Do you have a child who asks questions constantly? Do you want a way to channel the curiosity of your students and teach them basic research skills? Here is a great resource for elementary age children to use: a questions notebook to guide students to investigate their own questions. This free printable is a wonderful way of encouraging curiosity and laying the foundation for critical thinking and independent research.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of Zoey and Sassafras for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Encouraging Curiosity: Create a Questions Notebook
My kids are full of questions: Why do dogs hate cats? Why can’t I see myself in the mirror with the lights off? Why is the word “cough” in “coffee”? This natural curiosity is the foundation of scientific learning, yet I was finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy their endless questions when I was, for example, cooking dinner or changing a squirmy toddler. I needed a way of encouraging curiosity while maintaining my sanity.
Yet more importantly, I remembered how my mother had handled my own endless questions when I was a child. Rather than just give me answers, she always sent me to the bookshelf where we kept a row of heavy, dark green encyclopedias. (Does anyone have these anymore? The original Google!) She could have easily just answered my questions, but instead she gave me the greater gift of learning to investigate for myself. Through practicing these basic research skills, I built my confidence and discovered the importance of finding out the truth for myself rather than relying on anyone else.
I wanted to do the same for kids, so I created this questions notebook: simply right click on the images below to download and print your copies!
Printable Page 1
Printable Page 2
How to Use This Printable
Print out copies of the notebook pages above and keep them on hand for your child or students. Encourage them to not only write down a question but a hypothesis as well. Some may feel too shy or uncertain to do this at first, but you will see their confidence grow as they gain experience.
Subject: Have them try to decide which subject heading their question falls under. This will come in handy as they begin their research, to help them choose the appropriate sources.
Bookshelf: On the second page I have listed several types of sources they can use to research their questions. I like to start with what is on your own bookshelf, to combat the urge to simply do an online search. Your bookshelf is immediately available and can encourage further exploration of the resources you already have at home or in your classroom. We love Picturepedia, Children’s Illustrated Dictionary, and Science: A Visual Encyclopedia.
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Online: Take some time to bookmark kid-friendly, reliable websites that they can use to do their research. For example, on our home computer I have bookmarked National Geographic Kids, Encyclopedia Britannica Kids, and kid-friendly search engines like Sweet Search and Kidotopia.
Library: If they would like to learn more, help them find more specific resources on your next trip to the library. Encourage them to ask a librarian if they need help finding relevant resources.
Expert/Field Trip/Experiment: If you can see that a topic has really fired up your students’ interest, you could arrange for a guest speaker, help them design an experiment, or facilitate a field trip (either as a class or as a suggested activity for home).
If You Are a Parent: Encourage your child to write her questions in her questions notebook. When you have some free time to sit with her, choose one or two to research together. As she gets the hang of it, she can do more of them independently, though you will still want to review the completed pages together when you can. These notebook pages can be the basis for science fair projects or school papers!
If You Are a Homeschooler: Researching these questions can be a regular part of your child’s independent work. Several times a week my son chooses a question or two to research while I’m working with his younger brother. This has become a favorite activity for both of us, as I love seeing what he discovers!
If You Are a Teacher: Again, this can be a great activity for independent work, or an enjoyable homework assignment. You may also choose several to investigate further as a class.
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Get Inspired with Zoey & Sassafras
To help get your kids excited about conducting their own research, introduce them to Zoey & Sassafras, a dynamic duo of a science-loving girl and her faithful cat who help the magical creatures who come to them with their problems. For example, in the first book, Dragons and Marshmallows, they help a sick baby dragon, while in Monsters and Mold they help a monster get rid of embarrassing mold so he can go to a dance. (Don’t you love the idea of monsters having a big, friendly dance party?)
There is so much I love about this series: the lovable characters, the wonderful relationship Zoey has with her parents, and the fact that this incredible girl makes the scientific method look like so much fun! As Zoey tries to help her magical friends, she must experiment to figure out the best solution. And she has a trusty notebook where she tracks her observations and experiments! She not only hones her powers of observation and analytical thinking, she is also practicing persistence in the face of failures and learning to use her skills to help others.
These books help children see themselves as scientists and researchers and feeds their interests in the wider world. Merhorses and Bubbles, for instance, will stoke their curiosity about environmental issues, as Zoey investigates why the magical creatures in the stream are in danger. These are great books for encouraging curiosity and empowering children to discover answers for themselves.
What are your favorite ways of encouraging curiosity in your children or students?