Next Generation Science Standards

Getting Students to Ask Questions

[sub]The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. —Albert Einstein [/sub] [sub]One integral element of NGSS is getting students to ask questiions, because asking questions is ventral to inquiry and learning in general. Science investigation in its’ most basic form is asking questions, and teaching children how to ask questions. Children are often described as natural scientists and their curiosity as a basic human trait. As science teachers, we must be invested in having all their students use this process skill. [/sub] [sub]My question is, what are some strategies you get your students to create and ask their own questions?[/sub]

Margot Jacobs
Margot Jacobs
630 Activity Points

Hi Margot!

I think a good first step to helping the students in your class start asking questions is to model what this looks like. You can explicitly model to your students by thinking aloud and giving example questions to show them what kinds of questions they can ask. This is also something you can practice outside of science as well. You can also have students practice asking questions to you or with partners. Lastly, I think that sharing questions that you might have yourself can also help the students start thinking of the different kinds of questions they can ask. 

Hope this helps.

-Karlie 

Karlie Howe
Karlie Howe
1765 Activity Points

A few years ago I completed a research project on the topic of student-generated questions. I ultimately did not support my hypothesis that the level of inquiry influenced the quantity and quality of student questions. However, my results did show that the instructor made a significant difference in the quantity and quality of student questions! 

https://commons.erau.edu/publication/428/ 

Emily Faulconer
Emily Faulconer
4300 Activity Points

I know that you posted this a long time ago but one strategy we use is to do activities, demos, and labs that don't start the way the students expect.  The first part of the activity is set up as really just following the directions....no inquiry.  But it sets the stage for something to happen that is surprising to the students.  And then the next part asks them to think of questions that they want to know about after seeing that first piece.  So they are using their curiosity. An very simple example of one we use is the M&M in water.   The first piece asks what they think will happen to an M&M in a petri dish of water.  They almost all guess that the color will bleed off into the water, which is correct.  The next piece asks if you put two different M&Ms an inch apart in a petri dish of water what will happen?   They almost all guess that the two colors will mix in the middle.   But what really happens is exactly opposite of that.  And then that starts the curiosity and questions. Hope that helps some.

Mike Szydlowski
Mike Szydlowski
720 Activity Points

A way that I would use to get students to ask questions in science is allowing a fun schema activation to take place. When you ask them something that the child is familiar with first, they are more likely to respond. Also, allow some reward for answering questions so that the classroom is more inclined to do so.

Breana Jones
Breana Jones
190 Activity Points

It's interesting because students (I teach 4th grade) seem to have an unending supply of questions during the "teaching time" of all my lessons - not science in particular, either. I am talking about the whole "To" part of the "To-With-By" model for lessons. And I really try to keep that part quick so we can move on to the engagement part of things. So I always build expectations around them just listening for those ten minutes or so and saving questions for after. To curb some of this, I try to encourage them to put questions in the "Parking Lot" (which is just a chart paper they can put sticky notes on) for us to get to later. Interestingly, when it is science time and I ask them to come up with questions to lead an investigation or to build a research topic about, it is like pulling teeth. I think it scares them that maybe their question won't be "right" or "good enough." So, maybe what I should be trying is the parking lot approach for science questioning - not just as a placeholder for when we can't get to something, but as a non-threatening brainstorming activity where they have had success in the past!

Tara Miller
Tara Miller
290 Activity Points

I love your idea of putting questions into their "parking lot"! Super awesome way to manage comments during teaching time. Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall
1065 Activity Points

I always ask my students to think about things they are observing and consider what is happening and why--and then frame their observations as questions they can explore using more inquiry-based thinking. For example, with my summer campers, more than one of the students has remarked about how hot it is outside. I once replied back that it felt so hot out you could probably cook an egg on the sidewalk. My kids were thrilled--can you really cook eggs on the sidewalk? We put together a solar oven and decided to see if we really could use the sun to cook things. We made S'mores and although it took a lot longer than cooking over a campfire, they melted down and we were able to see how the sun can be turned into energy, while the kids got to enjoy a tasty treat. I heard a lot of great verbal observations, so I wrote a lot of them down and then had the students think about how we could frame them as questions to find out more. Having something to base their questions off of seemed to really help encourage more critical thinking. They would mention something and then another student would go "Oh yeah, when we did that, how come this happened?" I think it's important to give all the students a baseline experience that they can build off of, a common experience that can provide richer questioning. It's something recent, and it's something shared that all the students saw in progress.

