Strategy Guide

Inquiry Charts (I-Charts)

3 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Inquiry-Based Learning

About this Strategy Guide

This guide introduces I-Charts, a strategy that enables students to generate meaningful questions about a topic and organize their writing.

Research Basis

The Inquiry Chart (I-Chart) strategy is one that allows students to examine a topic through integrating prior knowledge on the topic with additional information found from a variety of sources.  The I-Chart strategy is organized into three steps, each of which consists of activities meant to engage and aid students in evaluating a given topic: 1) Planning, 2) Interacting, and 3) Integrating/Evaluating.

I-Charts can be used with individuals, small groups, or the entire class, and are meant to strengthen reading skills and foster critical thinking.  This strategy can be used to differentiate instruction for each student’s needs, and can also be used as an assessment tool to measure student understanding of a given topic.


Assaf, L., Ash, G., Saunders, J. and Johnson, J.  (2011).  "Renewing Two Seminal Literacy Practices: I-Charts and I-Search Papers."  English Journal, 18(4), 31-42.

Hoffman, J.  (1992). "Critical Reading/Thinking Across the Curriculum: Using I-Charts to Support Learning." Language Arts, 69(2), 121-127.

Strategy in Practice

  • Before beginning this strategy, decide on a topic that students will be exploring and collect appropriate resources (books, magazines, websites, etc.).  Or, if you choose to have students self-select a topic, arrange for time to be spent in the library or in a computer lab with internet access.
  • Provide each student with a blank copy of the I-Chart Printout and assist with topic selection or provide a pre-selected topic.  Have a class or group discussion about the topic(s) that students will be working with.  You may choose to have a formal discussion, complete with an organizer such as a K-W-L Chart, or you may have an informal discussion where students simply share their thoughts aloud.
  • Students will now begin the first phase of the strategy, Planning, in which they will:
    • Identify the topic
    • Form questions
    • Construct the I-Chart (or use provided printout)
    • Collect materials needed for inquiry
  • During the second phase of the strategy, Interacting, students will:
    • Explore prior knowledge
    • Share intresting facts
    • Read and reread
  • As a class or individually, instruct students to begin forming questions about their topic(s) (this can be an extension of the “W” column on the K-W-L Chart, if you chose to use this organizer).  These questions are placed in the top row of the  I-Chart Printout, one for each column (Question 1, Question 2, etc.).
  • Allow time for students to begin phase 3 of the strategy, Integrating/Evaluating.  During this phase, students will:
    • Research
    • Compare
    • Summarize
    • Report
  • Students should spend time during this phase researching the questions that they wrote in the top row of their  I-Chart Printout, or things they “want to know.”  As they find information about their questions, they should record their findings from the different sources.
  • After gathering information from multiple sources to answer each of their questions, students should use the “Summary” row as a place to write a concise sentence or two about what they learned about each question while researching.
  • Ask students to resolve competing ideas discovered during their research or develop new questions to explore based on any missing or conflicting information.
  • Once students’ I-Charts are complete, they can be used to help organize their writing for an informational essay on the topic they chose to research, as well as other research-related projects.

Related Resources