Question Matrix Activity

I ‘created’ an activity for my health classes this week that came from me being inspired by a number of resources that I had seen from my PLN over the past year or so. It was an interesting activity for me to trace the origins of this idea.

Whenever I see something useful on Twitter I pin it to my growing number of Pinterest boards using the Chrome Pinterest save button. This image of a question matrix used to elicit deeper questioning and responses has been preying on my mind for a while:


Although I had been planning on incorporating this image into my teaching, I couldn’t work out how I was going to do so. Then I saw this tweet from @RTwithDrOffutt in which she posed questions to students that were written on a ball. I had seen something like this in team building exercises or name games.

Putting the two together, and probably unconsciously inspired by this blog post that I read a few years ago from the awesome Ross McGill I bought a ball from 5 Below and wrote the words from the matrix left column in the the bright colored squares and the words from the top row in the yellow squares. See below:

This is how I used the ball at the end of our sexual health topic. I tossed the ball for a student to catch. They had to choose the ‘colored word’ and a ‘yellow word’ nearest their thumbs. They wrote those down and tossed the ball to the next student. They then formulated a question based upon their words.

The students read their words out aloud and in turn answered them. I collated some of the better questions and put them into this matrix here:


I think for a first attempt it was successful. The students enjoyed the kinesthetic element to it and that they were forced to be creative with their questioning. I plan on doing this activity again after future topics and hope that with practice the students will be able to create more searching questions.

This activity could be done before a unit starts and students create questions that they then seek to answer at the end of the unit.

I also like the idea of my 4th period creating questions for my 5th period class to answer and vice versa. Or perhaps students could create questions in advance of me delivering a topic and I address their questions through my instruction.

Here is the link to a blank copy of the question matrix.

How might you consider using the question matrix, the ball activity, or both? Instead of a ball, would these work? Please share any ideas that you have.

Also, you might be interested in this awesome book – A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Enquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.


9 thoughts on “Question Matrix Activity

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  3. Jo Smith

    Awesome use of questioning tools. I’ve had question grids plastered on the classroom walls for a couple of years now and brought them in specifically in more inquiry based work within the junior school and to help students delve deeper in the senior school. What I’ve recently noticed is when students have been asked to note down some ideas, they are now automatically writing questions as well as statements… getting that curiosity back!


  4. Kristian Ellingsen

    I was using a large die where each number rolled corresponded to a question word. However, after seeing this post, I will be using this idea in the manner seen below. The following is what I will give to other teachers for in class physical activity trainings:
    -Students are with partners standing around the perimeter of the room.
    -A soccer ball,/volleyball,/basketball with questioning words written on them in each distinct section of the ball is held by a student.
    -The ball is passed from student to teacher. Teacher catches the ball then sees the question word written on the ball, and dictates it to class (Can, May, Should, What, etc.)
    -Each partnership comes up with a question about their unit/content/class. The question topic can be dictated by the teacher. Is it only questions that the partners don’t know the answer to, or is it questions just for a review? I suggest both for the comfort of the students, and to have more questions at the ready for a student lead review.
    -After teacher gives time for the question to be written, they pass the ball back to a random student, and that student passes back to the teacher.
    -Process continues until the teacher feels his/her goals have been satisfied.
    -Extensions- Whenever a question word repeats, students must switch to a partner they have not yet had. If a student drops the ball, the class must do a squat, and visa versa for the teacher. Pick a random partnership to ask the group their question, and if the group gets it right, they pick another group to perform a teacher (or student) required physical task. The whole activity could be done at the beginning of a unit as well. Students have the same process, but all questions would be saved, and hopefully answered by the students at the end of the unit.
    -Question words- When, Where, How, Can, Should, Could, Did, Which, Whose, Whom


    1. These are great ideas and I like the direction in which you’ve taken this. When my students pose questions I specifically ask them to think of questions that they don’t know the answers to. It’s too easy for my sophomores to jump to questions that they already know. I also suggest that ‘the best’ questions might make it onto my list of questions – I have had groups try to convince me why their question should replace an existing question on my list.

      Questions posed could then be researched and answered by the students. Or questions could be traded and groups answers the questions posed by others.

      Another great way to use this is to prepare for visiting guest speakers, or in advance of launching a unit. Now we can attend to what students want to know, rather than waste time on what I think they want to know.


  5. Dede

    You may want to consider switching to something larger and less bouncy. Maybe a beach ball. That will make this activity feel safer for students who are embarrassed to try to catch a ball in class it also prevents the ball from bouncing away


    1. While the small ball works well in my small high school classroom (the ball only gets thrown 2/3 feet), you could certainly modify it for your own students. I’d love to see how you would incorporate the ‘panels’ on a beach ball. Thanks for checking out the activity – I love the results that it achieves!


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