A Language Arts Curriculum Like No Other

Our curriculum and pedagogy are anchored by three deeply held beliefs:

Complexity is for everyone

People get smarter together

Students deserve authentic,
meaningful work

Inquiry By Design is committed to student-driven literacy marked by the reading, writing about, and discussion of content-rich, complex texts. We firmly believe that all students deserve equitable access to a rigorous, culturally relevant curriculum.


Carefully selected texts are embedded in coherent courses built on sequenced, yet independent units, designed to continually reinforce the integral relationship between reading and writing—a distinguishing feature of our work. Key concepts and skills are revisited within units, within grades, and across grades 6-12 in developmentally appropriate ways and with increasingly more difficult and complex texts and tasks.

The Inquiry By Design Cycle of Work


The Inquiry By Design Cycle of Work supports student engagement and critical thinking through research-based reading and writing strategies. This cycle helps build students’ academic mindset through deliberate stages of work – across units, across years, and across grade spans.

In our curriculum, you’ll discover…

  • Familiar and predictable cycles of work in all units

  • An increase in text and task complexity throughout the year

  • Multiple opportunities for formative assessment, checks for understanding, and end of unit summative assessment

Learn more about the spirit and structure of our work.

The Learning Pit


Initially created in 2007 by James Nottingham, the learning pit indicates the learning journey and affect of a student. At the beginning of a new journey, a students’ affect is moderately positive, but as the journey gets more challenging, they are apt to fall into “the pit”.

By encouraging students to explore their own questions and seek answers, the learning pit can help develop a deeper understanding of the topics they are studying, as well as help develop a growth mindset.

A Balance of Voices and Experiences


Our units feature authors and texts that invite robust classroom conversation, support the intellectual work at hand, and expose students to worlds, voices, and experiences that they might otherwise not encounter.

What Educators Are Saying About Inquiry By Design


This curriculum really allows you to connect with students through discussion. I feel like the units scaffold well. It has enough of a framework that there’s structure, but allows me to be myself and build in pieces on my own.


I have NEVER (in 21 years) worked with a better curriculum that truly focuses on student engagement and student learning.


...the independent reading focus has created a ripple effect, increasing circulation in our school libraries and creating demand for more books for kids. I see a number of teachers reinvesting in their classroom libraries. When I visit classrooms, I see every kid with an independent reading book at their desk!

Secondary Humanities TOSA

Some of our biggest gains from using Inquiry By Design curriculum have come in our most diverse schools, where we’ve seen huge leaps in reading improvement. We’ve also noticed a big increase in the use of writer’s notebooks. Students are writing much more—some even tripling their writing output.

Secondary Literacy and Language Arts Supervisor

Our work with Inquiry By Design is the most exciting initiative we’ve undertaken in years. Our teachers are energized, and our students are writing and talking in ways we’ve only rarely seen in the past. I can’t recommend their work highly enough.

Executive Director for Secondary Academic Services

This is where I’ve been trying to get in my career! Not swooping in to save them or give them the answer. They’ve come so far and they’re getting to skills in EARLIER parts of the year.


Inquiry By Design allows my grade-level team to dig deep around student writing and engage in collaborative conversations on where our students are in relation to the rubric and how to support getting them to the next level.