The anonymous question box is a 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.
There are two additional sections associated with the Question box:
Types of questions (that students ask) and how a teacher might answer these; and
Question response types (typical student responses and understanding why they might respond this way)
Setting up the question box
Create a question box - This can be made out of an old box with a lid, a hat, a pillow case, etc. Do not use something like a clear fish bowl that people can see into.
Explain to students how the question box activity works:
Everyone will receive a blank piece of paper.
Everyone has 5 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 (ground rules) and do not name anyone on your paper.
The questions will be answered during the next class. Only those questions related to the curriculum will be answered. For example, no personal questions will be answered.
Collect the questions.
Tips for the question box activity
Students' questions within the context of sexuality can at times be challenging for teachers. The following are some principles to keep in mind when answering students' questions that are of a more open nature (i.e. those not from the confidential question box).
- Clarify the question before providing an answer
- Make sure you understand exactly what the student is asking. For example, a kindergarden student might ask "Where do I come from?". Before going into a detailed explanation about the birds and the bees, 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.
- Accept all questions as genuine
- For sexuality education to be effective and relevant for students, teachers must genuinely accept students' questions.
- Questions based on incorrect facts should be challenged and clarified, but all questions are valid and should be treated as such.
- Teachers are encouraged to accept all questions as genuine and provide an answer even if a question seems obscure, as this may be an opportunity to address misunderstandings.
- 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. Ensure that all answers are age appropriate.
- Provide simple and concise answers
Answer questions accurately and use simple language. It is important to not overload students with too much information.
- 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. Prior to answering the question, students could be asked for possible answers.
Frequently asked 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 few days.