Monday, July 21, 2014

Questions Matter!

Questions are important! They help develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and creative thought. But what kinds of questions help our preschoolers develop these life skills?  We like to think of questions as being divided into two main categories: those that help children remember and those that guide children to think for themselves.We are thinking of questions as recall questions and deep thinking questions.

You might ask a child to recall in what kind of house the first little pig lived in the story, "The Three Little Pigs.” This type of question helps children remember details and encourages them to listen for facts. We don’t want to minimize the importance of this type of question. Asking children to recall information does help prepare them for many aspects of formal school.  

But we believe it is another kind of question that really develops young minds. These are the types of questions that guide children to supply their own answers. They require children to stretch their thinking and rely on their background knowledge. Questions like the following help children think deeply about a book or experience:

What do you think would have happened if the third pig had not made his house of bricks?

What would have happened if all the pigs had worked together?

Should the pig have made his house of sticks? Why do you think he did?

These are just a few examples of ways questions can be posed to encourage deeper thought. Below is a general list of ways we can think about recall questions versus deep thinking questions:

We feel these are necessary questions not just when reading books but when out enjoying the natural world, too. Developing inquiring minds sets the stage for scientific thought. For example, when blowing bubbles children may encounter situations such as one child’s bubbles are larger or travel farther than another child’s bubbles. This is a wonderful opportunity to both pose questions and encourage children to ask questions. For example, you may say, “What do you notice about our bubbles?”

Children may note the difference in size. The adult can then use this observation to ask, “What questions do you have about this?” This open-ended question allows children to guide the resulting observations and to form their answers. They may notice that someone blows slowly and waits for the bubble to emerge on the wand while other children swing their bubble wands in the wand. This leads to experimentation. 

All generations can help children ask questions and then test answers as this grandparent shows.
There are different kinds of questions! While it is important to ask children what they remember about a book or an experience, it is also helpful to ask children questions that require them to think for themselves, use knowledge, or form an opinion.

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