At preschool, the kidlets often were presented with a question, either as they entered class or during group times. These questions tended to be open-ended questions–meaning there are no Right or Wrong answers and, therefore, they were free to give their opinion–and how often are kidlets given that option?! We took great pains for these to be private so the kidlets could come up with their own answer…and whatever they said was put down!
I mentioned one of the benefits of open-ended questions–no right or wrong answers, but there are many others as well:
Using open-ended questions help children to:
- think beyond what’s in front of them; to broaden the scope of possibilities and choose the best or most appropriate answer
- expand and/or develop their language skills, including speech and vocabulary, by giving them opportunities to share their answer/give their opinion
- connect with and share their feelings, reflecting their understanding of a topic
- develop their memory skills by having them recall events they’ve experienced or witnessed
- understand that what they have to say is important–IMHO, children should be seen AND HEARD!
- develop confidence in their speaking abilities when they are given the opportunity to share their point of view on topics
Have you ever asked your kiddo: Did you have a good day at school today? This is an example of a closed-ended question. You can tell, can’t you, that the way the question is formed sets up for a one word answer: either yes or no…not very informative or conducive for further communication. Rather, start questions in one of theses examples of open-ended questions:
• What would happen if…
• What do you think about…
• I wonder…
• In what way are…
• Tell me about…
• How did you…
• Why do you think…
BTW, this is not an exhaustive list of open-ended questions! Just as I always asked: Tell me how your story begins to prompt kidlets in dictating their stories, open-ended questions often start with “why”, “how”, or other phrases like “Tell me about” (I use that one A LOT), “I would like to know more about”, or “I am interested in hearing more about.”
NOTE: Please allow your kidlet some time to ponder their answer. Do not expect an immediate response to an open-ended question…remember, just by their very nature, open-ended questions elicit more rich and dynamic responses and those take time to put together.
I still have, and treasure, a compilation of a few years’ worth of classes’ questions and their responses in: What Were They Thinking? Inquiry and Insight into the Preschooler’s Mind. Re-reading the kidlets’ answers make me laugh and melt my heart… For example:
My Favorite Thing to Eat for Lunch is…..
(In the nursery rhyme) There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn’t know what to do. What could she have done?….
Ryan: play with them!
So how about giving this a try?!
So your kidlet this picture and ask:
What do you think they see?
If they say a squirrel, take that up with “Where could the squirrel be going?” and keep it up with other questions. You might be surprised with what you discover and/or the degree to which you enjoy your conversation as a result of using a sequence of open-ended questions that move the discussion along.
I would love to add your kidlets’ responses to my compilation–feel free to send them to me at TeacherKaren@PlayAndGrow.com!
Yours in Play!