Ask Children Open Questions to Encourage Thinking
The world is changing all the time. No matter how long ago they were at school, parents find schools are different now from when they were there. Most things are taught differently. In many schools thinking is encouraged much more than it used to be. If your child goes to school being encouraged to think, rather than simply accepting facts they’ve been taught, they have a better chance of succeeding.
Disadvantages of Closed Questions
Closed questions are often those that encourage a one word or short answer. There is also usually only one correct answer to the question.
Examples of these could be:
What colour is ………. ?
What is happening in the picture?
Who …………………………….. ?
There is definitely a place for such questioning, as it is a good way of determining what a child already knows. This can be a starting point for further learning. An example of initial closed questioning could be the use of flashcards for alphabet and initial sight word learning in the early years.
A child who is asked only closed questions limits their thinking to recall. They are in danger of shutting off other thinking processes. If they offer the incorrect answer a few times they soon start questioning their own ability. This could result in being afraid and therefore not attempting to answer questions.
Closed questioning can also give a child a false sense of believing they know more than they do. They are able to answer the one word questions easily, because they have learned the answers. They can do things in only one way, the way they have been taught. At school, when they are asked to explore alternatives, they become confused as they thought they knew the correct answer.
Advantages of Open Questions
Open questions are used to extend thinking ability. With open questions there is usually no correct answer. When a child knows that all answers are accepted, that there is no right or wrong answer, they are more likely to contribute to classroom discussions and decision making. If asked carefully, open questions encourage children to think beyond the obvious. They are encouraged to think of as many possibilities as they can, before deciding upon the best or most appropriate answer.
Examples of open questions could be:
Why do you think ……………………. ?
Is there anything in the picture that tells us more about the story?
What do you think will happen if we ………. ?
How can we ………………. ?
Open Questions Develop Life Long Thinking Skills
Life today is not straight forward. It consists of problem solving, responding creatively to situations and looking for new ideas. Children who have been taught to think more deeply about issues when they are young will move to the next stages of thinking more easily than those who have been encouraged to give only correct answers.
Schools use a variety of thinking skill programmes to encourage thinking. Parents can support this at home by encouraging children to look more deeply into the reasons things happen, to make predictions about what might happen and to encourage creative thinking. Make this a natural part of your family life.
Asking children open questions is one way of developing thinking skills in children.
Other articles by Val Mills about preparing your child for schools are: