Ten Inquiry-Based Learning Activities

Ten inquiry-based learning activities for the classroom

10 Inquiry-Based Learning Activities

Hey, y'all! We're back for more ideas on how to incorporate inquiry-based learning in your classroom. Some of these activities are quick and perfect for getting the kids thinking about inquiry or your next unit. Others are bigger activities that take a little more time to prepare. All of these inquiry-based learning activities can be used within the same unit or spread out and used separately. Whatever works for you and your classroom! Let's start with the quicker inquiry activities:

Wonder Wall

One way I like to get the kids thinking and asking big questions is through a wonder wall. If you're not familiar with wonder walls, it's just a place for students to write their questions. I leave sticky notes out for mine (and we have a whole lesson on how to use them--not to pass notes to their friends!) and as questions come up, they write them on the sticky note and put it on the Wonder Wall. I go through them as often as I can and see where I can address their questions in upcoming lessons. 

Mystery Box

Mystery boxes are fun for all age groups, but the smallest learners go nuts over this one. It's just a box or bag (fancy is fun) with an item inside. I build hype by bringing the box in and putting it in a place in the room where the kids will see it but can't get into it yet. They get all excited about it and keep asking what's in it. We do a couple shake tests, let a kid put their hand in without looking to make some guesses, and then, when the suspense is killing them, I show them whatever is in there. I make sure whatever it is has something to do with our next inquiry unit. This gets them all hyped up to know more and the questions start pouring out. 

Hands-On Writing

I love this one. Before young students can write stories, they have to be able to tell stories. I do a whole lesson where I act out a story I've read in a book. Then, I read the book to the kids. Petra (affiliate link) is my favorite book to do this with since it doesn't require too many props. As I read the story, the kids get all excited about how that's just what I was saying when I was "playing." We connect the stories we tell as we play with the stories we can write on paper. 

I use lots of little props in the classroom for students to tell their stories before putting them on paper. Fairy garden things, plastic cars and dinosaurs, people figures, and loose parts are a great place to start to build your collection. I like to add in seasonal things as well when I can. (Looks like a storm blew through in this kids' story!)

Using hands-on figures for inquiry-based learning in writing

Science Experiments

The concept of inquiry-based learning has seen a rise in interest recently, but the ideas have been around for a long time. Science experiments are one example we've been doing forever. This is especially true if students don't know what the outcome of the experiment is supposed to look like. If they know the steps and the expected outcome, there is no inquiry there. It's just following a procedure, like solving an equation. But if some part is missing, either the procedure or the final picture, it becomes an exploration as students have to actively think and engage with the materials to solve the problem.  

Web Quests

When students use a hyper doc or something similar to dig for information and answer questions, that's inquiry, too. In this case, you are telling students where to look, and what to look for, but not what they'll find. They are in charge of the learning at that point. 

Book Dives

Similar to web quests, a book dive is searching for information or answering questions about what they're reading. It can be as simple as giving the kids the questions and leaving them to it, or as complex as making it a quest, an interconnected puzzle, a jigsaw activity, or a team competition. There are ways to spice up even the simplest of tasks. ğŸ˜‰



These are all examples of quick inquiry activities in the classroom. The following activities will take a little more planning, prep work, and time, but are so worth it! 

Genius Hour or Independent Research

This is considered free inquiry, even though the kids still usually have some guidelines. If you've got some independent learners full of their own questions, this might be a direction you want to go. Students get a set amount of class time to do their own research and planning, then present their work to the rest of the class when they finish. 

Project-Based Learning

In project-based learning, the kids have a task, like planning a trip, an event, a garden, or something else. They have steps to complete in order to achieve their task. For example, in garden planning, they have to pick their plants, plan the space, calculate the costs, etc. There are tons of examples of project-based learning examples out there for all grade levels. 

Planning a garden project-based learning and inquiry

Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning is exactly what it sounds like: the kids have a problem to solve and must come up with a way to solve it. It can be as simple as building a structure to keep the rain and snow off a fictional character, or as big as, well the sky's the limit, but I was going to say fixing something in the school like the chaos in the lunch line or providing shade on the playground. 

Phenomenon-Based Learning

Phenomenon-based learning can incorporate all these different strategies into one holy grail of a unit. It integrates subjects in order to look at a question or phenomenon from multiple different angles. If you're looking to REALLY go deep on a question, consider exploring phenomenon-based learning. I mean, the Finnish do it and works really well for them. 



These are some of my favorite activities to incorporate inquiry-based learning in our classroom. I hope this post has helped you find new activities for your classroom, too. This post is part of a series on inquiry-based learning so be sure to check in next week for more inquiry madness! ğŸ˜›

I hope you have a wonderful week and I'll talk to you soon!

Stay cozy, 


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