Questions can be scary things. They can mean doubt and confusion or inquisitive, self-instructed bliss. As a child, I remember never wanting to ask a question when I didn’t understand because I thought it meant I wasn’t smart enough or couldn’t do it by myself (and as a very independent child, that was the last thing I wanted to feel). I even felt that way in college until my A+ academic world was rocked thanks to Physics 100 and I failed my first test ever. It was in that moment I knew I had to put away my pride, go to office hours, and start attending the tutoring sessions (run by the cute TA, Jeffrey).
As a teacher, I love when my kids as me questions. Last year I had a student who told his mom that I knew the answer to every question he asked, and he would intentionally come to class with a random question for me almost every day. My kids ask me why Uranus is the coldest planet instead of Neptune and we’re off on a mini-research hunt to dig up the answer. They ask how finding the main idea is relevant in the real world and I make sure to let them know how helpful it’ll be for them in the future when they’re reading multiple nonfiction articles for term papers in college.
Despite my love of their questions, I like to ask them questions right back. Why do you think the government should fund NASA missions? How would you use the skill of skimming when you’re reading on your own at home? How do you know ‘x?’ Why do you think ‘y?’ We’re asking and answering questions about texts, authors, and everything in between every single day.
Questioning is how we think, how we process, how we learn. If we don’t encourage students to ask questions, how are we fostering an authentic learning environment? If it weren’t for questions, how would we ever figure stuff out?!
Earlier this year a parent approached me at a school event and was telling me about how her family caught part of the Antares (failed) rocket launch on TV. Her son was asking questions about what was going on with the rocket, and with each parental response, her son continued to probe with “whys” and “hows.” This parent told me, “I kept trying to answer his questions, and he kept asking them right back to me — I thought, ‘Where did you learn how to do this?!'”
I legitimately cannot wait to see what this kid invents to keep rocket launches safer and more environmentally-friendly (here’s to hoping he gives his third grade teacher a shoutout when he accepts his Nobel Prize for Physics someday).
The art of questioning holds great power and can unlock many doors that we as a generation haven’t dared open yet. So, how do you use questions to enhance student learning? How do you promote a safe, positive, question-filled classroom?
This article inspired this post!