Why Inquiry?

Why Inquiry?

Social studies calls for critical reasoning in reading challenging texts, considering complex questions, and writing arguments that take positions on important issues. This intellectual work relies on strong language and literacy skills. Read.Inquire.Write. engages students’ voices and emphasizes the disciplinary practices of questioning, considering multiple perspectives, evaluating evidence, and critiquing arguments. It offers the literacy tools students need to be successful as teachers guide students in working together to deliberate about complex social and historical issues and construct evidence-based arguments about those issues.

The Read.Inquire.Write. curriculum supports all students’ engagement in social studies topics and growth in disciplinary thinking and argument writing, regardless of their starting point. English language learners and students who read below grade level find learning social studies especially difficult, as this subject area depends on comprehension and production of challenging language. These students bring valuable knowledge and resources from their own experiences, but they may not have knowledge of specific social studies topics. This makes reading and writing about those topics more challenging.

Research shows that English learners and below-grade-level readers are capable of high challenge tasks when provided with a curriculum that is standards-aligned and sustained over time, offers meaningful support for work at grade level, and supports high-quality interaction. The Read.Inquire.Write. curriculum’s focus on sources and deliberation offers teachers a rationale for discussion and close reading of texts and visuals in ways that bring out the meanings relevant to the issue in focus. The Read.Inquire.Write. disciplinary literacy tools are purposefully designed to enable you to support all of the learners in your classroom in this challenging work.

Research that supports this work. Social studies education researchers have identified key instructional features of inquiry that improve writing, disciplinary thinking, and learning factual knowledge: questions that present history as evidence-based interpretation; extending background knowledge; supporting comprehension and historical thinking while reading; discussion and deliberation; explicit strategy instruction. Literacy researchers recognize that reading and writing continue to develop in adolescence, and that a discipline-specific literacy focus is necessary for supporting students in learning the specialized knowledge and practices of social studies. Students need opportunities to use language in authentic, meaningful learning contexts; this is the approach to disciplinary and literacy learning that is embedded in Read.Inquire.Write.

Policy support for inquiry. The C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards calls for reasoning and discourse, framing social studies as inquiry where students ask questions, employ disciplinary reasoning, analyze evidence, and communicate conclusions. The Common Core State Standards stresses literacy practices that are integrated into the process of disciplinary inquiry. Read.Inquire.Write. supports students in achieving these goals.


Supporting Research


De La Paz, S., Monte-Sano, C., Felton, M., Croninger, R., Jackson, C., & Piantedosi, K. W. (2017). A historical writing apprenticeship for adolescents: Integrating disciplinary learning with cognitive strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 52(1), 31-52.

Fang, Z., & Schleppegrell, M. J. (2010). Disciplinary literacies across content areas: Supporting secondary reading through functional language analysis. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(7), 587-597.

Leinhardt, G., & Young, K. M. (1996). Two texts, three readers: Distance and expertise in reading history. Cognition and Instruction, 14(4), 441-486.

Moje, E. B. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A call for change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), 96-107.

Monte-Sano, C. (2008). Qualities of historical writing instruction: A comparative case study of two teachers’ practices. American Educational Research Journal, 45(4), 1045-1079.

Monte-Sano, C. (2011). Beyond reading comprehension and summary: Learning to read and write in history by focusing on evidence, perspective, and interpretation. Curriculum Inquiry, 41(2), 212-249.

Nystrand, M., Wu, L. L., Gamoran, A., Zeiser, S., & Long, D. A. (2003). Questions in time: Investigating the structure and dynamics of unfolding classroom discourse. Discourse Processes, 35(2), 135–198.

Reisman, A. (2012). The ‘Document-Based Lesson’: Bringing disciplinary inquiry into high school history classrooms with adolescent struggling readers. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(2), 233-264.

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