How to Build a Positive Classroom Community With the Book The Name Jar

This post originally appeared on the blog Mrs. Naufal’s Nook

Education over the past few years has pushed teachers toward teaching through inquiry. Teachers have learned to gradually release the onus of learning onto students. It hasn’t been an easy process. When I began teaching through inquiry, I had to revisit my own knowledge and approach to this. I realized that I had to build a positive classroom community first before I could even begin an inquiry discussion circle. Students had to learn to explore, activate, and build upon prior knowledge without arguing. They had to learn to respond positively!

Learning through inquiry starts with an inquiry discussion circle. The circle is a positive time to develop a classroom community.  Here are some suggestions to begin the inquiry discussion circle:

1) Start with a large circle where students must face one another.
2) Pose a question or begin a discussion about a topic.
3) Have students respond to what they already know about a topic.
4) Give students a notebook or small journal for entering things they would like to record.
5) Have students pose questions about what they would like to explore. Wondering questions may be posted on a wonder wall display board. Students can then use these questions to categorize them and then answer them.

Wonder Wall Display

6) Encourage students to brainstorm ways they could explore their topic.
7) Give positive feedback. Encourage students to do the same.
8) Try not to answer questions directly. Guide students to answer their own questions.
9) Think of ways students could have questions answered: guest speakers, media, interviews, written texts. 
10) Give students time to explore their topic. Meet again periodically to discuss students’ findings.  

Inquiry Notebook Guide for Jot Notes and Citing Sources

11) Hold an inquiry showcase where students present their findings. This may be done individually or with a peer or peers. Inquiry questions may lead to skits, interviews, letters, journals, or visual displays to show student findings.

Remember that inquiry circles are about talking, questioning, listening, decision-making, communicating, exploring, wondering and making connections.  


Sandra NaufalSandra has been a TpT Teacher-Author since 2014. Her experience teaching both adults and children through the inquiry model has led to wonderful experiences such as linking up with Commander Chris Hadfield via satellite, exploring social justice issues, and creating learning environments that foster open-ended activities linked to student choice. When not generating products for teacher and student use, she can be found creating her own clip art and font sets, making jewelry, or exploring various paint mediums. You can find her teaching tips and updates on her blog, Instagram, and Facebook.