Question Starts
A routine for creating thought-provoking questions

  1. Brainstorm a list of at least 12 questions about the topic, concept or object. Use these question-starts to help you think of interesting questions:

  2. Why...?
    How would it be different if...?
    What are the reasons...?
    Suppose that...?
    What if...?
    What if we knew...?
    What is the purpose of...?
    What would change if...?

  3. Review the brainstormed list and star the questions that seem most interesting. Then, select one or more of the starred questions to discuss for a few moments.

  4. Reflect: What new ideas do you have about the topic, concept or object that you didn't have before?

Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
This routine provides students with the opportunity to practice developing good questions that provoke thinking and inquiry into a topic. It also helps students brainstorm lots of dif-ferent kinds of questions about a topic. The purpose of asking deep and interesting questions is to get at the complexity and depth of a topic. The purpose of brainstorming varied ques-tions about a topic is to get at the breadth, and multi-dimensionality of a topic.

Application: When and Where can it be used?
Use Question Starts to expand and deepen students'thinking, to encourage students' curios-ity and increase their motivation to inquire. This routine can be used when you are introduc-ing a new topic to help students get a sense of the breadth of a topic. It can be used when you're in the middle of studying a topic as a way of enlivening students' curiosity. And it can be used when you are near the end of studying a topic, as a way of showing students how the knowledge they have gained about the topic helps them to ask ever more interesting questions. This routine can also be used continuously throughout a topic, to help the class keep a visible, evolving list of questions about the topic that can be added to at anytime.

Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?
Before using Question Starts, you might want to ask students what they think makes a good question. Then, when you show the Question Starts, explain that this routine is a tool for asking good questions. Start the routine by providing a topic- Stockholm, a compass, the Equator, good sportsmanship. Ask them to use the Question Starts to generate a list of questions about the topic. Initially, it's best to work together as an entire group. Once students get the hang of the routine, you can have them work in small groups, or even solo. Or mix it up. For example, do step 1 as a whole class, do step 2 in pairs, and step 3 as a whole class again.