Choosing Investigable Questions


Objectives: After completing the lesson, students will be able to:

  identify whether a question can be investigated or not


Key Question: "How do we create questions that scientists can answer?"



            This lesson is the first of a 4 lesson block that serves as the culminating activity for the dry ice investigations. The emphasis switches from guided-inquiry investigations to a much more open-ended investigation of dry ice. This lesson begins with an exercise designed to illustrate for students the difference between questions that are investigable by scientific processes (at the 6th grade level), and questions that are not investigable. This is accomplished by looking at specific questions, and through discussion, determining what investigable questions have in common: "measuring," "comparison," and "what happens if," questions are found, generally, to be investigable, while "how" and "why" questions are not investigable. Students are then asked to work in groups of two and create their own investigable question about dry ice that they will eventually answer through experiment or systematic observation.


Time Required: 45-60 minutes (1-2 class sessions). Based on past experience, there is a very real possibility that this lesson will take the better part of two class sessions to complete.



for the class

  an overhead transparency for each of the following from the Dry Ice GEMS guide:

  "Planning Our Investigation: page 1" (p. 108);

  "Sorting Questions 1" (p. 112);

   "Sorting Questions 2" (p. 113)

   "Question Strips" (p. 114)


for each pair of students

  1 envelope

  1 copy of each of the following student handouts:

  "Question Strips" (pp. 114-115)

  "Sorting Questions 1" (p. 112)

  "Sorting Questions 2" (p. 113)

  "Planning Our Investigation" (p. 108-111)

  "Systematic Observation or Investigation" (p. 116) rubric




Procedure: see pp. 95-106.






  "Planning Our Investigation" (p. 108-111)

   discussion of "Sorting Questions 1 and 2" (pp. 112-113)

  "Performing an Experiment," (p. xvi)

  "Posing Questions," pp. 39-40 in Inquiry Skills Activity Book

  "Developing a Hypothesis," pp. 41-43 in Inquiry Skills Activity Book



  "Performing an Experiment," p. xvi in Focus on Earth Science: Laboratory Manual.

  "Posing Questions," pp. 39-40 in Inquiry Skills Activity Book

  "Developing a Hypothesis," pp. 41-43 in Inquiry Skills Activity Book


OUSD Science Content Standards (State of  California Science Content Standards): 

#1-a through f, not including c (#7-a through e).



Barber, Jacqueline, Kevin Beals, and Lincoln Bergman. Dry Ice Investigations: Teacher's Guide. Berkeley, CA.: Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1999, pp. 74-80.


Focus on Earth Science: Laboratory Manual. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 2001, p. xvi.


Inquiry Skills Activity Book. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001, pp. 12-13, 37-38.



            One of the most difficult tasks for 6th graders is learning how to create good questions that can be answered using scientific methods. This lesson goes a long way toward introducing the student to the process of creating good questions. As such, it is better not to try and hurry through the activities in this lesson. The ability to ask and answer good questions on their own is one that the students will need to use throughout their science education.


Key Vocabulary:

investigable question: an investigable question is something possible to answer through doing an experiment or a systematic observation.