Teaching Techniques: The Art of Asking Questions

Asking questions is an important way to encourage children to think and problem solve. Try to make sure your questions are thought provoking!

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K, 1–2

1 Use divergent or open-ended questions, such as "What do you think?" "What should we try ?" or "What would happen if... ?" These questions have no right or wrong answers. In fact, they can have many different answers. As a result, children are more likely to use critical- and creative-thinking skills.

2 Try to avoid convergent or dose-ended questions, such as "How many do you see?" or "What color is this?" More open-ended questions lead to creative thinking and problem solving. Sometimes close-ended questions are necessary, but ask as many open-ended questions as possible.

3 Offer question starters. Pay attention to die ways you begin your questions. Open-ended questions start with phrases such as "How do you think we could ... ?" "How many ways can you ... ?" "What might happen if... ?" Convergent or close-ended questions often begin with phrases such as "What is... ? or "Which are... ?"

4 Take advantage of opportunities to question. Some questions encourage children to brainstorm many possibilities: "What are all the ways we can use the wrapping paper that Beth's mother brought in?" "How many ways can we move from group time to activity time?" Other questions invite children to find a solution to a problem: "I found this puzzle piece on the floor. How can we find out where it belongs?" "It is getting very noisy in class today. I think we need to do something. How many ways can we find to make the room feel quieter?"

5 Accept every answer equally. Although one child's response might excite you more than other responses, it's important for children to see and feel that their ideas and answers are not being judged.

6 Encourage children to elaborate on their ideas. Sometimes children may need your help to keep open-ended conversations going. If children seem stuck, try asking additional questions based on their previous comments and responses. For example, you might ask, "What else can you tell me about it?" or "What do you think would happen next?"

7 Document children's answers. You validate children's ideas when you write them down. It really doesn't matter if children can read them. By doing this, you encourage children to continue dunking, expressing, and trying out new ideas. Record their thoughts and ideas on charts and graphs and in class books.

  • Subjects:
    Communication and Language Development, New Teacher Resources, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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