The Lost Art of Questioning

Teaching and parenting are professions that seem to be immersed in telling. Telling kids what to do and how to do it…why and when to do it…what they should have done…or what they shouldn’t have done. Telling them what to do differently next time.

There is certainly a place for telling in teaching or parenting, especially when something is being taught for the very first time. But questioning involves the listener more fully in the conversation.

Once your children or students have been exposed to information, routines, processes, and rules, you can question them about those things as opposed to telling them over and over.

For example, let’s say a child is having to find the answers to comprehension questions at the end of a story he/she has read. Instead of saying to the child, “That happened in the beginning, so look at the beginning of the story,” try saying,

“Where did that happen in the story? In the beginning, the middle, or the end? So where do you think you will need to look to find the answer?” For the disorganized child who perhaps painfully manages to get his homework done, but then day after day gets to school without it, the questioning may go like this: “Where would be a good place to put your homework so it stays neat and flat? In your jacket pocket or in your notebook? Where do you need to put your notebook so you won’t forget it?

Once your notebook is in your backpack, where should the backpack go so you’ll be sure to take it in the morning? Do you think it would help to put the homework, notebook, and backpack in the same place every day? Why or why not?” Questioning is a very simple and effective teaching strategy that can be applied to almost any situation. We find it extremely effective in our teacher workshops and staff training as well as in our clinic work with students. Questioning develops thinking and problem solving skills. And it allows teachers and parents to instruct rather than nag.