How powerful is your question | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

How powerful is your question?

Learn how to create powerful science inquiry questions.

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30 mins
Thought starter


In this activity your students will practice Identifying questions to answer or problems to solve through scientific inquiry. This activity nurtures aspects of the Questioning and predicting curricular competency and can be easily adapted to the exploration of any science concept, phenomenon, or content.


What you'll need

  • "Creating powerful questions" handout, at least one per group
  • "Assessing my ability to create powerful questions" rubric, one per student

  1. To begin the activity, organize your students into small groups and provide each group with a copy of the "Creating powerful questions" handout. Briefly explain that their challenge is to identify the qualities of powerful and not-so powerful questions. 
  2. Ask groups to suggest patterns or qualities of the example powerful questions, as well as the non-examples.
  • Students should notice that the examples of powerful questions require a decision be made using evidence and criteria. 
  • Students should notice that the first three non-examples could be answered by searching for and repeating information. The fourth question is a personal preference. These questions do not require a decision or use of evidence.
  1. As students share their observations, co-develop or present criteria for a powerful question. A powerful question:
  • Requires a decision or a choice
  • Needs supporting evidence and information
  • Uses criteria
  • Can have more than one possible answer

Prompt students to note the criteria on the handout. If using criteria is new to your students, you may want to review the criteria that would be needed to respond to each of the example questions (for example, in question C, the criteria for “a best sport” could include fun for all people, suitable for the area available, uses easily-found equipment). 

  1. Now guide your students’ attention to the “Test the questions” section of the handout. Prompt groups to decide which of the criteria each of the three questions meets or does not meet. Ask groups to revise any question that does not meet the criteria so that it does meet all three criteria. Invite groups to share their revised questions with the class. 
  2. Ask students to work on their own to create two examples of powerful questions and one example of a non-powerful question. These questions could be about any science concept, or a topic that your students find interesting. 
  3. Encourage students to share their questions with the class, and have the class use the criteria to decide which two are powerful. 
  4. To conclude the activity, invite your students to suggest which questions—powerful or not powerful questions—would be the best for creating science inquiry questions or projects. 
  5. Encourage your students to use the criteria for a powerful question whenever they are developing a project or experiment.

Curriculum Fit

Grade 4, 5, 6 Science

Curricular competency

Questioning and predicting

  • Identify questions to answer or problems to solve through scientific inquiry


  • Invite each student to complete a copy of the "Assessing my ability to create powerful questions" rubric. 
  • Evaluate students’ ability to:
    • Use the criteria to develop or refine powerful inquiry questions. 


Select the materials you require for this activity or download all

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