Adult: Did you do anything fun at school today?
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.
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