TRC Read to Kids

Welcome to The Reading Connection’s blog, where you’ll find the best guidance on reading aloud to kids. Whether you are a TRC Read-Aloud volunteer, parent or student, the book themes and crafts ideas, child development guidelines and recommended websites will expand your world. For 25 years, The Reading Connection has worked to improve the lives of at-risk kids by linking the magic of reading to fun experiences that inspire a passion for learning. Visit our website at

Monday, June 3, 2013

Asking open-ended questions

Conversations are all about give and take. One person asks and the other person answers. What is it about our questions and answers that causes some conversations to continue forever and causes others to stop dead in their tracks? The answer is largely the difference between open- and closed-ended questions. For example:

Adult: Did you do anything fun at school today?
Child: No.
Conversation over.

Adult: What did you do at recess today?
Child: I played on the monkey bars with Amelia and then we played tag with some of the other kids.
Now there are a lot of follow-up questions and different directions you could take this conversation.

The difference between the questions is that the first was a closed-ended question and the second was open-ended. The difference lies in the way a question can be answered. Closed-ended questions can usually be answered with one or two words while open-ended questions require some elaboration. Sometimes, you can follow a closed-ended question with an open-ended one to keep the conversation going.

Adult: Which animal at the zoo is your favorite?
Child: The white tiger.
Adult: What is it about the white tiger that makes it special to you?
Child: I like that he's white and not like the rest of the tigers. Also it reminds me of Aladdin and I like his exhibit.

The beauty of open-ended questions is that they engage kids' thought processes, vocabulary and cognitive skills. They are great in personal conversations, but also fit perfectly into a discussion about a book. When open-ended questions are used with books, they encourage kids to use their imagination to extrapolate what's not shown and help them to understand different viewpoints. 

Some great open-ended questions to use in reading are

  • What do you think this book is going to be about?
  • What makes you think that?
  • Why do you think he did that?
  • How do you think that makes her feel?
  • How would you feel if that happened to you?
  • What would happen if this happened in real life?

For more information about open-ended questions, check out Stories and Children and a great list from Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning. Also be sure to check out our post about talking with kids.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

No comments:

Post a Comment