What's This? Silly Question Day!

by Kim Moldofsky, The Maker Mom

It’s been said that students enter school as question marks and graduate as periods. Surely you’ve seen a classroom buzzing with kindergarteners asking why this, why that. Now think about a typical middle school classroom where the most common question is likely to be, “Is this going to be on the test?” How can a teacher change this? Start by celebrating Silly Question Day!

What is Silly Question Day?

According to Wikipedia, Silly Question Day (sometimes called Ask a Stupid Question Day) was “created to by teachers to encourage students to ask more questions in the classroom.”

When is Silly Question Day?

It’s usually observed on September 28 or the last school day in September.

Why should I encourage students to ask questions?

When students ask questions, they become more engaged and more attentive. They take an increased ownership of their learning as they seek out meaningful answers to authentic questions. True innovators question assumptions and follow their curiosity.

What is a culture of inquiry?

A culture of inquiry is one in which students are expected to ask questions and are rewarded for doing so. A reward may be as simple as you, the teacher, taking time to listen and giving a thoughtful answer. Too often, students who ask questions are seen as weak. They feel vulnerable because by asking questions, students may see themselves as the only person in the class who does not know the information or lacks and understanding of the topic.

How can I create a culture of inquiry?

In many classrooms, a student who answers is rewarded more than the one who asks questions. It’s not that answers shouldn’t be solicited. Of course, the teacher still guides the class and needs to impart direct information or explain formulas at times. But in a culture of inquiry, the teacher also sets a tone that makes it safe to inquire and teaches students how to ask good questions. Students must ask the right questions if they want to find the right answers.

Teach students to ask open-ended questions. That is, questions which require thoughtful and descriptive answers.

Can you share a few techniques for helping students ask good questions?

The Five Whys helps get to the heart of an issue or observation.

Why/What if/How is a sequence used to identify a problem (why), explore potential solutions (what if) and act on those ideas (how).

10 in 10 As you explore a text or a concept, ask groups of students to create lists of 10 questions in 10 minutes. Think of it as “questionstorming” rather than brainstorming.

Flip it. Challenge students to turn answers into questions that move a lesson forward.

What are helpful resources for learning more about building a culture of inquiry and helping students craft good questions?

  1. A More Beautiful Question website and book.
  2. Make Just One Change, a book from the co-directors of The Right Question Institute.