Taking an Inquiry Stance in the Reading Workshop

By Jill Eurich

Assistant Director and Intermediate/Middle School Trainer, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Inquiry does not narrow our perspective; it gives us more understandings, questions and possibilities than when we started. P.243; Ray, K.W. (2006). Exploring inquiry as a teaching stance in the writing workshop. Language Arts, 83,238-247

We hope as teachers that inquiry is ever present in the Reading Workshop. In all of their reading we hope students are having constant conversations with themselves. Here are some of the things they might be thinking:

  • Do I agree with that?
  • Do I think this source is reliable?
  • What is this author really trying to say?
  • What is the angle the writer is taking on the topic?
  • Would I have made the same decision this character made?
  • What about this writer’s argument was persuasive to me?
  • Even though this character lived at a different time and place, there are so many things connections I can make to her.

We cannot assume that these kinds of inquiries come naturally. Over time, with effective instruction, students learn, as readers, how to engage in thinking that allows them to predict, analyze, synthesize, make connections, infer and critique as readers. As teachers we promote this kind of inquiry by modeling our thinking, wondering, asking questions, hypothesizing and scrutinizing answers in relationship to what we have read. We take a tentative stance that changes as we continue to read.

In our Reading Workshop there are countless opportunities to engage in inquiry. In a minilesson we might consider what we do as readers and why it is helpful, in a reading conference or through reading letters there is an opportunity to have an oral or written conversation about reading, a guided reading or literature circle discussion provides a chance for students to make connection to a text, express ideas and refine or alter their thinking as they discuss the text with others.

A genre study, or a craft or punctuation unit of study in the reading workshop can provide the opportunity for your students to share what they are noticing in the reading. If for instance your students are studying feature articles, you can chart their noticings as they read them. They may notice characteristics of the genre or how the article was written. These noticings will help them build what Carl Anderson refers to as “genre knowledge” so that they become stronger readers of that particular genre.  Investigating how a piece is written allows the reader to appreciate writer’s craft but also is powerful in helping students grow as a writer.

In my next blog post in May, we will continue to think about the reciprocity of reading and writing and the stance of inquiry in the writing workshop.

As a fifth grade teacher, I loved having my students give me a new perspective or insight into what we were reading. It’s a lifelong pleasure to be able to put things together for your self or learn from others about your reading.

One thought on “Taking an Inquiry Stance in the Reading Workshop

  1. I agree that the inquiry approach is something that needs to be utilized more. As a fifth grade teacher myself, I have found the vocabulary I use with my students makes all the difference. I feel that it all comes back to the respect students feel when they are seen as readers and writers. Promoting a love of learning seems to be the real goal. The inquiry approach helps to put the responsibility of learning into the students hands.


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