Big Questions are are the spark that ignites a SOLE session. Asking an interesting and relevant question fires up children’s imaginations and curiosity and lead them on a genuine process of discovery. Developing a good Big Question can also be the hardest part of running a SOLE session. This guide should give you an idea of where to start, a few suggestions to get you thinking and help you learn what makes a good Big Question.

It’s worth noting that you’re not the only one that can create and suggest Big Questions: they can also be developed by the children themselves, depending on what they’re interested in.

What makes a good Big Question?

Big Questions are the ones that don’t have an easy answer. They are often open and difficult; they may even be unanswerable. The aim is to encourage deep and long conversations, rather than finding easy answers.

These questions encourage children to offer theories, work collaboratively, use reason and think critically. A good Big Question will connect more than one subject area: “What is an insect?” for instance, does not touch as many different subjects as “What would happen to Earth if all insects disappeared?”.

Some questions are extensive, some precise, some lighthearted, and some poignant. They can tie in with what the children are learning at school, come from their everyday experiences, or be something completely new.

They should be things that encourage research, debate and critical thinking. Big Questions aren’t just about getting the ‘right’ answers, but about learning the methods and skills needed to find the answers.

Simple questions

Big Questions can start as something that seems quite simple. For a new group, or one where there are limited search or language skills, it can make sense to start with narrow, focused questions.

These will help improve search skills and introduce a new way of working, getting the children ready for more open questions.

Some examples include things like:

  • Where is……..?
  • Who is…….?
  • What is the largest animal in the world?
  • What makes trees green?
  • What makes the sky blue?

Some harder questions

As children get more comfortable answering simple questions, or if they’re already proficient with search and language, you can start asking some tougher questions that don’t have such a direct answer.

These should encourage children to explore a wider topic, connect a number of subjects, and develop a deeper understanding of their answer. It’s the difference between “What is the largest animal in the world?” and “Why are there no animals bigger than a blue whale?”

You can also ask more philosophical questions, or ones that are more specific to a country or region. There are really no limits to what a Big Question can be, as long as it is thought-provoking and captures children’s attention.

A few examples:

  • Can trees think?
  • Does a frog know it’s a frog?
  • Is life on earth sustainable?
  • Can you kill a goat by staring at it?
  • Will robots be conscious one day?