5 Holiday Inquiry Questions Students Will Love Reading & Writing About!

The holiday season is crazy pants in the classroom and inquiry based learning can be a life saver during this time! When you implement an inquiry based project students do most of the work, it’s truly brilliant.

What is inquiry based learning anyway? Inquiry based learning, in a nutshell, involves the following steps:

  1. Pose an essential question or have students develop their own

  2. Allow students to research with texts sets the teacher has curated OR let students research on their own

  3. Teach note-taking strategies

  4. Allow for discussion about findings

  5. Complete a finished product

    (writing, Socratic Seminar, presentation, project)

  6. Reflect on the learning and process

It’s quite simple really. Honestly, the hardest parts are coming up with the essential question and curating content for students to research. But this article does both of those jobs for you!

Creating effective essential questions is pretty tricky. They have to be open-ended to allow many interpretations. They should also pique student interest.

Since we are in the midst of the holiday season, I’ve developed some fun essential questions you can pose to your students in the coming months. You can go as in depth as you want with these questions. You could follow all the steps above or just have students complete one or two of the steps. Make it as formal or informal as you’d like!


1.What makes people greedy and generous?

This question is so intriguing especially when posed in November and December when crazed consumers feel they have to buy everything! There are many things to consider when analyzing why people are more greedy or generous. Upbringing, genetics, age, culture, happiness and other factors can all play a role. After research have students write claims and argue one factor impacts greediness and generosity over others! Click here to access a complete inquiry unit on this topic to use with your students. Here is a list of resources you can give students to begin their research:

2.How do folktales impact our lives today?

Folktales are stories passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth and these days through books, movies and shows. Folktales teach people lessons that reflect their beliefs and values as a society.

Before students can analyze how folktales impact our lives today, they need some time to learn about the folktale genre. There are many sub-genres: fables, fairytales, tall tales, legends, myths, super hero stories and scary stories can all be considered folktales.

Once you’ve taught about the genres, students can begin brainstorming popular folktale characters that are in books and movies and how they’ve been recreated and reimagined over time. For example, Cinderella is a classic tale first told in the 1600s but has been adapted in many ways. One of those adaptations includes the popular dystopian sci-fi series The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer!

You could have students choose one popular character or tale, research the origins and current adaptations, then present their findings to the class.

Access a complete folktale unit here to teach the characteristics of folktales, compare them and have students write their own folktale, including a scary story!

3.Why Do Our Parents Lie to Us?

As young children, we all believed in the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the Easter Bunny. It was thrilling to believe these characters actually existed. Older students will definitely enjoy discovering the truth behind these characters from their childhood and why the charade continues with young children today. Here are some great resources for students to dive into this question…

4. How do Customs Develop?

Some people eat with forks, some use chopsticks and others use their hands. Why? What about greetings? In some countries it is customary to shake hands and in other countries you should press your nose together. Students will love learning about the customs of other places and analyzing how these customs came to be!

First, teach students what a custom is by showing them the video to the right. Then, have them choose a custom to research. They should learn the history of that custom. You may want to provide a list of customs to choose from and then articles you have read prior to students (to check for readability and appropriateness). Here are some links to get you started…

5. How did objects come to Symbolize Holidays?

Haven’t you always wondered why candy, turkeys, trees, mistletoes, hearts, bunnies, eggs, clovers and other objects have become the symbols that represent our holidays? I know students have wondered these things too. So why not give them a chance to figure it out? This question is perfect for teaching symbolism too! Here are some resources to get you started…

Related Resources

About the Author

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Amanda Werner is a full time middle school English teacher in the Bay Area. She has been teaching for eleven years and still feels like a novice. Every year is a unique and exciting challenge to inspire a new group of students to become avid readers and writers. Amanda reads educational literature voraciously and writes about the teaching of reading and writing on her website amandawritenow.com. Amanda received her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Humanities at Western Washington University. In her free time, Amanda loves being outdoors with her husband and daughter.

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