Promoting Questioning Skills in Elementary students

I think the approach has to be deliberate. Teachers need to spend considerable time encouraging students to ask questions. They need to design different activities that can promote questioning skills. This week I tried a simple approach.

I put a very boring, mundane word at the center of the whiteboard:


The students had to generate as many questions as they could. The quiet ones were suddenly quite vocal. I made it clear that every question was acceptable.

The students came up with questions such as:

What can cut a pair of scissors?

What would life be like without scissors?

Who decided to call a scissors a scissors?!

When was the first pair of scissors invented?

Can a scissors dance? (hmm)…The students decided this was a Perspective question.


I then decided to use the PYP concepts of Form, Function, Change, Connections, Perspective, Causation and Responsibility to generate more questions.

We had no questions that came under Responsibility. So the concepts guided us and we came up with: How have scissors been designed to prevent young children from cutting themselves?

The concepts allowed the students to sort their questions out and come up with new ones.

All the students wanted to carry on this activity as homework. They decided the topic (Crocodile- as we are studying ecosystems) and came up with brilliant questions.

One I have to share: Where does “crocodile tears” come from?

Causation questions are a challenge. Why is something the way it is? I am working on this one.

Why is a crocodile’s skin thick? or Why does it have a long snout?…are some examples. I need to squeeze it out from them. Any suggestions about different questioning skills are welcome. I will try them out and post my success or lack of it, on the blog 🙂

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4 Responses to Promoting Questioning Skills in Elementary students

  1. whatedsaid says:

    Hi Naini
    I love the idea of using the key concepts to provoke different kinds of questions. I tried it recently with Year 6 kids and they came up with great questions, but the discussion was the best part, as they argued and justified why a particular questions was ‘causation’ not ‘connection’ etc.
    I think one key thing in generating good questions though is providing a provocative stimulus. A series of incredible images of crocodiles will stimulate more authentic, interesting questions than just the word itself does. What do you think?
    Take a look at these two thinking routines from Project Zero which are helpful ways to promote questioning…


  2. Great to see this example and the comment. You may want to see our article in Harvard Education Letter on Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions.
    Also, we have resources for teachers at
    The issue of the “stimulus” or as we call it the QuestionFocus is interesting. Sometimes, simple and unadorned (and unbiased) is sufficient. Sometimes, provocative works better. Glad to find out about your work.


  3. Pingback: Questioning Facts | Inquire Within

  4. Pingback: How do you analyse student questions? | Inquire Within

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