It’s Week 5 in this Think Like a Teacher Series!
Are you a chronic “easy question-asker?” I used to be too! Think about the last conversation you had with your child. How many questions did you ask that could be answered with either “yes” or no?” None? Just a few? ALL of them? Regardless of where you are now, I think we can all use a little help when it comes to asking better questions of our kids. It’s really all about asking the right questions. And let me tell you, from a teacher’s perspective, a great question is usually open-ended! This week, I’ll show you a super fun method of how to ask more open-ended questions in your home. (And help your kids thrive as great thinkers in the process!)
Why should you think like a teacher? Well the short answer is that you want to be intentional about helping your family thrive! As a former teacher turned stay at home mama, I know the skills I learned as a teacher profoundly affect the way I parent. I’m thrilled to share my expertise with you!
Did you miss a post in this series? Be sure to check this out for more Think Like a Teacher tips!
How to Ask Open-Ended Questions
At the most basic level, an open-ended question is any question that requires a more elaborate response than “yes” or “no.” Why did the bird fly away? Or, open-ended questions are open to more than one correct response. What is your favorite type of ice cream?
In the classroom, I relied on open-ended questions for a few important reasons. First, asking an open-ended question forces the child to think. Not just spew out word for word what he just read or heard, but actually think for himself. Secondly, open-ended questions often lead to MORE questions. Which is, in my opinion the whole goal of teaching: to create a classroom full of questioners!
So for starters: Begin your questions with Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How. Got it? Great! Now let’s go deeper…
Depth and Complexity: Going Deeper with Questions
Before I decided to become a stay at home mom, I taught Gifted and Talented students Grades K-12. I was searching for a method or system of questioning that would be accessible for a 5-year-old, but challenging enough for a high school senior. Let me tell you, it exists! I discovered Depth and Complexity categories, developed by Sandra Kaplan. Depth and Complexity categories are like different pairs of eyeglasses. When we put them on we see the world in a different way.
Depth: Language of the discipline, big idea, details, rules, patterns, trends, unanswered questions, ethics.
Complexity: Change over time, multiple points of view, across the disciplines.
D&C category + TOPIC = One Awesome Open-Ended Question
For example: D&C Change Over Time + FROGS = How do frogs change over time?
So maybe the scene could go something like this:
BEFORE: Me: “What kind of dinosaur is that?” Little J: “cerathops” (Triceratops) [end of conversation]
WITH D&C using the patterns category: Me: “How does this Triceratops look like this Rhinoceros?” Little J: “Mmmmm. Got horns!” [From here, we can count the number of horns, measure which horn is bigger, think, compare, and have a scholarly conversation!]
I know what you’re thinking…Have a scholarly conversation? With a two-year old? Please. But trust me, if you make a habit of asking better questions, the conversations will follow! You’ll be setting your child up for success in school and in the workplace!
Action Steps for this Week
- Start simple: Before you ask a question think, “Could I start this with a Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How?”
- Print off this Depth and Complexity cheat sheet, courtesy of Brynn Hutchison on TeachersPayTeacher.com (free sign up + free download). Hang it on your fridge or homework station!
- Pick a topic (i.e. basketball) that your child loves. Start one conversation with your child using the D&C categories and that topic.
You can ask engaging and deep questions of your kids! Asking open-ended questions is a tried and true teacher tip that’s so easy to carry out at home. Help your kids thrive with these helpful question hints!
Join me next week as we talk about Week 6: How to Think BIG and Expand Your Child’s Horizons. Adventure is out there! Don’t miss it!