April 2021 Newsletter – Strengthening Scientific Thinking: Asking Questions & Gathering Information

Anyone familiar with young children knows they are full of questions.  They are on a quest to understand their world and ask thousands of questions along the way. Encourage children to ask questions by providing novel and interesting experiences to children as described in the section on observation.

Act as a model for how to ask all kinds of questions (who, what, where, when, and why). Remember to ask lots of open-ended questions on top of the normal, closed questions. Open-ended questions (What do you think is happening?) promote critical thinking while closed questions promote general recall and identification (Where do we hang our coats?). Ask questions that are spontaneous as teachable moments arise and planned as you might do when reading a new book to children.

Another way to encourage children to ask questions is to enthusiastically answer the questions they ask.  This might take some amazing acting skills on your part as you answer the same questions over and over. Do your best to answer the question with the same energy as you did the first time you were asked the question.

Sometimes, children ask questions to which we do not know the answers. This is quite common and should not be a reason for alarm. Teachers can reply by saying:

  1. I am not sure, but I am going to do some research and find out an answer for you.
  2. I don’t know the answer to that, how do you think we could find out?

Both responses model how to look for additional information from other sources. If you choose option one, be sure to get back to the student with the answer AND with how you found the answer. If you choose option two, work alongside the child to search for books, articles, videos, or other resources that explain the answer.

Here’s an idea – even if you know the answer, choose option 2. There is no better way to get children in the habit of seeking new information than making it necessary for them to find answers on their own. For example, if a child asks you how trees grow so tall, you could ask them for ideas on where to find the answer.  The child might respond by saying, “I bet my grandpa knows.”  You can then help the child record the question on paper as a reminder to contact Grandpa over the weekend to ask the question.

You could also create a Questions Board, where you can post different questions that are asked throughout the day. During class meetings, pull a few of the questions off the board and pose them to the large group.  Ask if anyone knows the answer, or has any ideas about how to find the answers.  Make plans to come back the next day with more information.

Have you found effective ways to promote questioning and researching with young children?

For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE

For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE