inquiry-based-science-stations

Inquiry Based Science Stations and Using QFT in Primary Grades

Hey y'all. I know you've heard about student-centered learning and have probably tried to incorporate more of it into your teaching practices. But how do you really turn the learning over to your students, get them engaged in their learning, and maintain some sanity in the process? Incorporate inquiry based learning strategies into your routine. 

If you're not familiar with inquiry learning, it's pretty similar to the phenomenon based learning I've talked about so much on this blog. The big idea is to get your students asking questions about the material and then working to find the answers. So how do you do that? I like to start with a little QFT. 

Question Formulation Technique

The question formulation technique, or QFT, is a strategy designed to get students asking authentic questions about a given topic in order to guide their learning. 

First, I show my students a zoomed in picture of what we're about to study. For instance, if we're starting a pumpkin unit, I may show a close up of a pumpkin stem or seeds. Students ask questions about the picture and either I write them down if we're doing this whole group with kinder or first grade kids, or kids write their questions with their table groups if we're working in teams (in the later half of 1st grade and up). After a few minutes, I'll show the zoomed out picture, like a whole pumpkin, and let students continue to ask questions. 

The key to the QFT is to write down any question students ask--no judgement and no answering the question and moving on. If students ask the same question twice, I just put a check mark next to it to show that more than one student said it. 

When questions are done, we determine which questions are open-ended or closed-ended. We write a "C" next to closed questions and an "O" next to the open ended questions. We then choose a closed question and rewrite it to make it an open ended question, and an open question to make it closed. 

Finally, we choose our top three questions, the ones that will help us understand the topic the most, and write them on our anchor chart and in our inquiry notebooks. 

These questions will guide our learning as we complete our unit. 

Inquiry Based Science Stations

These inquiry questions work great with science stations and our PBL/Inquiry units. Instead of having students visit each science station in rotations, I had each station out and ready for students to explore as they worked through researching their inquiry questions. 

In our patterns in the sky unit, students had some great questions about how how craters formed on the moon and created their own craters in their moon play dough to test out their findings themselves. 

In our weather unit, students questions related to the patters of weather in different seasons, the water cycle, and more. 

At the end of the unit, students used Flipgrid to share out all that they learned about weather, seasons, and the water cycle. They were able to share what they learned in an authentic way rather than simply filling in worksheets or completing an assessment. This allows me to give students credit for what they do know, not just which questions they could answer. 

Science stations and PBL/Inquiry units make it easy to get started and provide resources to springboard your students' research. 


Inquiry strategies can be used with just about any topic and can easily integrate subject areas as students read and research their topic; explore science and social aspects of it; measure, graph, and analyze data about it; and so much more. 

The focus is on having students ask and do research to answer their own questions. This puts kids in the drivers seat and gets them invested in what they are learning about. When students are able to do the work to answer their own questions, they retain the information and in turn seek answers to even more questions. 

It's such a simple strategy, but does amazing things for your learners and your classroom.  

Have you tried inquiry or QFT in your classroom yet? Let me know how it went in the comments. 


I hope this gave you some more ideas on how to incorporate student-centered learning in your classroom this year. Stay tuned for more inquiry based learning ideas coming your way soon. Be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers to be the first to know when new resources come out. 

Have a wonderful week and I'll talk to you soon. 

Stay cozy,