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Eliciting misconceptions: Open questions

Using open questions can help to surface children’s misconceptions and preconceived ideas. The variety of misconceptions children have is often surprising, so it’s worth listening carefully and being prepared for misconceptions that you haven’t anticipated.

We need to give children lots of opportunities to demonstrate their thinking. And to give children time to discuss their understanding of a materials.

As we have previously discussed, children often think that materials are only used for making clothes. As teachers we can help to support these discussions through asking open questions, such as:

  • What material would be good to make a hedgehog home?
  • Can you name the materials and what would you use them for? (After putting a number of materials on a table e.g. paper, bubble wrap, piece of wood, various fabrics).
  • What material would you use to wrap a birthday present?


In the comments below, give an example of another question we could ask to support a discussion around materials which would elicit their understanding and any misconceptions.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre