As you know, science is a subject area that is near and dear to my heart. So, it’s natural that I’m going to jump on the idea of any science project (that’s valuable) that my students can do – but I also want to make sure that I’m working on building those critical thinking skills. Generating questions is the way to go!
There are so many ideas for science projects online and in curriculum binders. But, are we really teaching students the scientific process if we just give them a question to research? Teaching our students how to ask effective questions is a reading strategy that will help in any content area, especially science! Looking at several types of effective question stems can help students start generating questions for science projects and research.
Generating Questions for Science Projects
Give your students a question stem like, “What caused ____________ to ____________?” or “What was the cause of ____________?” Using these stems will help students generate questions and talk about the text structure of cause and effect as it’s used in science. Give them example questions like, “What causes rocks to erode?” Flip the questions and ask about effects. For example, use a stem like, “What is the effect of ____________ on ___________?” Ask, “What is the effect of the moon phases on the tides?” Use these questions to help develop research or projects.
Compare and Contrast Questions:
Discussing differences and similarities can be a powerful questioning tool. Ask, “What are the differences between _____________ and _______________?” or “How are ____________ and _________ similar?” Try questions such as, “What are the differences between different types of artificial sweeteners?” or “How are left-handers and right-handers similar?”
Science relies heavily on processes, so asking questions about the steps involved in a method are helpful in understanding a design. “What are the steps involved in ______________?” is a good place to start with sentence stems. “What are the steps involved in growing plants?” or “What are the steps involved in making sugar crystals?” are two process questions.
Putting things into different categories or classifying types can be the basis for some science project questions. “What are the different types of ____________________?” is one question stem that can help get your students started. Try “What are the different types of fossils?” or “What are the different blood types?”
If you start by giving students a list of question stems, then they’ll be able to generate multiple questions to become the basis for further research. Effective questioning strategies are excellent for differentiating instruction and building those important critical thinking skills. The stems can be used for basic, entry level science questions where the answers can be found in a textbook or more complicated questions that require further research and experimentation. These tips for generating questions for science projects are a fantastic place to start with your next science project or unit and then are perfect for reviewing content later!