It is important to create a community of inquiry in the classroom. The inquiry should provide meaningful, challenging, and active context for learning history. All of these communities have things in common including, lively conversation and intellectual negotiation, conversation focusing on questions and tasks worthy of discussion, use of prior knowledge and newly gathered information, a model and a practice, and students doing history.
Students should be able to talk historically using various symbolic forms like literature, art, music, dance, drama, writing, and conversation. They should be able to use various forms of symbols to understand and discuss a historical event. A teacher should also be facilitating the conversation between students to make sure it is going in a productive manner, and is stimulating their interests in a topic. Teachers should not be letting the students get too off topic because then the students would not be learning what they need to be. It is nearly impossible to keep the students from going off topic, because sometimes the conversations lead to something that is not entirely on topic, but the students should spend most of their time discussing the historical event from the symbol. These symbols should be primary sources most of the time because they help the students get as close to possible to what actually happened in the past.
The students should also be asking questions the entire time that are worth discussing, do not have a simple answer, are sufficient and appropriate data sources so they can attempt to answer the questions, and imaginative entry into the past. It would not be much of a discussion if the only questions that were asked were ones that had a very specific answer such as “When did Abraham Lincoln become president?” However, a question like “What do you think are the most significant causes of the Civil War and why?” is a much more discussion-based question. The students are able to dive into the different causes of the Civil War and then chose which ones they feel are the most significant in the start of the war. With a question like this, not everyone is going to have the same answer, so the students are able to see what other people’s opinions are on a subject.
The students should also be utilizing their prior knowledge to help them better understand the subject they are currently talking about. This allows the new knowledge to build upon something the students already know and they will be more likely to understand the topic. It is also important for the students to have imaginative entry into history. This can include things like reenacting a historical event so the students better understand a concept. Getting students involved is going to make history more fun for them and they are more likely to enjoy the subject.