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Why? Why? Why?

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Use your students' favorite questions --- Why? Why? Why? --- as the starting point for an across-the-curriculum activity for all ages.

Wonder Why Book Cover

Why do I get hiccups?

Why do astronauts float around in space?

Why are flamingos pink?

Why do elephants have trunks?

A number of companies publish books that are excellent sources of "Why?" questions. I've used the I Wonder Why series from Kingfisher Books, brand new this year. The series includes the book pictured here and two others -- I Wonder Why Stars Twinkle and Other Questions About Space and I Wonder Why I Blink and Other Questions About My Body. Ask your local bookseller for information about these great additions to your classroom library.

Why? Why? Why? And an occasional What? or How?

Why not turn the tables on the questions your students ask? Why don't YOU ask Why?

The result can be a great cross-curriculum experience:

  • Students build research skills by locating information -- in the library or on the Internet -- in response to questions of high interest.
  • Writing skills practice is provided as students write a brief report of their research.
  • Speaking skills can be part of this project if you choose to have students share the information they learn with their classmates.
  • If involving parents in their children's education is one of your school's thrusts, this is the perfect activity for doing that!
  • Work in art, math -- the possibilities are limitless!

    NOTE: While this activity is science-centered, it can be adapted to many other areas of the curriculum. Turn the science questions into geography questions (What is the leading export of the state of Alaska, and why?) or history questions (Why was the White House built in Washington, D.C.?).

    HERE'S THE ACTIVITY!

    This activity can be set up at a language or a science learning center. If you don't use a learning centers, no problem. Just start the activity on any bulletin board!

    • Use as your guide one of a series of books that answer Why? questions. The I Wonder Why series (see above) is an excellent resource. Most libraries have such books. Or you can find good resources for your Why? questions on the Internet. Check out The Why Files (click on "Filed Why Files") or You Can 50 Questions.

    • Gather a bunch of questions. (You might plan to have one question for each student in your class; then throw in about 10 additional questions so students have plenty to choose from.) Write each question clearly on a 3-inch by 5-inch index card. Use pushpins to post the questions on a bulletin board under an inviting Why? Why? Why? headline made from cut out letters. [See More Questions below.]

    • On Monday morning, introduce the activity to your students. Review some of the questions with them. Then invite each student to select one question that he or she really wants to learn the answer to. (This ensures they'll be motivated to complete the assignment!) To avoid the crush, students might be invited to select a question when they've finished with the day's assignments. They shouldn't pick a question that they already know the answer to!

    • Set a time limit for the project. You might give a week or longer to complete it. That depends on how detailed you want the student project to be (which might depend on the grade level you teach), whether you want to get parents involved, etc.

    • Set up a sharing time for students who would like to share the results of their research.

    • Introduce the source of your questions -- whether it was a book, a series of books, or the Internet sites mentioned above -- so students can check their answers. Also, students might be motivated to revisit those sources from time to time to learn more.

    • Put your students' reports together to make a Why? Why? Why? class book.

    Now, each time your students ask Why?, they've had practice finding the answers. This is a tool you can use all year long!

    MORE QUESTIONS

    A few more questions from Kingfisher Books' I Wonder Why Camels Have Humps and Other Questions About Animals.

    A few more questions from Kingfisher Books' I Wonder Why Stars Twinkle and Other Questions About Space.

    A few more questions from Kingfisher Books' I Wonder Why I Blink and Other Questions About My Body.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World® Editor-in-Chief
    Copyright © 1997 Education World

    08/25/1997