Posted on 01/21/2016 at 07:57 AM by Liz Determan

There are many parts of language that are critical to a young child being “ready to use information and be successful in school and life. One of the more important elements is “the question”. What is it about the question that is critical and important? How does this questioning thing work to really have an impact on a child’s language development? 

First of all, questions are part of the whole picture and there are many levels to how questions enhance and/or improve language. Do you often find yourself asking questions like, “Who is that?”, “What is this?”, “When do we…?”, “Where is the …?” and “Why did you …?”. These are all basic questions that hopefully allow children to process and give a response. But, if we ask questions in the same manner all the time, how can we expect them “to think”. (Kind of like driving the same road all the time, it is as if our car can do it alone.) So, we must think of different and varying ways to approach questions, as well as the kinds of comments we want from children about a topic. So if we want children to go to “another level” or move to higher order thinking how can you ask a different kind of question? Maybe it sounds like, “if there are 3 children coming for lunch, how many sandwiches do we need? When you add another layer to the questioning process you are expecting them to mentally sort information and figure out how it relates to the question, so they can give an answer. So, when we often ask young children, “what is that? (dog, cat, horse, etc.), could we also ask them something like “What says moo? or “What are some kinds of animals that have 4 feet?” Do you begin to see the higher level of thinking and sorting of knowledge?

In Bloom’s Taxonomy 6 levels of questioning are included: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating. There are many pieces that can move children to greater understanding and more knowledge. In a recent article in Teaching Young Children (Vol. 9, No. 1), Lisa Mufson and Janis Strasser note that teachers can easily STEP UP THEIR QUESTIONING TECHNIQUE by:

  1. Remember: “What animal is this?” (Child will identify, name, count, repeat)    
  2. Understand: “How are these animals the same? How are they different?” (Child will compare, explain, summarize)
  3. Apply: “Where else have you seen this animal?” (Child will explain why, dramatize, identify with/relate to)
  4. Analyze: “What can you tell me about this animal by looking at this picture? (Child will recognize change, experiment, infer)
  5. Evaluate: “What are some reasons why this animal would/wouldn’t make a good pet?” (Child will express opinion, judge, defend/criticize)
  6. Create: “What kind of animal can you make that no one else has even seen before? (Child will make, construct, design)

Keep those questions coming! Keep experimenting with different levels of questions for all children. Use your observations and assessment data to give you more information about skill levels with children’s language. It may be helpful to make question cards to remind you of some higher order questions to be used during activities. 


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