Elementary Science

Science Classroom Environment

How do you create an environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions about science topics dicussed in the classroom and engage in science conversations?

Bailey Schalk
Bailey Schalk
205 Activity Points

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
10110 Activity Points

Hi Bailey! -- Asking questions and defining problems is one of the science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Tapping into student thinking and curiosity goes beyond their asking procedural questions.  Here are some ideas fr from a blog I wrote 

Teachers often say, “Any questions? Good.” with little or no time between the words “questions” and “good.” Without wait time, students don’t have an opportunity to think. And sometimes they don’t know what to ask. Take a look at the prompts you use to solicit questions. A context for questions (such as “Any questions about the…” “How could we determine…” or “What would happen if…”) with a few seconds of wait time may help students formulate their thoughts.

Some students may perceive asking questions as a sign of weakness. They might be interested but hesitant to show it. Or they may be afraid of being ridiculed. Remind students that there are no “dumb” questions and establish an environment of respect. Show interest in their questions, even if you’ve heard them many times before.

Model the type of questions you want them to generate. If you don't get any student questions, ask aloud "I wonder about..." 

Sometimes students come up with questions that are not related to the topic. These might be teachable moments,  but if not, use a section of a bulletin board or wall space as a “parking lot” to save them for later discussion.

Student questions do not have to be oral. Strategies such as exit tickets, the “W” column of a Know/Want to know/Learned (KWL) chart, or the written results of a think-pair-share discussion can stimulate student questions.

Your guidance, encouragement, and positive feedback can provide a safe place for student to ask questions.

Mary B

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
10110 Activity Points

Greetings Bailey!

I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in Elemntary education. In my methods of Elemntary Science class we have had a lecture on how to get students to be engaged and comfortable in the classroom. One of the main ways to get students engaged and asking questions is to first get their attention with something fun. Gone are the days where students just sat in the classroom and listened to a lecture and then completed a boring worksheet. We now can see that if we catch the students’ attention right off the bat, whether it be with a video or experiment, you have them engaged and eager to learn more. As far as getting them to ask questions, it is important to set up your classroom climate as a safe zone where all questions are welcomed. If the climate is not one where students know they will not be judged for asking questions by his or her peers and the teacher, they will not be keen on asking. But, if from day one you set up your climate as one where all questions can be explored and are part of the learning process, the students will be more comfortable and will ask questions.  

Nicolette Walker
Nicolette Walker
1918 Activity Points

I think that in order for students to feel comfortable to ask questions related to science or any topic really is to enstill these practices early in the year. Teach these practices such as "Talk Moves" to help them understand what these conversations should look like, and model it often. Put up posters or signs in your classroom to help remind them of things that they can say when they are confused or even when they know and would like to explain their answer. You can use talk moves a lot and in every subject. That way, when it comes to science they already will have the tools and knowledge of how to ask questions and engage in science discussions. Making it a classroom norm is important instead of just having those type of conversations in science. 

Mikayla Evers
Mikayla Evers
1885 Activity Points

Hey Bailey!

I am currently taking a methods in science class at the University of Northern Iowa. In many classes we talk about ways to help students feel comfortable in the classroom. I would say to make sure when you ask questions provide wait time, give them a chance to answer. I would also reccomend making the lesson something they are interestead in. The more they feel connected to the assignment they will be willing to talk and ask questions instead of feeling forced to be involved. The more students are involved the more the shy ones will want to be involved. Make sure your activities inlcude different races and abilities in your classroom. This helps students to feel like that is their classroom and their safe space. One main thing is to not shut down any students thoughts. If they are wrong point them in another direction, never just say no. I hope all this helps!

Cami Scovill
Cami Scovill
1940 Activity Points

Hi Bailey,

I believe that the environment in the classroom and how comfortable your students are is dependent on your relationships with your students. I think the best thing you can do to create that comfortable environment where students engage in conversations is to be constantly working on your relationships with your students, and showing them that you care about them and their lives. You could be the only one who asks a student how their day is going or tell them that you care about them, and those small things have a huge impact on student learning. 

Patricia ten Hoeve

Wartburg College '20

Patricia Ten Hoeve
Patricia ten Hoeve
80 Activity Points

Hi Bailey,

I believe that you create classroom enviroment where students can ask questions about science topics discussed in the classroom and engage in science conversations by allowing time for discussions and questions. You can also have students engage in activities that will get them curious to ask questions. 

 

Amber Jacobs
Amber Jacobs
325 Activity Points

Hello Bailey!

I think a lot of students might be intimidated or nervous when it comes to science and I thibk it is important to create a safe and friendly environment in the classroom so students are not afraid to ask questions. It's important for them to always want to learn more and they can't do that if they don't ask questions to hlep them better understand. A lot of times after a lesson the teacher will ask "Are there any questions? ... No, good." This can make the students nervous too ask and be put in the spotlight. A better way to make sure no one is left with any questions, the teacher can ask each group to ask a question and that way the teacher is able to answer different questions that some students might have been holding off on asking and this way no one is put on the spot. 

