions in response to a prompt.

Posted Online

  • Post the Qfocus prompt on your online learning platform and lead students through each step of the QFT protocol.

  • These steps might take place in one session or over the course of a few days.

Live Online

Student Discussions

Send Home

  • Choose the most meaningful discussion question from the lesson plan and create writing prompts for students.

  • Challenge students to pick one friend or family member to engage in discussion. Ask them to have a brief conversation with this person about selected prompts from the lessons.

Posted Online

  • Facilitate discussions using an online discussion board.

Live Online

  • Host small group discussions using a platform (such as Zoom) that allows you to create breakout groups.

  • Divide your students into small groups (based on their availability to get online) and host a small group discussion with each group once per week with an online meeting app.

Investigation and Research

Send Home

  • All investigations can be completed using printable materials.

  • Use the teacher guide provided in the lesson plan to curate and print suggested sources and student-facing handouts so that students can complete investigations at home.

Posted Online

  • Adapt the investigation challenge from an Inquiry Journey’s lesson plan.

  • Use the teacher guide provided in the lesson plan to curate and post suggested sources and student-facing handouts so that students can complete investigations in your online learning platform.

  • Note: Student-facing handouts are editable. Add them directly to your online learning platform or copy question prompts into a preferred digital format.

  • If possible, consider posting a video of yourself modeling the investigation task with the provided sources

Live Online

  • If students are able to work in real-time together, host meetings to allow them to compare or present findings.

Artifact Analysis

Send Home

  • Artifact analysis activities always have a print option, allowing the teacher to print and send home the example artifact and student handout.

Posted Online

  • Artifact analysis activities can also be done virtually.

  • Instead of printing, add the artifact image to your online learning platform along with the analysis questions or digital files of the student handouts.

  • If possible, consider posting a video of yourself modeling the analysis process outlined in the lesson plan.

Live Online

  • If real-time meetings are an option, lead students through an artifact analysis together online.

Creative Response

Send Home

  • Students are often challenged to respond creatively to learning. Student handouts can be printed and sent home.

Posted Online

  • A creative challenge can be adapted for use at home. If students are unable to print templates (timelines, storyboard, mini-posters), then a blank sheet of paper will do!

  • If possible, consider posting a video of yourself modeling the challenge and sharing a sample of your own work.

Live Online

  • Students can share also share their work online and engage in an online feedback session.


Send Home

  • Give students a few specific questions for them to evaluate how well they are meeting their goals.

  • For example, if students are creating a visual representation of a moment in history, they may ask themselves : Which details show the Who? Which details show the What? Which details show the Where? Which details shows the When?

  • Have students make a revision plan by completing one of these sentence stems: "I will add…" "I will try…" "I will adjust..."

Posted Online

  • Have students share their work in your online learning platform.

  • Post the rubric, critique guidelines, and sentence stems in your virtual classroom and have students give each other feedback.

Live Online

  • Facilitate an online critique session of your own work and the work of one other student.

  • Allow students to submit their feedback through you, so you can monitor if it is kind, specific, and helpful.

Read Alouds

Posted Online

  • To support teachers at this time, many authors are currently posting video read-aloud online or giving permission to any teacher to record a reading of their book to share with their students.

Live Online

  • Host a live stream read-aloud.

Interactive Activities and Simulations (the trade game, the uh oh game, etc.)

Send Home

  • Many of the simulations and interactive activities serve as game-like learning experiences and can be printed for the students to try with their families.

  • Send home printed copies of the simulation materials and directions.

Posted Online

  • Share links to simulations and interactive activities so students can participate in them with their families.


View the recorded webinar below.


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