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Next Generation Science Standards

Getting Students to Ask Questions

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Margot Jacobs Margot Jacobs 650 Points

[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]

Karlie Howe Karlie Howe 1795 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.


Emily Faulconer Emily Faulconer 5755 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! 

Ashalenia Graham Ashalenia Graham 985 Points


I think one of the best ways to have your students invested in the lesson and asking questions is by allowing them to lead the different inquiries presented in the classroom.  By allowing the students to choose something they are naturally curious about brings about questions that a student would naturally have, especially if it is phenomena-based.  I think this approach brings more questions about as opposed to the teacher telling the students what they will be learning, lecturing, then asking if there are any questions.  I hope this helps

Charissa Barnhill Charissa Barnhill 2434 Points

To get students to ask questions, I think you have to present them with some phenomeonon that really gets them thinking. Having a good phenomenon should naturally lead them to asking questions. I have found that when you really give them the opportunity, they can ask really good questons. Another way can be to give them more freedom when doing lab activites. They produce much better results and ask much better questions when you give them the lab equipment and don't give them all the directions and sort of let them design their own experiment with what they have. Then the students are in control and really begin to ask lots of good questions. 

Olivia Phillips Olivia Phillips 450 Points

Margot, I really like your post, and I feel it is very important for students to ask questions. I am a sophomore in college as a secondary education major. I love your line that says, '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.' As teachers, it is important for us to get students using creativity to ask questions. One way that my teacher ensured students had to think critiqually and ask questions was by having a unit question. There was a main unit question, and at the end of each unit, we had to answer it in several ways. The questions were usually deep and thought provoking, and it required connecting main ideas from the unit together. Becuase of the higher level thinkning required to answer the question, my peers and myslef were constantly having group discussion and asking our teacher for connection clarificaitions. That could be one way to keep your students asking questions and participating in class!

Kai Johnson Kai Johnson 1305 Points


I think the most imortant part of getting students to ask questions is to create a respectful learning environment where students feel safe asking questions. They shouldnt be worried about someone calling their question stupid or saying its a bad question. Any question is a good question and should be accepted by the teacher. You can model this by asking questions of your own and wondering out loud about things that your students might also wonder about.

Alex Holden Alex Holden 620 Points

Hi Margot, 

I am an elementary education major at Warburg College. We talk a lot about the importance of asking good questions ourselves and teaching our students how to develop that skill. I believe that taking the time to help develop that skill has a big part in allowing students' natural curiosity and applying it to the lifelong skill of asking good questions. When looking up ways to help encourage that I came across this blog that contains lots of interesting activities to help start that development. Good luck!

Susan Koppendrayer Susan Koppendrayer 3681 Points

I encourage students' questions with an 'I wonder' board. After a brief overview of a new unit,  I have students write questions that they have('wonderings')concerning the topic on post-it notes (or small cards). We pin the questions to the board. I then read through the questions and add a few of my own questions or things that I wonder about the topic we are studying. As the lesson progresses, I encourage students to add questions as they arise and frequently revisit the 'I wonder' board questions to see if there are questions that we can now answer.

Marlee Boyle Marlee Boyle 1525 Points

Hi Margot! My name is Marlee Boyle. I am a preservice teacher from Wartburg College. I love that you included this quote by Albert Einstein. When students ask questions it helps to support deeper and critical thinking. It is important as educators to model good question-forming and asking. You are right. Children are natural scientists and curiosity is a natural thing in them as well. I believe it is important to encourage asking questions as students get older. You often find that when students get older, the fewer questions and less curious they become. We need to make sure we are keeping our science instruction fun, interesting, and challenging. This can help students be engaged and can prompt question-asking. A strategy you can use is notecards and a box. I know it’s simple. Some students may be afraid to ask questions in front of their peers. After each day or week have your students write a question on a notecard and collect them. You can read off the questions anonymously and have a short discussion over each. Who knows, maybe another student had the same question. I hope this helps!

Marlee Boyle Wartburg College

Lauren Apodaca Lauren Apodaca 345 Points

There is a lot of good advice in this thread! I'd like to add the importance of planning with the end in mind. What do you want your students to do/know by the end of the lesson, unit, etc. Then I start to think of what questions I can ask to help guide their thinking. This is a good start to help with confidence! I find that letting them interact with a hook and perhaps even hands on with an anchoring phenomena helps them start to think.

Mike Szydlowski Mike Szydlowski 720 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 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.

Breana Jones Breana Jones 210 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.

Tara Miller Tara Miller 290 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!

Rebecca Hall Rebecca Hall 1960 Points

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

Katheryne Ayers Katheryne Ayers 545 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.

Sawsan Ismaiel Sawsan Ismaiel 125 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.

Diana Jeff Diana Jeff 20 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

Whitney Pomeroy Whitney Pomeroy 615 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.'

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.

Summer Franco Summer Cortez 875 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.

Roxanna Chavana Roxanna Chavana 40 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? 

Rebecca Hall Rebecca Hall 1960 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 1960 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.

Nicole Anthony Nicole Anthony 702 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. 

Jill Minter-Cherry Jill Minter-Cherry 565 Points

I think that students work better and are more comfortable (espicially with something new) when they can work together and when they can build upon something else. If students are not comfortable with asking questions in science, you could start with a subject/topic that they are more comfortable with. They can work in small groups to ask questions and add on to each others questions. Sharing ideas leads to more ideas! Learning how to ask questions takes practice just like everything else we do. So scaffold and make students comfortable to set the foundation for them. I hope this helps!

