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Classroom Strategies

Inquiry Charts (I-Charts)

Learn about how Inquiry Charts can support your students’ learning and see our *NEW* fillable .pdf to download and use.


The Inquiry Chart (I-Chart) is a strategy that enables students to generate meaningful questions about a topic and organize their writing. Students integrate prior knowledge or thoughts about the topic with additional information found in several sources. The I-Chart procedure is organized into three phases: (1) Planning, (2) Interacting, and (3) Integrating/Evaluating. Each phase consists of activities designed to engage students in evaluating a topic. 


This instructional strategy fosters critical thinking and strengthens reading skills. I-Charts can be used with the entire class, small groups, or individual work. Teachers can guide each student’s chart development which allows for differentiated instruction as well as targeting the zone of proximal development. In addition, I-Charts can serve as an evaluation tool for how much a student has learned about a topic.

Create and use the strategy

The teacher directs students as they begin with the planning phase of this activity. This phase includes:

  1. identifying the topic, 
  2. forming questions, 
  3. constructing the I-Chart, and 
  4. collecting materials

The next step is to engage students in the interacting phase which involves:

  1. exploring prior knowledge,
  2. sharing of interesting facts, and 
  3. reading and rereading 

Finally, teachers guide the students through the integrating and evaluation phase by:

  1. summarizing 
  2. comparing 
  3. researching, and 
  4. reporting

The teacher provides each student with a blank I-chart (see graphic organizers above) and assists with topic selection OR provides the pre-selected topic. The students then engage in forming questions about the topic. These are placed at the top of each individual column. The rows are for recording any information students already know and the key ideas pulled from several different sources of information. The last row gives students the opportunity to pull together the ideas into a general summary. Teachers may ask students to resolve competing ideas found in the separate sources or develop new questions to explore based on any conflicting or incomplete information.

Deborah Heiligman suggests an interesting activity  to help kids develop good research methods. This activity would work well with the inquiry-chart strategy.

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Hoffman, J. (1992). Critical reading/thinking across the curriculum: Using I-charts to support learning. Language Arts, 69(2), p. 121-27.

Jones, R. (2006). Strategies for Reading Comprehension: Inquiry Chart. Retrieved 2008, January 25, from

FOR-PD. (2005). FOR-PD’s Reading Strategy of the Month. Retrieved 2008, January 25, from