Learning to Ask Questions

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Students will be able to use science vocabulary to pose a scientific question.

Big Idea

The primary function of a scientist is to ask questions and seek answers therefore, kindergarten students must also know how to ask a scientific question.


15 minutes


Kindergarteners love to tell stories about their lives.  They want you to know what they did over the weekend, where they went, and who they went with. However, kindergarteners have difficulties asking questions.  If they raise their hands to ask a question, they will inevitably make a statement.  So I explicitly teach the skill of asking questions.  This is a direct reflection of Science Standard 1, Asking Questions. 


To engage my students in asking questions, I say, "I made signs using a tongue depressors to attach to a round sign that has one of the question words written on it: who, what, why, where, how, which." I add, The question signs match the question books.  One question word is missing because that question was not included in the book series.  But remember, "when" is a question word."  I made five sets of the six question signs.  I give each student a sign and then select a student to determine which book I will read from. I use an ENO Board which has an electronic spinner.  I create a class roster and then when I want to call on a student, I click spin and the spinner turns ending on a student's name.  


Once I select a student, I say, "I am holding up a question book.  If you are holding a question sign that is the same as the question book, hold it up."  Then I instruct students to "put your signs on the floor in front of you.  Put your hands in their laps while I read one question from the book."  These books also provide answers.  The emphasis is on the type of question verses the content in the book.  I would go through the set of books. That’s reading only six questions.



20 minutes


  Now that students have experienced the various types of questions, you may give them a chance to create their own questions.  To allow for movement, I have my students return to their tables. I say, "Now you are going to work as partners to formulate questions. This is a practice that real world scientists do." I do this because I want total class participation.  

  At each table, I have various familiar items: a plastic container, a spoon, a clock, an ink pen, a watch, a pot, and a pitcher.  I tell students "ask questions about the objects. Possible questions could include what types of food are cooked in a pot?" There enough objects on the table so that each student can select one and asks their partner questions.  I also say, "Ask as many questions as possible about the objects."

  After this independent practice, I will take just a few minutes to show my students 30 things that may have not seen before and are now replaced by Smart Phone. I will stop the video after each item and we will collectively try to formulate at least one question about each item.



15 minutes


  In this section of the 5E model of instruction, students can share their formulated questions. Because this is an essential practice that must become a part of my students discourse, I allow all students to share their questions.  At this point in the lesson, I reiterate the big idea by discussing that scientists see problems or needs within their community or the world community and seek to find solutions. I say, "Scientists have asked, researched, and discovered answers to questions like 'How many ways can you use a peanut?'  George Washington Carver asked this one question and discovered over 300 uses for the peanut that improved the economic conditions of the South."  

  Questioning is so foundational to science that I must evaluate each student's ability to use: who, what, why, when, where, how, and which in a sentence.  Evaluation occurs by simply having students ask scientific questions.  As a result, this formative assessments guides my instructional decisions to meet specific student needs.  The evaluation is informal and antidotal because this ongoing practice is developed over time.  As I teach/model asking meaningful questions, student questions improve.  Consistent progress monitoring along with guided and independent practice will lead to mastery of this NGSS Science and Engineering Practice #1  Asking Questions. 

  If students cannot ask questions using the precise question words, then I assign asking questions for homework.  If students can ask questions using the precise question words then I assign more complex questioning for homework. For example, construct two part questions.




10 minutes

  I will summarize each question word.  I say to the students, "You will not master asking meaningful questions during one lesson.  This is an ongoing practice that will use throughout the entire school year." 

  I also elaborate and demonstrate asking questions that build upon each other. I am sure to go beyond the interrogative sentence that begins with a question word, has a question mark at the end, and can be answered with yes or no.  For example, I say "We know the sun can melt ice but, what happens to water that sits in the sun?  This answer requires a more thought because students have know about evaporation to give an accurate answer.

  Finally, I say to my emerging scientists, "We will have a variety of experiences that will be different from what you believe and these new questions will cause you to think and question at a deeper level.  For example, do boys have bigger brains than girls and if so, does that make them smarter? Questions that involve gender always spark conversation in my students.  I have discovered that opposing views and ideas make it easier for students to ask questions verses making statements and telling stories.  My students begin to ask questions such as "Do boys run faster than girls?  Are girls stronger than boys?  I end the lesson by saying, "We will have many more chances to ask questions and seek answers just as real world scientists do."