Question box

 The anonymous question box is an extremely useful educational tool used by sexual health educators to provide students with a confidential way to ask questions. 

This method provides students with an opportunity to:

  • ask questions that may otherwise be too embarrassing or unsafe for them to ask openly in a classroom

  • clarify information they may not have fully understood in class

  • feel reassured that other students have similar questions

  • raise topics that are important and relevant to them that may have been missed in planned lessons.

It can help teachers to:

  • model to their class that they are in a safe and non-judgmental space

  • assess knowledge and address any gaps in future planning

  • address any misconceptions

  • revise content - little and often to ensure students have a better understanding of topics

  • cover a wide range of content in a short space of time

  • address the emergent curriculum - topics that are relevant and important to students at that particular time. 


Setting up the question box

  1. Create a question box.

A question box can be made out of an old box with a lid (e.g. a shoe box) or it can be a hat, a pillow case, a bag, etc. The item must be something that is not see through (e.g. a fish bowl) to ensure confidentiality.

  1. Explain to students how the question box activity works.

laugh Say:

"Everyone will receive a blank piece of paper.

Everyone will have a few minutes to write down a relationship/sexual health related question.

If you do not have a question, draw a happy face or write a funny joke so that everyone has something written on their piece of paper.

Please remember the group agreement when writing questions.

Everyone will place their paper in the question box as I bring it around (or as they leave the classroom).

The questions will be answered during the next class."

  1. Collect the questions.

Read the questions before the following session to allow time to prepare answers. This can be particularly useful if you are concerned about any 'curly' questions.

Possible adaptations:


Students can write statements as well as questions (e.g. 'I am worried about getting my period at school.' or 'I really enjoyed learning about... I would like to know more about...').

Requests to talk to a staff member individually

Students may wish to have a question answered in private and request to talk to a teacher or other staff member (e.g. school community health nurse) individually or with a small group of friends. They can indicate this on their piece of paper by writing their names and who they wish to speak to so that they teacher can make arrangements.


Tips for answering questions

Accept all questions as genuine.

  • For sexuality education to be effective and relevant for students, it is vital that teachers  genuinely accept students' questions.

  • There is no such thing as a silly question - questions that may appear to be asked to 'get a laugh', may be genuine questions and should be treated as such. 

Be honest

  • Answer all questions honestly.

  • If you are not sure of the answer to a question, be honest and tell the class you are unsure and will follow this up prior to the next class. Alternatively, you can direct students to other sources of information. This is a great way to model help-seeking behaviours and remind students of the importance of using reliable and credible resources. 

  • Ensure that all answers are age appropriate.

Provide simple and concise answers

  • Answer questions accurately and use plain language. It is important to not overload students with too much information. Students can always ask for further information with additional questions in the question box.

Be non-judgmental

  • Provide a simple and correct answer free of judgement.

  • Be aware of what messages students may be receiving from your body language.

Group questions into common themes

  • Questions can be sighted by the teacher well in advance of the lesson, giving the opportunity to group similar questions together and prepare answers to questions.

  • It can be helpful to let students know that you have a number of questions around a similar topic so that they are reassured that they are not the only ones seeking the same information. 

  •  Multiple questions on a similar topic may also indicate that further lessons are required on the topic.

Invite volunteers to offer answers to questions

  • Prior to answering a question, students could be asked for possible answers. This technique must be used carefully and the teacher needs to know the class well to ensure that the student answering the question is in a safe space to answer (i.e. that they are not at risk of judgement from other students for knowing (or not knowing) the correct answer).

  • ONLY volunteers should be asked to given answers.

Questions that are unclear

  • If questions are based on incorrect facts, use this as an opportunity to address misconceptions or misunderstandings.

  • If a question is unclear, read the question to the class and offer the chance for the person to anonymously clarify what the were asking the next time the class are writing questions for the question box (e.g. Read the question aloud and say, 'I am not quite sure what this question is about. Perhaps the person who wrote it can give me a little more detail when we write our next round of anonymous questions at the end of this session).

Aim to be unshockable

  • Some students may attempt to write questions intended to provoke a response by the teacher or students. Remaining 'unshockable' (particularly during the first question box session) usually prevents this from happening again and often young people genuinely want to know the answer to these questions.

If students ask a question during a lesson

  • Make sure you understand exactly what the student is asking. For example, a kindergarten student might ask,"Where do I come from?".  Before going into a detailed explanation about how babies are made, ask the student to tell you what they already know. From this information you can then gauge an age appropriate answer. The student might simply be asking if they are from Perth or Sydney.

  • Re-phrase the question to check that you are answering the question the student has asked.

  • Before answering a student's question, consider whether it is appropriate to respond in front of the whole class or whether a private discussion with the student or a suggestion for them to speak to their parents may be a better option.


Types of questions students ask

There are 5 main categories of questions students typically ask in sexual health education:

  1. Information questions

  2. "Am I normal?" questions

  3. Permission seeking questions

  4. Values-based questions

  5. Questions intended to shock or requesting personal information

Understanding and learning to recognise the subtle differences between question types will make it easier to give an appropriate answer. 

For examples of each of these types of questions and ways to respond, read the Background teacher note: Types of questions.

Additionally, the Background teacher note: Response types outlines some ways in which students may respond to questions raised in class and why they might respond in these ways.    


Frequently asked questions

The Student FAQ section offers support for teachers to answer specific questions that students may raise. They offer different levels of detail in plain language that teachers can use as a script to answer questions. If you have a 'curly' student questions you would like added to this section, please submit your request on the Ask a question page. 

The Background teacher notes offer professional reading to help upskill teachers background knowledge to deliver lessons and answer students questions. 

Get the Facts, a Western Australian Department of Health website, also provides information for young people and offers an 'ask a question' function where young people can email in specific questions that are answered individually by a health professional within a week.

This teaching note appears in the following learning activities: