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Different Types of Questions

Learn more about different types of questions.

Asking questions is an authentic way of interacting with children.

Some questions work better than others and a child will see straight through any false attempts at conversation! Read these tips and watch the video to find out what works well.

A closed question provides options to choose from. If children are learning English as an additional language, sometimes a closed question is more useful. Instead of asking the open question ‘How are you?’ try asking ‘Are you happy or sad?’

If there is a context, and you have been looking at different things that make the children happy (singing, playing with toys, lots of bubbles in the bath), you can of course ask open questions, for example, What makes you happy?

Concept checking questions help you check whether a child has understood a particular concept. These types of questions are especially useful for children learning English, for example ‘What colour is that? How many blocks are in your tower? Did the feather sink or float?

Other useful questions, such as ‘Could you put the paintbrushes in the sink please?’ not only have a context but encourage helping out at the same time.

You can show interest in a child’s projects by asking things like ‘Have you watered the plant today?’

When we ponder over something, we say ‘I wonder what…‘ You can encourage creative thinking with these types of questions, for example ‘I wonder what will happen when we mix these colours?’

We can also lead children gently down a particular path without imposing our own ideas by asking questions that guide or plant an idea, for example, ‘Do you think another piece of tape will help it stick?’

Some questions may not get much of a response, because for the child they don’t make sense. For example, asking a child who is about to put his doll in the bath ‘What are you going to do with the dolly?’ is a bit pointless because it is obvious what the child is going to do. Asking ‘Shall I get some soap and a towel for your dolly?’ would probably make more sense to the child.

Avoid questions that might put the children on the spot and make them worried that they don’t know the right answer. Encouraging and prompting the right answer will make them feel a lot more comfortable and willing to take a risk.

In the clip above of a Learning Time with Timmy class, the children are 2-3 years old and they attend English class for 1-2 hours once or twice a week. Their home language is Spanish. Watch the video to see an example of questions that work.

  • In the video what is working about the way the teacher asks the children questions?
  • What is the teacher doing to encourage the children?

Make a note of your ideas in your observation journal.

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English in Early Childhood: Context and Communication

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