Student-Generated Inquiry-Based Questions

Support students to generate their own questions to increase engagement and build background knowledge
68 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

The Student-Generated Inquiry Questions strategy is a student-centered approach to developing deeper questions around a specific topic. After the teacher identifies a new topic of study to students, students participate in a whole-class discussion to generate questions they have around the topic. Students then choose one of the questions they want to research and learn more about.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Present the students with a new topic that they will be learning about. Write the topic on the board or anchor chart.

  2. Lead a whole-group discussion and brainstorm around the topic with the goal of students generating questions about the topic that they would like to know the answer to. List the questions on the board or anchor chart as students ask the questions. The questions should not be answered, just generated and listed at this time.

    • Example: Topic - Atmosphere, Possible Student Question - How does the air pressure change as you climb a mountain?

    • Optional - If there is concern that students will struggle to come up with questions about a topic, consider launching the topic with a hook (i.e. a quick video about the topic that sparks interest, an article to read about the topic, an image, etc.).

    • To learn more about supporting students to generate their own research questions, explore the Connecting with Students' Communities strategy as well as the Strategic Education Research Partnership units of study resource in the Exploring Multiple Perspectives strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

  3. Once the list of questions has been made, allow each student to choose a question that they want to focus on as their designated question.

Possible Extensions After Selecting the Question

  • Students will research information about their question, with the goal of becoming the "expert" for that question. This can take as long and be as in depth as the teacher desires.
  • Students will create a presentation about their research. Presentations can take on several forms:
    • Each student can present their findings to the class while the teacher scribes the information on the original anchor chart or white board where the questions were listed.
    • Each student can write what he or she learned about their specific research question on the original anchor chart or whiteboard where the questions were listed (see example in the resources)
    • Each student can create a poster with their question and answer, and then students can participate in a gallery walk to look at all of the presentations.

EL Modification

This strategy supports EL students to build their speaking and listening skills as they engage in a discussion with their class around questions they have about the topics in their upcoming unit. This strategy could be modified to support EL students by allowing students to have a few minutes to stop and jot down their questions before the whole class discussion begins, or by allowing students to come up with questions in small groups or pairs before sharing their questions with the class. An additional scaffold for level 1 students could be to provide students with question words and/or a list of vocabulary from the unit to guide their question writing.

Tech Tools


  1. Padlet is a digital corkboard type tool that students can use to gather information or reflections. Teachers can easily access each students' Padlet with a shared link.

  2. Padlet supports this strategy as a digital whiteboard or anchor chart where students can post their questions around the topic to generate research questions around the topic.