Carrie Clark Carrie Clark 200 Points

My middle school students love the 'parking lot' I have set up in the classroom.  They have questions and are excited to ask them in a the comfortable way the parking lot offers them.  Another way I set them up at the beginning of the year to ask questions is to give lab groups a topic under the main topic we are/will be learning and then have them write questions they have about it.  It's so simple and yet they love it!  They are engaged and putting their curiosity into great questions.

Kaitlyn Warner Kaitlyn Warner 315 Points

Hi Margot!

I loved your emphasis on the importance of questions. I feel that too often questions are discouraged so that the teacher can spoon-feed all the information to the students. This makes learning much less meaningful. when students ask questions and then learn the answer through their own discovery, they retain the information more because they were the ones who asked the question and searched for the answer. I often find myself wanting to answer every question. I think the key to encouraging questions is letting the kids find the answers themselves. When they ask a question, let them discover. That will lead to more questions and more discovery. They will love the thrill of discovering the answers to their own questions!

Alyssa Selander Alyssa Selander 385 Points

I definitely agree with the original post and the one phrase where she connected students to being natural scientists. I think that it is extremely important to build lessons based on what students are already questioning about in their daily life and bring those questions to the classroom. By doing this you are modeling to students that their questions matter and in general inquiring is important. I think there have been a few other replies to the original post 

Ashley Mandy Ashley Mandy 295 Points

I definitely agree with all suggestions mentioned in the prior posts. I have learned in my years as a teacher that if students feel like they help plan the lesson then they take more pride in the outcome. Asking questions is such an important part in the learning process. Making them feel comfortable and helping them feel like they are valued contributors is a great way to promote involvement. 

Sarah Neves Sarah Neves 370 Points

Hi Margot,
I am currently a student teacher and the high school where I am placed at is really the first time that I’ve seen NGSS curriculum with storylining be implemented in the classroom. I think this curriculum effectively sets the stage for students to hone in on their natural curiosity and ask questions. For example, at the start of each unit or storyline, students watch a phenomenon, such as a video or a picture, and they’re simply asked to make observations and come up with any questions about what they’re seeing. For example, at the start of the Africa unit, students watch a video showing lions as they are stalking and hunting prey. This kind of anchoring activity helps further build their curiosity about the unit they are about to start and helps them practice the process of science themselves by asking questions and making their own observations. As a scaffold, you can also have students try to formulate questions using the 5 Ws, and have students work in groups. Having students watch a phenomenon, ask questions, and make observations before they are taught the content of the phenomenon has helped foster authentic questioning by the students and promotes class discussion about what they are seeing as well.
I also think it’s important to create a classroom climate that is encouraging of questions. It’s important to be encouraging and react positively to students when they ask questions so they will be encouraged to ask more in the future. Some suggestions for making a positive classroom environment could be encouraging collaboration between students and sharing questions they have come up as a group. When students can talk to one another before sharing in a whole class discussion, this can help raise their confidence to ask their questions. Another suggestion could be to smile and respond with words of encouragement such as “that’s a great question” or “that’s a really great observation you made, who else had a similar thought?” Extending a student’s question and asking if other students had the same question can also help students feel validated and more secure to promote future questions. Relationship building with students is also important so they feel comfortable sharing their ideas with you and so they trust that you will always encourage their thoughts and not shut them down or disparage them.
Another way to encourage questions in the classroom is to write down the questions your students ask and make a mini lesson out of them. You can even ask students how they would go about answering their own questions to exercise their problem-solving skills. This will really help students feel heard in the classroom, help them feel a sense of ownership in their learning, and help peak their curiosities. Allowing students to help shape their educational experiences and what they are learning about also helps to build engagement and communicates to them that the questions they ask are important and valued by you.

Alexis Brown Alexis Brown 735 Points


I am a current fourth year student at Wartburg College majoring in elementary education, but gearing towards middle school science. You response had so much information and thought put into it! Starting the NGSS curriculum seems like a daunting task for my future classroom, so your response made me feel better. I love the idea of having a phenomenon for your students to raise questions about the unit topic. I want my classroom to be inquiry-driven wtih students asking all sorts of questions. However, I know that if that is going to happen, I will need to teach my students how to form their own questions. Do you know of any good sources that will help me figure out some of the best ways to introduce inquiry and question-forming to my students who may have never done this before?

Elise Dickerson Elise Dickerson 1078 Points

I think a great way to have students ask questions is to model the technique. I teach first grade and have to first teach my students the difference between a question and a statement. Then, I show them what asking questions looks like. We use the 'see, think, wonder' technique as well. Hope this helps!

Thomas Nicosia Thomas Nicosia 50 Points

As a teacher, I understand how difficult but important it is to keep students on the topic of the lesson, but if students themselves do not ask questions, it means that they either understood everything or did not understand anything. I always wait for questions from my students, because if they have no questions it means that I should explain the topic again. Sometimes even to inspire students to work hard and to set them up for good learning I use and this service helps me to write my speech to students and inspire them a little bit. Thank you all for your answers! The topic is very interesting. 

Jackeline Ibarra Jackeline Ibarra 810 Points

 Some strategies I will use with my students to create and ask their own questions is by creating group activities so students can also learn from each other, making the class very interesting for them so they can be related to our daily life and can ask questions about the topic or assignment. 

One of the hardest things I have discovered as a teacher is getting my students to ask questions. Most students refuse to ask because they don't want to ask the wrong thing. I have opened up my class to be a no judgement zone. My students are highly encouraged to ask and answer questions. I do like some of the suggestions made and I plan to use them also. 

Ashley Easterling Ashley 280 Points

Not only getting them to ask questions (good questions) but getting them to answer is difficult at times as well!  The I dunno always seems to come up efven if I know they know the answer.  It is like they are so afraid to be wrong they rather play 'dumb' than to actually try and put in effort.

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