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Document Based Inquiry (DBI) Lessons


Document Based Inquiry
A Document Based Inquiry (DBI) requires students to apply literacy skills to activate schema and build knowledge on a topic.  Furthermore, DBIs adapt easily to content in many disciplines, ensuring that all students read, think, and contribute to discussions and solutions to problems. DBIs use a multi-phase approach, revealing new information in small mystery-like puzzle pieces, through the integration of variety of text types (visuals, videos, informational texts, primary source documents, etc.), which builds curiosity and engages students.  DBI follows the principles of scaffolding, moving students from simple to more complex texts.  As students move through these phases, they gain new knowledge (puzzle pieces) and assemble a grander picture; all of the phases work together to tell the whole story.  Ideally, each phase will answer questions from previous phases as well as lead students to a deeper understanding of the topic.  Finally, students will synthesize the knowledge they have learned through each of the phases and demonstrate their understanding through written or oral language.

Standards that students practice during a typical DBI:
  • Students will read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences.
  • Students will determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development.  Students will summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • Students will also participate effectively in collaborative discussion by building on others' ideas while integrating and evaluating information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • Students will cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

The DBIs found here are working models created by Idaho teachers participating in the Idaho Coaching Network.  Some of them are more complete than others, including more explicit instruction and making them more comprehensible.

For more information and examples, follow the links below:


All material is presented for teachers to use and based on templates created by the Idaho Coaching Network. When using any teacher's work, please provide attribution for the teacher and/or source.

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