Magnets are such a common item in our lives, that for this unit, I decided to start with my students just generating questions about magnets. I engaged my students with one simple question, " I always wondered about magnets have you?"
For the first part of this activity, my students worked in groups of two in order for them to think-pair-share. I also used a PowerPoint, I wonder...to ensure that we were all following the same guidelines when generating questions. Students were each given a post-it note on which they wrote at least one or two I wonder.. questions and shared it with their partner. Here are two sample questions Are bigger magnets stronger? and Do magnets work in water? The most difficult part of this activity is stopping students from sharing what they "think" may be the answer with each other. Here's an example of a student screaming NO when another student tries to give his explanation of a question.
After the think-pair-share, students groups are increased to groups of four. They share their wonderings and were surprised when other students had similar questions. We then made a class list of six Magnet wonderings based on the most popular choices, and some that they thought just sounded interesting, for example, "do magnets work in water?" Here are some examples of their Magnet Post-it I wonder Questions
This activity was very successful. Generating questions provided a really nice balance because everyone was engaged no matter their ability level.The NGSS wants students to be able to generate leading and "testable" questions. I find that by dedicating one lesson per unit to this activity my students have gained the confidence level they need to be able to meet this standard. In preparation for our next lesson, for homework, my students completed an organizer, What I know about magnets_How I've Seen them used.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about letting my students ask their own questions before the unit, but the Next Generation Science Standards are all about giving students more control over what they pursue to learn. My students really took to this strategy, of coming up with their own questions, and then watching them be answered throughout the lessons. I think the strategy made me a better teacher in that I looked for ways to try to answer those questions they had through my lessons or through the readings that we did in class. I will use this strategy again in Science and in other content areas as well.