7 Ways To Instantly Your Improve Question & Response Skills With Kids: Valuable hints and tips to put into action today, whether you teach in a classroom or at home.
- Avoid turning questions into traps. When questioning kids, It can be sooo tempting to seek and reward the one “right” answer. But don’t. Instead, remember that every answer, on the mark or not, lets you gain valuable insight into that child’s thinking process, along with a chance to provide encouraging feedback and move the learning along.
DON’T SAY: “No, James. That’s not how you spell that word.
You didn’t study your word list like I told you, did you? See what happens when you watch TV instead of practicing your words?”
INSTEAD DO SAY: “Thank you, James. Your spelling is very close to correct; you have many of the correct letters and sounds in your spelling. Let’s compare your spelling with the way it appears on your word list.”
- Respond encouragingly, no matter what. This tip is closely-related to Tip #1, but goes one step further. In addition to responding to kids in friendly ways that invite more thinking, more learning and more questioning, always remember to allow the learner to “save face” even if he or she is obviously not properly prepared.
DON’T SAY: “I see you weren’t paying attention when we covered this yesterday. This is what happens, Keaton, when you fool around in class.”
INSTEAD DO SAY: “Hmmm. We talked about this yesterday. Maybe you don’t remember all of it. That happens to me sometimes. Who can help Keaton remember our lesson from yesterday?”
- Accommodate different thinking and response styles. Again and again, research has shown that typical classroom questioning tends to reward students who are fast thinkers and quick responders over those who take their time coming up with answers.But, children who are more reflective in nature may need extra time to formulate thoughtful responses to your questions. Consider giving these kids a reasonable amount of time to ponder their answers before expecting them to respond.
DON’T SAY: “Come on, Chalise! We don’t have all day. There are other kids who want a turn, you know.”
INSTEAD DO SAY: “Relax, Chalise. We know good thinking can take time. No hurry.”
- Stay in the moment. As your kids offer responses to your questions, do your best to remain as present as possible and really listen to what they say. Avoid mentally rushing ahead to the next question, this afternoon’s lessons or tomorrow’s field trip.And, when a child is done answering, actively and specifically acknowledge that child’s contribution. That way, that child knows you have absorbed her words and really care about what she has said. Time permitting, ask a follow-up question designed to extend the child’s thinking.Being mindful of these practices only takes a few seconds of your time. But, for those kids who crave validation (and, we all crave validation), it can mean the difference between feeling dismissed and feeling acknowledged.This practice will also help you know your children more fully and enjoy your time with them more completely.
DON’T SAY: “OK. Lunch time!”
INSTEAD DO SAY: “Thanks, Francesca. I especially like how you described the characters in our story so completely for us. You even remembered what each one was wearing. But, now it’s time for us all to get ready for lunch.”
- Change it up. Try to include an assortment of question levels and types in your conversations with children. Such variety in questioning allows your children to engage in different types of cognition.Bloom’s Taxonomy, long considered the “golden yardstick” for measuring the quality of questions in education, organizes questions according to how they encourage students to think on different levels can help here.Bloom’s includes the following question levels (I’ve added some examples for each so you can understand how they might sound in action):
“How many blocks are on the table?”
“What happened after the girl fell into the pond?”
“Can you tell me why the wolf blew the houses down?”
“What do you think could have happened if he rode his bike that day?”
“Who was the most important character in that story?”
“What was that story about?”
“What questions would you ask the boy in the book?”
“Can you think of another time when you could play this game?”
“I grouped these blocks by color. Can you think of another way to group them?”
“How was this field trip the same as the one we took last month?”
“What are some of the problems with the way we play on the swings?”
“What else could happen if we run down the stairs?”
“How many ways can we eat an apple?”
“Can you draw a picture of a pretend robot that would do your homework for you?”
“Can you make up new words to that song?”
“Do you think there is a better way to carry our paint cups?”
“Do you think petting strange dogs is a good idea or a bad idea?”
“How would you feel if someone invited you to a party?”In addition, within each level, remember to include closed-ended (questions that can be answered with a yes or no response) and open-ended questions that invite more information as follows:
√ Closed-Ended Questions
“Is that a picture of an elephant?”
“Are you going to draw flowers here?”
“Did you clean up the library corner?”
√ Open-Ended Questions
“How did you learn how to draw this elephant picture?”
“How do you want this side of your drawing to look?”
“What did you say to the other kids to get them to help you clean up the books?”
- Record yourself. To make certain your questions and responses are both of the highest quality, try recording or videotaping some lessons in which you plan on including questioning sessions. (I know, I know, we all cringe when we hear our own voices played back to us. But don’t worry; these recordings are for your eyes and ears only.)As you listen to yourself, note the quality and types of questions that you’re asking as well as the responses you’re offering. Sometimes this can be a real eye-opener. (When I did this, I was horrified to discover how downright boring I sounded to myself. I wondered how my young students could sit still that long while listening to me drone on! As a result, I asked better questions and planned shorter lessons.)You may think you’re already including a wide variety of question types, including high-level, open-ended questions, when, in actuality, most of your questions may be of the low-level, closed-ended type.You may think you’re responding in friendly and encouraging ways, only to discover that you sound dismissive, rushed or curt, even to yourself.But don’t let any unwanted results discourage you; pat yourself on the back for having the courage to listen to yourself (which is never comfortable) and then adjust your questions and responses accordingly so you can improve in the future.
- Encourage your kids to question everything and respond with care. The steps covered so far will help you create an educationally rich and welcoming climate in your classroom or home learning environment—one that encourages children to think carefully and take some risks when answering questions.Now, if you really want to do the best by your kids, you’ll want to go just one step further: take time to teach and encourage your children to formulate their own quality questions and sensitive responses.When kids are able to generate high-level, open-ended questions to share with you and each other, as well as respond thoughtfully and respectfully to any answers they get in return, they will have developed a skill that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood.And, for all you busy teachers and parents who’d love to get a jumpstart on helping your kids formulate better questions and equally wonderful responses, take a peek at our fun-filled “Dear Mousie Mouse” Video & Print Collection that pairs puppet questioning techniques with written response printables for children ages 4-8. Simply CLICK HERE now to check it out.