Science Questions to Ask

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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The most important part of any science unit is not the experiments or activities or teaching… but rather the questions that the teacher asks. So what should we be asking and when should we use ask them?

Why questions?

Children learn best when they create their own learning. As teachers, the best thing we can do is to have students explore and experiment and build their own foundation of understanding. However, students cannot just be left alone with materials and be expected to learn on their own. They need a teacher to lift up their understanding. They need a teacher to lift up their zone of proximal development. Teachers do this by prompting questions.

Also, we want to model to our students that scientists are always asking questions. It also sets the expectation that scientists have to explain and prove their thinking.

Who is doing the talking?

An important question for teachers to routinely ask themselves is – “Who is doing the talking?” In an engaging purposeful classroom, the voice you should hear the most of is the students. A teacher does this most effectively by asking intentional questions and letting the students reason and explain their thinking.

Open-ended versus closed questions

There is a very big difference in the effectiveness of asking open-ended questions versus closed-ended. Closed-ended questions are ones that have a simple, one-word answer (which is often yes or no). For example, “Do you think that plants need water?” The answer the students give would either be yes or no. It doesn’t really give you much information as a teacher, it doesn’t give the student a chance to explain their thinking, and it doesn’t help grow their thinking. Open-ended questions require much more thought and explaining. They also often start with the words – what, why, or how.

Examples

Here are some of my go-to questions for my students:

  • “Why do you think that?”
  • “What do you think would happen if….”
  • “How does that _____ work?”
  • And a great go-to conversation starter that isn’t a question… “Tell me about that!”

Want to see an example of what I might ask during a science experiment? See this IGTV video!

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You asked for more videos so here we go! I definitely can think of things I would say or do differently next time, but that is the benefit to watching yourself teach! And the benefit of teaching- we get to reflect and try again and try to do it better! 🤔this is the first of many water experiments and discussions. We will do a whole unit later in the year. I don’t want to explicitly teach them about sinking and floating yet- I want them to explore with these ideas and really understand what they mean. They learn it better if they discover it themselves. Their idea of middle vs floating is what I will work on next with them! 👂 for my science discussion prompts. I try to get my students to use science vocabulary and add on to each other’s discussion points. 👀 for my classroom management strategies 🤔 what will you try with your students? What would you do differently? (This experiment comes from my apple unit on @teacherspayteachers let me know if you want the link!) • • • • #teachingscience #scienceforkids #teachingstrategies #classroommanagement #classroommanagementstrategies #classroomdiscussions #sciencediscussion #kindergarten #kindergartenteacher #kindergartenscience #earlychildhoodeducator #earlychildhoodeducation #teachershare #teachersbelike #teacherspayteachers #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #kindergartenlife #kindergartenlessons #teachinglessons #kindergartenactivities

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Conclusion

Asking questions is a critical teaching technique when teaching science, and any other subject for that matter! Questions must be open-ended and encourage students to explain their thinking.

What is your favorite question to ask?

Want more science help? Check out some other science blog posts on plants, water, ladybugs, and the frog life cycle.

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