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The Question Game: Creating Questions about Primary Sources

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This post was written by Stacie Moats of the Library of Congress.

Free to Use and Reuse sets are among my favorite shortcuts for finding visually engaging materials from the Library’s digital collections. Select items from one or more sets for this game to help students practice questioning skills.

Free to Use and Reuse Homepage
Free to Use and Reuse Homepage

Nomadic Kirghiz.


  • Select an image, ideally one with lots of details, from a Free to Use set for all teams to use. Students might participate in the selection, and their choices might surprise you. When I played this game with my daughter, she chose this image of nomads.
  • Create sets of six game cards—one set per pair of students—by writing each of the six question starters on an index card: Who…? What…? Where…? When…? Why…? How…?
  • Pair students for the game.

Provide each pair of students with a pen, paper, and a set of game cards. Direct them to shuffle and spread the cards face down on a desk.

Explain that, in each pair of students, the students will take turns drawing cards to ask questions and writing down the questions. Explain that the objective is for the pair of students to create as many different questions as possible about an image within the time limit (try 10 minutes to start). Make sure the students understand that the goal is to create new questions, not to answer them!


  1. By turns, each player must create a new question using the starter on the card picked up (e.g., “Who…”) while their partner writes down the question. A player who cannot create a new question with the starter may pass the turn to their partner. When neither partner can create any new questions with a starter card, set that card aside.
  2. Each team can only create the same question once.
  3. When all starter cards still in use have been played, reshuffle and place the cards face down again on the desk, repeating until time is up or all cards have been set aside.

Game play

  • Project or distribute your selected image, and start the timer (try 10 minutes at first). Players draw cards, create new questions about the image, and write down as many questions as possible.
  • When time is up, invite student teams to review their written questions, underlining the starter word in each question (Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How) and eliminating any repeated questions.


  • Invite students to compare and discuss their questions collaboratively with another team or as a whole group. Which question starters sparked the most questions? Which ones, if any, proved challenging? How did their questions differ from those of other teams, if at all? Why? Which questions might they answer by observing the image more closely? Which might they answer through prior knowledge or interpreting observations?  Which questions would they like to investigate further with research?
  • Encourage students to consider how this activity applies to primary source analysis and to their everyday lives. What, if anything, did they learn from asking a variety of questions? What else might they ask about this image after discussing observations, reflections and ideas with others? How might they learn more?

If you try out this game, please let us know in the comments section how it went and which  images you (or your students!) selected.

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Comments (4)

  1. This is a fantastic inquiry-based learning game–would love to see it in action in the classroom!

  2. I love this idea! An extension could be to ask students to brainstorm their own question stems or variations. Is/are, If, If…then…, To what extent, Which, What if, How many, Could/should/would, might be interesting to throw into the mix!

  3. This would be a great way to introduce a topic or unit. You can show the artifacts/ resources up front and have the students try to piece together what is going to learned.

  4. This was a great way to introduce our topic for the unit. We show the artifacts first and had the students try to piece the puzzles together, then everyone played the game of answering questions.

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