Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Extending our children's thinking through questions


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When my son was at secondary school,  I asked one of his teachers how he was doing. Her answer really surprised me. Yes, he was doing well, but her one complaint about him was that he was always asking questions! As both an educator and a parent, I was surprised that asking questions could be seen as a negative thing. Isn't this what we want for our children- to have enquiring minds that sort, evaluate and analyse information? As a parent, this was a family value we embraced and as an educator, I enjoyed seeing minds develop their questioning skills. Now my son is a parent himself, I see him encouraging the same critical thinking skills in his own children and I am really proud of him- in this way, my grandsons will be well prepared for their future, having their own inquiring, questioning minds.


So how do we encourage this trait of questioning? Firstly, as with everything to do with parenting, it is always a question of balance. Yes, I wanted my son to ask questions about the world around him, but I also expected him to adhere to family schedules and expectations, so some things required for   family life were only up to limited or sometimes no questioning! Bedtimes when he was little, safety precautions when he was a teenager, for example. This aside, conversations with him were always a great adventure in creative thinking!

So how can we encourage creative questions in our children? Firstly, we can ask them ourselves. Modelling is a great teacher. Ask open ended questions (as opposed to closed questions which have a yes, no, or one word 'correct' answer) that may not even have a 'right' answer, but will promote a deeper level of thinking. And no, you don't need to have the answer yourself, it is ok to keep your child wondering, or to find the answers together. Try:

  • Instead of commenting on the blue sky, ask how your child why they think the sky is so blue- or, why everything looks white, as it does today!
  • Instead of asking 'How was school today?', try, 'What questions did you ask at school today?'
  • Instead of 'Where shall we go for Summer?' ask 'If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?'
It is really just a matter of phrasing questions just a bit differently and encouraging questions when they are asked (and sometimes being really, really patient!)

There are different levels of questions that provoke different levels of answers and it is good to be aware of these. You don't always have to ask 'top level' questions, just try to ask a variety of different levels each day:
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But if you get stuck, these are always good question starters:
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Give it a go- our students at Bradbury are capable of asking great questions, it is something we as a staff recognise, value and actively encourage.
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