How to Help Elementary Students Generate Effective Questions for Research Projects
Whether your students are studying life cycles of plants and animals, penguins, or sound waves, setting the foundation for student research is one of the most important parts of scientific discovery. What better way to have students research and discover than to teach them how to generate effective questions for student science research. Here are some tips to help your students get started!
Give students general topics
Sometimes you’ll want to leave the door wide open for any topic your students may want to discover more about. When you first start teaching effective questioning skills, you may want to give them a list of general topics to choose from. Try “soil erosion”, “plant cycles”, or “energy”. These topics are broad enough to allow for each child to come up with different questions but narrow enough to focus on your curriculum goals and standards.
Model think-aloud questioning
While reading a text or introducing a topic, stop and ask questions. Model your own effective questioning skills by asking questions that go beyond what can be answered on the page. Do this often early in the year so students feel comfortable asking their own questions in writing or verbally while they read.
Keep them open-ended
Show students the difference between open and closed-ended questions. Questions that can be answered with 1-2 words (including yes or no) are close-ended questions. They require little research, experimentation, or further inquiry. Open-ended questions use starter words like “why” or “how”. They also may ask for causes or effects. For example, “What factors cause a hurricane to form?” or “What effects do certain substances have on soil erosion?” Have students practice questions that require additional research outside the textbook or lesson materials to answer.
Look at text structures to help formulate questions
Identifying the text structure of a reading passage will help students generate questions. Talk about whether or not the organizational pattern of a text is cause/effect or problem/solution and formulate questions from there. Introduce the academic language in all content areas with materials that set your students up for success!
Encourage your students to explore websites that allow students to explore different topics and questions (many science related). Your students will love looking at resources and discovering more about what they’re learning!
Students can start researching in early elementary school by learning right away how to generate effective questions for student science research. Encouraging your students to ask questions in class, modeling what effective, engaging questions look and sound like, and sharing resources for exploration will make your students science researchers in no time!
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