In this lesson, children are challenged to make as many questions as they can about an unfamiliar object to find out more about it. Because it is easier to ask questions about a concrete object, I use six unfamiliar objects to spur their thinking. The kids always want answers, but this lesson is about questions!
Develop a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding. (AASL 1.1.3, “Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.”)
Working in groups, students develop and write questions about an unfamiliar object. Students will record their questions and then compare them with questions generated by other teams.
Asking and answering questions enables us to learn about any subject. Much of what our communities need has never been done before. Becoming a skilled question-asker enables one to participate actively in seeking to understand and find solutions. But . . . .
To write good questions, you need to know how to use question words. In English, these words are . . . . (children will tell you.) Answer: Who, What, Why, When, How. You may also know these words in another language. Ask a few students to give you the question words in their mother tongues, if appropriate. Ask the children to keep the question words in mind throughout the lesson – they will need them!
Remember that it is also possible to make a question by starting your sentence with a helping verb. Examples: “Is it . . . . .,” “Does it . . . . . . “ “Can you . . . . . ?” etc.
Begin the lesson by showing one of the unfamiliar objects. Ask the students what they would like to know about this object. As they tell you, ask the teacher to scribe the kids’ questions. Be sure that they use each of the question words at least once. This short discussion will model what the groups will do next.
Ask children to move to tables and sit in groups of four. You may need to assign groups to make this transition move more smoothly. Give each group an unfamiliar object.
Task: Write as many questions as you can that, if answered, would help you learn about this object. Record these on the back of your assignment sheet.
Each student does his/her own writing but the students within each group should discuss and help each other.
After about five minutes, say that the groups should be able to get at least 30 questions. Give a warning after 12 minutes and call “Time” after about 15 minutes. (Adjust timings to suit your own schedule.)
Bring kids back to carpet or together as a class to wrap up.
Ask teams to give you some of their questions. Have groups compare their work as each team takes it in turns to call out one of their questions.
Clap for the team with the most questions. Clap for the most original question or the most insightful question.
Challenge: Ask students to try to see how many questions they can ask at home this evening and how long it will take them, using this technique, for their parents to ask, “What’s up with all the questions??”
- Question Word “poster.” See attached photo for a suggestion.
- Unfamiliar objects, as many as six. See attached photo for a few suggestions.
- Student Handout (attached)
Students sometimes get “stuck” in their thinking and need to be nudged by a teacher to try using a different question word or to think about another aspect of the object. If you need to give hints, hints might include:
- Ask about the origin of the object.
- Ask about the use of the object.
- Ask about the composition of the object.
- Ask about the dangers of the object.
- Ask about the value of the object.
- Ask about the physical characteristics of the object.
- Ask about whether the object changes.
Draw on the PYP Key Concepts of Form, Function, Causation, Change, Connection, Perspective, Reflection, and Responsibility. If the students are familiar with these key concepts, they should be able to generate quite a few questions.
I’ve taught this lesson many times and the students generally get a charge out of making the questions. I find that they are slow to start, but get the hang of it quickly. The emphasis of this lesson is volume – we want the kids to generate a lot of questions quickly. This is an exercise, but if they can become confident question askers, their questions will guide inquiry. I usually work with fourth grade or older, but I think that younger children could do this exercise as well.
Recommended Books for this lesson: