QUESTIONS– Why we need to teach children to be good questioners and what makes a good question
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”
Why do we want to teach our children to ask good questions?
A good questioner:
- is curious about the world around them
- digs beneath the surface and plays with ideas
- learns to approach things in a systematic, logical way
- is socially aware, exhibiting empathy and a genuine interest in other people
- is comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, enjoying different points of view
- never stops learning
Modelling asking good questions
We want to create a culture of asking good questions. As adults, we need to give the right message – that we value a good question not a correct answer.
There is a common misconception in society that asking questions shows vulnerability and weakness, whereas knowing an answer shows intelligence and strength. This couldn’t be further from the truth – the act of asking questions and working to solve them is what allows learning to happen.
What makes a good question?
By framing questions as discussion and exploration, we can help children understand that it isn’t about being right or wrong; it’s about discovering the answer and constructing knowledge, often through trial and error.
We need to model ‘not knowing the answer to everything’. When children ask us questions, we should find ways to turn the question back around, to allow the child to do some deeper thinking themselves.
Very young children will ask us many who? what? when? questions. That is, after all, how they learn about the world around them. We encourage children to think a whole lot more when we follow up these questions with our own, deeper question such as:
Why do you think that might be?
How do you think this happens?
What do you think causes this?
In addition to modelling the skill of asking questions, our prompting will also give children early practice in answering abstract questions that require critical thinking skills.
We get a wonderful chance to model good questioning when we are reading with children. We should try to look for opportunities to deepen their thinking about the story:
Why do you think this happened?
Why do you think the character reacted this way?
How would you feel if this happened to you?
How might you get out of a problem like this one?
When we consciously frame questions in magical conditional language such as would, could and might, we’re take away the idea there is even such a thing as a correct answer. Questioning suddenly gets a whole lot more exciting if there is no fear of being wrong!
“The important thing is to never stop questioning”