Inquiry Lessons on Newsela Social Studies
The Classroom

Stories from the Classroom: Inquiry Lessons on Newsela Social Studies

Annie Grabowski
Jan 26, 2023

Students want to be active participants in their own education. Inquiry-based learning is one of the best ways to put students in the captain’s seat and allow them the opportunity to guide their own exploration of real world questions and problems, while learning the college and career-ready skills they need to be successful in the future.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with 8th grade Social Studies teacher Gregory Orapollo from Norwood, Pennsylvania, and pick his brain on how he leverages Newsela Social Studies to implement inquiry-based instruction into his classroom.

Here’s what he had to say:

How do you approach introducing inquiry-based learning in your classroom? 

My approach focuses on building questions that involve student investigations. I want my students to go on a journey to discover the answers to these compelling questions. The best approach to developing inquiry-based lessons is designing them in a way that involves students working collaboratively to find the answers to complex questions. It keeps students engaged and it also teaches them the real-world skill of team building. 

What tips do you have for educators that are looking to implement inquiry-based learning?

My advice would be to do some research and look for great examples of inquiry-based learning projects or lessons. There are so many great ideas out there and I try to develop lessons or projects based on those ideas. Write down 3-4 questions that you believe are essential to your lesson. The questions should be designed in a way that students have to search for the answers. Try to build questions that are debatable and provide students with the opportunity to share their thoughts on these types of questions. 

Examples of compelling questions can look like: 

  • Do the three branches of government share power equally? 

  • Was the New Deal a good deal? 

  • How do geographers understand, study and describe the world around them? 

  • Did the U.S. Constitution create a just government? 

  • Why are holidays important?

What benefits do you see from inquiry-based learning? How has it changed the way students engage with social studies lessons?

I think the greatest challenge in any classroom is to keep students engaged in what they are learning. I believe that lessons that focus on inquiry give students the opportunities to think critically and engage in discussions that build real-life skills like communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. The great benefits of inquiry lessons or projects are that students will learn the content in a way that keeps them engaged and involved in their own learning process. 

How does Newsela Social Studies help you create an inquiry lesson for your students?

Newsela Social Studies has a number of great inquiry-based lessons and articles already developed for teachers to use. It has been a great help when developing my own lessons because I can look to other examples that teachers have already created. It has guided me in the process of developing my own social studies lessons. I would highly recommend Newsela Social Studies for schools and teachers to use. 

What is one piece of advice you would provide for an educator that is just getting started with Newsela this year?

My advice would be to take the Newsela Certified Educator course to become more familiar with the platform or any of the other Professional Development Courses on Newsela. I have taken the NCE Course and I highly recommend it to any teacher using Newsela this year or in the future. It was beneficial to my understanding of how to effectively use Newsela in both my ELA & Social Studies classes. 

With Newsela Social Studies, teachers get access to a variety of differentiated, standards-aligned content, lesson guidance, primary source documents, and extensions to help them plan instruction and guide students as they investigate compelling questions.  

Learn more about how to implement inquiry effectively with Newsela here.

Ready to bring Newsela Social Studies for your school or district? Get in touch today.

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