Asking questions and defining problems is one of the science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Tapping into student thinking and curiosity goes beyond their asking procedural questions.
Teachers often say, “Any questions? Good.” with little or no time between the words “questions” and “good.” Without wait time, students don’t have an opportunity to think. And sometimes they don’t know what to ask. Take a look at the prompts you use to solicit questions. A context for questions (such as “Any questions about the…” “How could we determine…” or “What would happen if…”) with a few seconds of wait time may help students formulate their thoughts.
Some students may perceive asking questions as a sign of weakness. They might be interested but hesitant to show it. Or they may be afraid of being ridiculed. Remind students that there are no “dumb” questions and establish an environment of respect. Show interest in their questions, even if you’ve heard them many times before. Model the type of questions you want them to generate.
Sometimes students come up with questions that are not related to the topic. These might be teachable moments, but if not, use a section of a bulletin board or wall space as a “parking lot” to save them for later discussion.
Student questions do not have to be oral. Strategies such as exit tickets, the “W” column of a Know/Want to know/Learned (KWL) chart, or the written results of a think-pair-share discussion can stimulate student questions.
Your guidance, encouragement, and positive feedback can provide a safe place for student to ask questions.