The Inquiry Process in Kindergarten

The Kindergarten program document states clearly that “The topic of any inquiry should be drawn from things that are familiar to children in their daily lives” (p. 17). Children need to explore topics directly and in depth. The Kindergarten program document outlines the importance of learning through inquiry, and learning in real life contexts. Children are able to make authentic connections to their prior knowledge when the activities they are participating in are relevant, interesting to them, and address overall expectations instead of isolated topics.

As teams consider the interests that drive student participation and involvement in tasks, they gradually guide them towards more systematic and focused investigations that enhance inquiry skills and encourage children to share and communicate their thinking. There are four elements in the inquiry process as outlined in the Kindergarten program document: Initial Engagement, Exploration, Investigation, and Communication.

Within the context of these elements, the students engage in activities facilitated by Kindergarten team members that promote and develop corresponding skills.

When children are actively engaged in the initial stage of the inquiry process, they are noticing, wondering, playing, and raising questions about the objects and events around them. The educators observe behaviours and listen to children’s theories, and begin to develop hypotheses about why the children think this, and what would be the best next step to extend the inquiry.

inquiry chart


As children begin to explore, they observe the results of their explorations (using all their senses) and they begin to generate more questions. They might ask, “Where are the biggest puddles?” or “How can I find out how to…?” The educators guide the children with thoughtful questions that promote higher order thinking, and encourage the children to talk to each other as they discover new learning. Team members might ask questions like, “What would happen if…” or “How could we find out…” or “I wonder why your measurement is different from Jasmine’s?”

As children investigate, educators encourage them to plan their play strategically; by using observations and reflecting on the course of events. The children then might say things like “I think if I use a bigger block on the bottom, my tower won’t break. See, it worked! I use this big block and it didn’t fall over.” Children who are intently occupied in the inquiry process develop skills like sorting, comparing, classifying, ordering, describing, noticing patterns, drawing conclusions, and using tools and materials effectively. The team members support these skills by providing a rich variety of materials and resources, modelling the processes, and by questioning children to clarify, expand, or reveal the children’s thinking.

Children are encouraged to communicate findings with others in the class. They share and discuss ideas to make thinking visible to classmates and adults. They offer suggestions to peers and pose problems of their own. They make predictions and draw conclusions. The team members facilitate this by modelling ways to communicate (written, oral, representations, diagrams, tally charts) and they help children make connections to prior knowledge and the new learning. inquiry2

An integral part of the inquiry is the documentation process. As children progress through an inquiry, the team members capture their experiences through photos, transcripts, video clips, and anecdotal quotes. These are posted and shared with the children as they revisit their learning, and the whole class or a small group of children can use the documentation to make their thinking visible and to extend the learning by generating new wonderings and begin new quests to find answers. In this way, the emergent curriculum is negotiated and the learning is extended further.



Source: Kindergarten Program, 2016

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