Another way is allowing the students to write a question on the board or sharing it out loud and then give the students time to answer it within themselves to engage them in science conversation. The teacher can ask if anyone would like to share their answer and let them know if it is correct or if it is not then the teacher can allow someone else to answer. If the students are not answering correctly, then the teacher can address common misconceptions and tell them the correct answer.

 

Berenice Cantu
Berenice Cantu
60 Activity Points

I think an important thing to remember about making students comfortable is by leaving time in your lesson purely for discussion and (depending on grade level) possibly letting the students facilitate it. Sometimes students are more reluctant to ask questions if they feel they are going to be interupting or taking away from the experiment time. If you open the floor and give them that time to talk among their peers they may be more confident in asking about things they didn't quite understand the first time which will help them when they actually conduct the experiment. 

Madison Foshee
Madison Foshee
170 Activity Points

I agree that “Talk Moves” can be such a helpful way to teach students how they can talk about science with curiosity and wonder! Modeling is such an effective way for students to see how they can ask questions and discuss what they see. I think that it is also so important to create a welcoming and comfortable classroom environment where the students feel confident talking to and in front of their peers to ask these questions. As others have noted, it’s also good to give students time to ask questions and think about any questions they may have. As a student, and even to this day, I take a little longer to think of the questions that I have. Giving students time to think and reflect can be helpful, although I understand that it is hard to find extra time!

Catherine Moeller
Catherine Moeller
2740 Activity Points

I have never learned about talk moves until this year of school. I think they are so beneficial and keep students active and thinking throughout the whole lesson. It provides a more productive way for teachers and students to have an educational and productive talk. 

Cami Scovill
Cami Scovill
1940 Activity Points

Hi Bailey, 

I am currently a senior elementary education major at UNI. In one of my science methods courses we have been talking about productive questioning. Like most of the previous posts people have made, we have been talking about talk moves in our classroom. Talk moves are great ways to get students and teachers thinking about the task and how the students can extend that task. Something I find really helpful is ensuring the welcoming within your classroom and creating a safe space for students to share. By using these talk moves as well as other strategies students will want to open up on their own rather than us pushing them too. Lastly, make sure that the task you are using is really challenging your students. This will make them have questions to bring to the class and to you as well. 

 

 

Sarah Moyer
Sarah Moyer
2275 Activity Points

I believe that the best way to get students to ask questions in the classroom is to first built up your repore with your students so that they feel comfortable around you and then they will be willing to ask their questions. I am currently just in my methods at the Ohio State University and this is something that I have seen in the classroom whenever I first go in the students are scared to talk to me until I am able to prove to them that not only I know what I am talking about but also that I want to and am willing to help them improve. This is something that I do for the first few weeks of class and I find that as the semester goes the students warm up to me and become much more willing to ask me questions and just talk to me in general about anything that they need to.

Nicholas Stumpf
Nicholas Stumpf
965 Activity Points

Hi Bailey,

I am currently getting my elemtnary education degree from the University of Northern Iowa. I am currently enrolled in Methods of Teaching Science. We have talked a lot about how to make students feel comfortable in the classroom and from what I have learned I think it has a lot to do with making them feel comfortable witht he material. Ask them questions and use outside subjects and bring those into science. I think that the more you teach them about science the more questions they will have and they will want to know more. The Sceince and Engineering Practices has a practice that says, " Develop and Use Models" I think this is so important when teaching sceine becuase as teachers if we are developing and using models to explain sceince to children then they are being able to see what we are teaching and getting that hand on experience and they are able to then ask questions about the model and want to learn more about what they can see and touch.

Kind Regards,

Cassie

CASSIE PARRISH
CASSIE PARRISH
2145 Activity Points

In my Methods of Elementary Science class we had a lecture on how to get students to be engaged and comfortable in the classroom. One of the main ways to get your students engaged and asking questions is to first get their attention with something fun, something that is of their interest. Gone are the days where students just sat in the classroom and listened to a lecture and then completed a boring worksheet. We now can see that if we catch the students’ attention right off the bat, whether it be with a video or experiment, you have them engaged and eager to learn more. As far as getting them to ask questions, it is important to set up your classroom climate as a safe zone where all questions are welcomed. This begins with building mutual rspect in the class. To build mutual respect in the classroom, we have to allow for students to have peer to peer interaction so that they come to respect their diffeerences. If the climate is not one where students know they will not be judged for asking questions by their peers and the teacher, they will not be keen on asking. But, if from day one you set up your climate as one where all questions can be explored and are part of the learning process, the students will be more comfortable and will ask questions.  

Tulia Mulibinge
Tulia Mulibinge
1885 Activity Points

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