Katheryne Ayers
Katheryne Ayers
545 Activity Points

I tend to use the flipped classroom strategy. I give my students a topic to search at home and the next day we have discussions related to the topic. I feel that they tend to ask more questions that way.

Sawsan Ismaiel
Sawsan Ismaiel
125 Activity Points

Good information on NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards are K–12 science content standards. Standards set the expectations for what students should know and be able to do. NGSS were developed by states to improve science education for all students. I think these standards give local educators the flexibility to design classroom learning experiences that stimulate students’ interests in science and prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship. Diana Jeff

Diana Jeff
Diana Jeff
20 Activity Points

How do you get your students to ask meaningful questions?

I wonder this myself, and as another reply mentioned, it seems like children are constantly asking questions- until you ask them to ask questions about a specific topic, then they become worried that there might be a 'wrong' question! In searching online, I found an article about inquiry-based learning that addresses this on a few levels (link below). A teacher describes her approach in the classroom, one strategy is that she keeps the line of inquiry aligned with student interests, for example, uses tweets to teach grammar. This can be modified for science classrooms with some creativity.

The main idea from this article that I will be keeping in mind in my future classroom is that the students will get off track in their excitement, but at least they are excited! Let them be excited, and as a good teacher, learn to ask your own questions to begin to steer them toward a middle-ground where your objectives meet their interests. "The true art of teaching is to ask the right questions, become a thought partner (interaction during instruction), and then assist in students' discoveries." http://www.edutopia.org/blog/inquiry-based-learning-asking-right-questions-georgia-mathis

From experience, focusing on making students comfortable is helpful in getting them to speak up during a discussion. Relating concepts to ones they are already familiar with such as foods, activities, songs, clothes they are culturally aware of at home or friends' houses, enables them to speak with confidence.

Whitney Pomeroy
Whitney Pomeroy
615 Activity Points

It is important to make sure kids feel safe and comfortable from the beginning of the school year. The atmosphere created will have a lot to do with how willing students allow themselves to take risks and raise questions. I have seen a teacher who uses a "Parking Lot" chart to give students a place to anonymously ask questions. Each student is given a parking spot with a number. Students are able to write questions or comments and place them on their parking spots at any time during a lesson. Exit cards may work well to have students ask questions or express how comfortable they feel with a topic, etc.

Summer Franco
Summer Cortez
865 Activity Points

For many students it is difficult to speak in front of a class or even raise up there hands to ask a question. A way that a teacher can manage their classroom to keep asking questions during a lesson is by putting them in teams and letting them form a question to be asked to the teacher. The teacher should always keep in mind who is participating and who is not. The teacher can provide some help to motivate students knowlege. 

What other strategies or methods in teams can help students work together to ask group questions that involves everyones participation? 

Roxanna Chavana
Roxanna Chavana
40 Activity Points

I love the idea of having students generate and ask questions as part of a team. Definity a good way to get students collaborating and more willing to speak up. Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall
1065 Activity Points

I am in my final semester of college and will be student teaching in the fall. I am interested to learn more about how to get students to ask questions. From my personal experience, both in elementary classrooms as well as college classrooms, I have noticed an unspoken "class culture" surrounding questions. Some classes I have witnessed a culture of involvement where most of the class is engaged and asking questions. Other times, I have noticed a shift in class culture that somehow results in a lack of student involvement. One thing that I have noticed, and I'm not sure if this is a coincidence, is that the classes that it is harder to get students to ask questions and speak in front of the class are often in the afternoon. I feel like this could be due to a general feeling of tiredness that causes disengagement. I love the idea of using a flipped classroom because it allows students to learn on their own time and gives them more time to ponder the material and generate in-depth questions. If a flipped classroom model is not possible for me to implement in the future, I may try to plan science lessons earlier in the day to see if students are more likely to ask questions at this time. I realize that this may not be possible, but it would be interesting to explore if it is. I also really like the suggestion of letting students discuss in groups before asking questions. I have seen this work very well in college classrooms every day. I believe it gives an aspect of anonymity because the students can phrase a question as "Our group was wondering..." rather than personally stating their question. Though questions are an important part of learning, I have seen many students struggle with embarrassment when identifying and asking questions they alone are wondering. The implementation of group questions makes this less of an issue.

Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall
1065 Activity Points

I am a student teacher and one thing that I think gets the students asking questions is introducing a phenomenon at the beginning of a unit, and referring to this phenomenon throughout the unit. Having the students get introduced to a phenomenon at the beginning of the lesson they become intrigued, and will more likely begin asking many questions trying to solve the "why" or "how" of the phenomenon. 

Nicole Anthony
Nicole Anthony
352 Activity Points

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