The Connection Between the Inquiry Process and Critical Literacy

The month of September is always a whirlwind.  This year, as a new Teacher-Librarian, the whirlwind was full of community building, schedule creation, name memorization (311 students in 14 divisions), teaching procedures, and learning how to be a Teacher-Librarian!   The library is beginning to feel more like my second home, and the whirlwind has been reduced to a gentle breeze.  We can now begin learning!

I’m new in the library, so one of my (many) goals is to create a collaborative learning team with my staff.  Now that relationships have been established,  I have connected with the majority of the teachers to discuss the learning goals for Term 1.   I am using my professional inquiry question for this course – how can technology support the teaching of the inquiry process across all grades? – to guide my classroom inquiry.  I have created two inquiry questions, one for primary and one for intermediate, as they each have different curricular goals.

PRIMARY:  What is a story?

INTERMEDIATE: How do our actions affect the story of our community?

The plan is to teach students digital literacy skills through these inquiry questions, and the library is an excellent place to learn about different kinds of stories, both digital and hard copy.  This week, I began this inquiry by revealing the questions to the students, and then we read the book, I Am A Story, by Dan Yaccarino.  screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-24-17-am It examines the evolution of story, from speaking, to writing, to acting, to creating stories through technology (radio, film and digital technology).   Stories are told in a variety of ways and this book is an excellent starting point for discussing how story began.  Next week, we are going to examine the book more closely, and also review the inquiry process poster created by Scholastic.  The poster created by Scholastic contains a series of questions that students answer throughout their inquiry.

Critical literacy is an integral part of the inquiry process, because in order to begin the process, you have to ask questions.  The initial questions in the inquiry process are based on interest, but students need to understand the importance of creating ‘authentic’ questions.  Authentic questions generate more questions that drive the inquiry process, critical thinking, and result in deeper learning and engagement for students (Ritchart, 2011).  Some resources for teaching questioning and thinking skills:

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-28-20-am screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-29-09-am screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-29-46-am

Though Dennis Hayes, Let’s Stop Trying to Teach Students Critical Thinking, believes we can teach students how to think critically by “engaging in deep conversation”, students can learn to challenge all forms of information, but thinking critically and challenging all types of media is a skill that must be learned though the teaching of thinking strategies, at home and at school (Hayes, 2014).

As we embark on our examination of story, and how it effects our communities, the students will be exposed to different mediums of story so they understand that stories can be shared in different ways, using different methods.  This will be my first time teaching the inquiry process to 311 students, so it will be a learning process for all of us.


British Columbia Ministry of Education (2016). BC’s New Curriculum, retrieved from

British Columbia Ministry of Education (2016). Critical Thinking Competency Profiles, retrieved from

Hayes, D. (2014, August 9). Let’s stop trying to teach students critical thinking.
Retrieved from

Richart, R., Church, M., and Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Roberge, G (2013, June). Promoting critical literacy across the curriculum and fostering safer learning environments.  What works? Research into Practice, Ontario Ministry of Education. Retrieved from

Yaccarino, D. (2016). I Am A Story.  HarperCollins Canada: Toronto.


2 thoughts on “The Connection Between the Inquiry Process and Critical Literacy

  1. Pingback: A Learning Summary | A Teacher in Delta

  2. Pingback: The Path to Inquiry | A Teacher in Delta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s