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Recording Children's Questions - for Child-led Inquiry or Project-based Learning!

HOW WE MONTESSORI Otis' bedroom 2020 Sydney

Does your child ask a lot of questions? Often at inconvenient times? Questions that you may not know the answers to? We've found it useful to record the questions that Otis (9 years) asks and go back to them when we can, often with Otis taking the lead on finding an answer. 

If we are out I will record the questions on my phone, at home we will use large sticky notes and more recently a white board. It's been beyond useful to have the questions on the wall in a large/poster size. These questions often form the basis for child-led and project based learning.

Why do we record his questions?

  • So that we remember the questions. Often I would try to remember then later fail at remembering exactly what he asked. It's best to record it straight away so the details are accurate.
  • So that we can can fully explore the answers, so the child is answered in full and satisfied with the answer, not feeling dismissed when we don't know all of the answer at the time.
  • Often we will provide a brief answer on the spot but may come back later with follow up details or to share resources with the child on the topic like a book or podcast.
  • Often the questions asked are big picture questions that we don't know how to answer or don't have the time to answer on the spot. Some questions we feel we may benefit from taking a look further once we've all done some research.
  • To see if there are any themes or interests developing that could spark further inquiry-based or project-based learning. This has been SO relevant for us as we find that often Otis' big picture questions follow a theme, for a long time it's been a space theme.
  • So the child can take time to find the answers themselves. This is also relevant for us. We find a lot of the questions that Otis asks deserve a thorough answer which is best researched and investigated by the child. We can guide but this is the perfect opportunity to undertake mini child-led projects.
  • To start the documentation process where child can lead their learning and learn to document their learning and start keeping records. This is particularly important once the child develops research skills and undertakes more project-based learning. 
  • To  see which interests and questions last and which pass quickly, the child may determine they don't want to answer or further investigate some questions and other questions they may want to answer in details or ask more questions about!
  • To keep questions the questions and  potential projects and learning in a prominent place so they aren't easily forgotten.
  • To give the child ownership over the question and their learning, they may go on a tangent and eventually find the answer but will learn so much through the process. They can remove the questions when they find they have the answers they are looking for or they can leave the questions up for as long as they like.
  • The questions will give insight to what the child already knows about a topic, this can be useful for further learning. 
  • Allows the child to take time and dig deeper into the topic if they wish.
  • If the child is repeating the same or similar questions we know that further investigation/inquiry may be required.

We accept that some questions are one-off, stand alone questions that the child quickly forgets about but many are questions that are valid, that are huge questions of interest to the child that often turn into mini projects or tap into a larger interest. The questions tell us a lot about the child, their learning and where their thoughts are.

In relation to project-based learning I find this quote is useful where questions turn into more questions which turns into authentic child-led learning.

"Deep, complex, inquiry-based investigation doesn't identify a single set of questions that are swiftly and neatly answered. Each new answer creates new questions, triggering new spurs of inquiry. It is this repeating cycle of questions and answers that leads children to collect a large amount of interrelated knowledge and build authentic understanding." - Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori McWilliam Pickert.

Have you tried this? Do you record your child's questions? It can be useful for younger children too, from two years as it can assist in all forms of child-led learning.

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