Scaffolding An Inquiry Question With Kids

Informing a bunch of rowdy 10 and 11-year-olds that you are going to create space in their weekly schedule, and allow them to follow their passions, is easy.  Nurturing a sense of wonder and helping students generate deep-thinking questions to guide their inquiry journey is entirely more challenging!


I had the pleasure of attending an inquiry session on the topic of #geniushour with Hugh McDonald in Chilliwack on Friday.  Through this session,  I learned the importance of scaffolding inquiry questions with my learners.  I’ve tried to engage in inquiry learning without guiding questions, but I found that my learners lacked focus.  This week, my learning centers on scaffolding the process of generating questions to guide inquiry.


Generating Context:

Videos and books are two great ways to generate context around inquiry thinking.

Sharing videos that depict people engaging in their passion are always very helpful.  I like Caine’s Arcade by Nirvan Mullick because it clearly demonstrates the creativity, grit, determination, and passion on a regular nine-year-old kids – something that I hope my learners can connect with.

‘Caine’s Arcade’ by Nirvan Mullick


I also like Moonshot Thinking because it emphasizes that ordinary people have and will continue to advance social change in positives way.

‘Moonshot Thinking’ by Google


The last video I’ll use to provide context to inquiry learning is Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap because I love his enthusiasm and the scientific lens through which he approaches his inquiry.

‘Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap’ by littlepythagoras


Picture books, which highlight creative forces at work can also be helping in providing context for inquiry learning.  Some of the books I’ve found include:


Helping Learners Find Their Passion:

I found last year that students whose parents were actively engaged in their child’s school experience were able to find their passions much sooner than those who did not.  There are those students I encounter every year who are internally ‘driven’ and have no problem identifying and describing their passions, but the majority of my learners need time and a little help discovering their talents.


Below are ways to help the majority of your learners find their passion.  Ask students to make a list of:

  • Five things you love to do
  • Five things they are good at
  • Five things they like to do outside of school
  • Things you do when nobody is telling you what to do


Thinking is Driven By Questions:

I value the literacy work of Vancouver educator, Adrienne Gear and her series of Reading Power Books.  In particular, I have found her nonfiction work on questioning to be extremely useful.  I used to think that my learners should be able to generate thoughtful questions surrounding the work we do, but I’ve learned that to ask deep-thinking questions is a skill that requires development.


My students ask a variety of different types of questions.  Many are examples of simple questioning; questions that identify information they already know about the topic – redundant questions, and questions that do not move the inquisitor to a deeper understanding the topic – distracting questions.

According to Gear (2008), deep-thinking questions:

  1. Take time to answer
  2. Help to deepen understanding of the topic
  3. Usually have more than one answer
  4. Lead to more questions

When embarking on classroom inquiry projects, it is important to spend the time helping all learners find their passion.  This process can begin by asking simple questions about what learners do when they are not in school.


Gear, A. (2008). Nonfiction Reading Power. (K. Mototsune, Ed.) (p. 160). Markham: Pembroke/Stenhouse.


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