THE BLOG

Creating Your Own Questions

08/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

(This first part I read with and discussed with my students.)

Many excellent scientists think through, devise experiments, and solve or answer many complicated questions. However, the greatest scientists are those who ask the kinds of questions that lead to new theories, concepts, and information that change the world.

The process of asking questions makes you think more deeply and thoughtfully about what you have read or a program that you've seen or an idea that has been discussed. Good questions, like good answers, need accurate information and then need to be put in a form that shows that you understand the material. The purpose of asking questions is not just to test what you know, but also to increase your understanding and to explore the subject more deeply.

Example. Answer this question. What are the major events in Red Riding Hood? To do so you must be able to recognize the difference between major and minor events and then place them in proper sequence or order. In Red Riding Hood the Sequence of the Main Events are: leaving home to bring food to Grandma; meeting the Wolf in the forest; the Wolf eating Grandma and disguising himself to trick Red; and the Woodcutter saving Red.

Red getting ready to leave, mother kissing her goodbye, wandering in the woods, and asking about each of the wolf's features are minor events.

How difficult is your question? Is there a wolf in the story? This is too easy and can be answered by a yes. A better question is -- Why does Red disobey her mother and talk to the wolf? Answer is -- because she is nice and very trusting. Question -- What is the author trying to say or to teach? Answer -- You should obey your parents or serious consequences will occur.

How your question is asked and its form will get different answers. A who question will get a person in the answer. A when question will get a time. A true or false or yes or no asks for a simple one word answer. Multiple choice asks you to write a letter or number based on several choices.

Does your question ask for a fact or an opinion? An opinion should be based on many facts and a conclusion made about them. Fact: Is London in England? Yes. Opinion: Is the weather in London bad? It depends. The facts are it is foggy and rainy so some people may hate it, but others may love it. An opinion question encourages thoughtful discussion based on facts.

Is your question clear? How do you make tortillas? Where can you land a plane? Why is it necessary to understand how a question is constructed?

More Creating Questions:

These are more examples of the kinds of questions you can create. The questions you ask can be things you would like to know or they can be proof of how well you understand what you have read. Good questions indicate your understanding and your intelligence.

Who, What, Where, When, Why, How questions.

1. Who. Who was the first president? Who is standing there? Who will win?
Who asks for a person.

2. What. What is that called? What did you use to open that container? What happened to you?
What asks for an object, thing, or an event.

3. Where. Where is the money? Where did you go? Where in Europe is Spain?
Where asks for a place or location.

4. When. When did you return? When is Marie's birthday? When was that car sold to him?
When asks for a time.

5. Why. Why did you run away? Why does just your room get so dirty? Why do bears hibernate?
Why asks for a reason or purpose.

6. How. How are you today? How do you fix a transmission? How do you want that term paper written?
How asks for a sequence, a way, a process, or an explanation.

True or False or Yes or No questions.
1. A horse has six legs.
2. The Lakers have won consecutive World Championships.
3. George Washington was the first king of the United States.

Multiple Choice questions.
1. A car has (a) a heart (b) a motor (3) a branch
2. Do __ people have to duck to enter a room? (a) stupid (b) handsome (c) tall
3. Is a banana a (a) vegetable (b) mineral (c) fruit?

Essay questions.
In 3 to 5 paragraphs explain how you could become the best student in your class.
In no more than one page compare one Harry Potter with one Lord of the Rings film as to which main hero has more courage.

Teachers or parents give them practice in creating their own questions by using social studies or some reading that they have usually just answered the questions at the end of the chapter. You will be amazed at their interest, but they need help in improving the quality of their questions.

Use the novel Rick and Bobo to give students practice in asking questions. In the beginning most want to use the simpler types, but teach and encourage them to create more complex questions, even those with no easy answers or ones that may promote great discussions.