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5 Effective Ways to Introduce a New Unit of Inquiry

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

So your subject overview is all set, your unit plan is complete and you have some idea of the direction your unit and assessments are going to go. Great! So how do you kick things off with your students?


That first lesson needs to hook your students, cultivate their curiosity and give them a glimpse into what they should expect to learn about. You want to be a facilitator in that initial lesson, allowing the students to take the reins in the inquiry process. This requires knowing your students, planning the framework of the lesson well and being creative; be well planned, flexible and mix it up!


1. A big question - this could be the debatable question of your unit or related to the conceptual questions. Try framing them with a thinking routine. If there are two clear ‘sides’, try using the tug of war thinking routine. If there are multiple perspectives you want pupils to consider, pose the question using the circle of viewpoints framework.


2. The bigger picture - show the real world application through a picture, video, audio, anecdote, drama or object. Show part of a video clip and ask, “what happens next?” If the resource is quite ambiguous, use the see, think, wonder thinking routine to draw out thoughtful interpretations. Alternatively, provide several resources and ask students to identify a theme by grouping them and brainstorming what they have in common.


3. Breaking down the statement of inquiry - give each student a piece of paper to fold into four. In each quadrant they can write the global context/exploration, the key concept and the two related concepts (adjust if there are more). Encourage students to brainstorm around each one and see how they link - The students may come up with their own statement of inquiry or perhaps discover yours!


4. Link to prior knowledge - this can be to check prior knowledge, show limitations of what they already know or address misconceptions before moving forward. You could give them the title of the unit and ask them to brainstorm content they have learnt previously which they think might be linked. You could give them a challenge which can almost be solved using prior knowledge to draw their attention to the limitations of their current knowledge. This is also an opportunity to draw on subject specific vocabulary - both prior and newly introduced.


5. Introduce a key player - this could be a mathematician who relates to the unit or someone who links to the global context (a musician, environmentalist, politician, engineer, entrepreneur etc.) Students could be set a research project to find out more about them. Or give students a small biography about the individual and ask them to come up with their own inquiry questions. This method of introducing the unit is a great opportunity to introduce some diverse contributors into the classroom.

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