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4 ways to encourage students to ask questions

Children are naturally curious. They absorb new things and want to know more about everything. The behaviour and reaction of adults to their questions feed or deplete their curiosity.

This is part 3 of a series of blogs to enumerate habits essential to building scientific temper in students. You can read our blog on making observations here, on noting observations here, and on recognising patterns here.

In this blog, we focus on how to encourage students to ask questions and help them look for answers.

Some things that we can keep in mind to encourage students’ questions:

1. Accept that you do not know all the answers

Children and students have a lot of questions. It is almost certain that we, as adults, will not know all answers to their questions – and this is okay. Encouraging children to come up with questions does not need you to have all the answers. It, however, does need you to encourage children to find out the answers. In fact, I sometimes do not give out an answer that I may know so that students are encouraged to find out answers by themselves.

2. Maintain a questions journal

A good way to formalise questioning is to encourage students to maintain a log of their questions. This can be in the form of a journal. Writing down questions helps students formulate their queries clearly, helps them catalogue all their questions and makes them available in one place.

3. Encourage and support their quest to find answers

You can support children in finding answers by helping them with resources from where they can find answers. ‘Finding out answers’ is new for them. They will need support and scaffolding for this. Identify reading or media resources which help students formulate answers. Help them set up experiments or activities which lead them to answering their questions.

4. Model questioning and uncertainty

Students generally experience that knowledge or knowing something is valued. We need to change the value system to encourage questions and normalise ‘not knowing (but finding out)’. One important way to do this is to ask questions. “I wonder why the sky is blue…?” This type of behaviour is a good model for children to replicate. It is also important that we model uncertainty in our behaviour. “Hmmm… that’s funny. It did not expect it to do that. I wonder why it did that?”

If students do not get satisfactory answers to their questions regularly, they are likely to lose interest in asking questions. As an adult, it becomes important that we strike the right balance between helping them answer questions when they are going through a productive struggle and giving them some information when they seem to be spinning their wheels with no progress in their learning.

STEM projects and activities in unboxED always include several opportunities for students to ask and note questions, and prompts to set them on their quest to look for the answers.

unboxED offers the child and educator resources to build a growth mindset while exploring Literacy and STEM concepts through conversations and creation, and letting kids be kids. These products have been built keeping in mind the academic and cognitive skills needed at various stages of the child’s development.

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