Usually adults think about children asking questions during learning, but are you asking questions too?
You should be!
The trick is that while your child is asking questions like:
How do I do it? and …. What do I do next? and……Why does it work that way?
...you have questions that you should be asking too!
There are many more probing questions that you need to be asking to make sure your child is really learning and understanding.
1. What do you think about it?
Mindset & Pre-Assessment
Also known as….
Is it interesting to you? & What do you already know?
This question leads to discovering how your child feels towards the topic and sets up where to begin your instruction. Notice I didn’t say, “What do you KNOW about it?” Instead, this sets up the question more as a mindset question and his perception rather than a quiz where he’ll blurt out factual information. It gives him a way out if he doesn’t feel confident and a way to voice his opinions.
Be careful if you get a negative response. When you’re expecting your child to be learning about space and he groans, it lets you know that you can’t start throwing factual information, but will need to build up some interest in the topic maybe appealing to his learning style first (i.e. through a video, trip to the local science center, or with a science fiction book). Then, you’re ready to figure out….
2. How does this seem to you?
Background Knowledge or Schema
Also known as…..
How does this fit with what you already know?
Once you’ve got the ball rolling, this question (though phrased rather vaguely), searches for information about perceptions at the beginning of a topic, but also misconceptions and new understandings along the way. If it doesn’t fit with your child’s understanding, you’ll need to bridge the gap so your child can integrate these new understandings.
For example, when learning about animal habitats, many children are surprised to discover that a dolphin is not a fish, but instead is a mammal. Once that knowledge of factual information is passed onto a child, a natural follow-up question might be one of these:
Are you surprised to find out that a dolphin is really a mammal?
OR…. Does that make sense to you?
Why wouldn’t it be a fish since it swims in the water with other fish?
Are all of the other creatures in the ocean classified as fish?
This is where you’ll find out that your child is able to compare a fish’s attributes for classification with the attributes of a mammal or where you’ll need to introduce those criteria or pause for review.
3. What would happen if you changed….?
Compare & Contrast or Changing Variables
Also known as,
How does it relate to other things you know ?
Most children are comfortable enough digesting factual information and skills, but what about extending your child’s thinking? Whether your child is gifted, has a learning disability, or is just average (which no child really is), asking him extension questions like this is key to developing creativity and independent thinking skills.
Take our dolphin. Since we’ve now classified it as a mammal (like a fox, dog, elephant, giraffe and human), why can’t it live outside the water like us? This sets apart the thinking where everything in the water is a fish and now expands thinking to wonder how much habitat and classification really have to do with one another.
In math, X + 7=10, but what happens when X + 7= 11 ?
Ah…the universe expands….
4. Can you tell me how you did it?
Metacognition & Reflection
Also known as…
Can you explain it or retell that to me?
This question can be tricky for homeschoolers. If you’re sitting there with your child, they’ll probably look at you and wonder why you just saw them complete the problem and yet you are asking for an explanation. So, walk away and come back if they’re resistant to explanations. For my son, when he’s playing a game he doesn’t mind explaining or retelling me the story of how the adventure is unfolding, but it takes a bit more of circuitous route to get an explanation other times.
I noticed you chose to use -5. Why? or….
I like the purple color choice for the rhinoceros. What made you choose that color? or…..
This part in the story you wrote is really exciting, what made you choose to send them away on a trip instead of staying in their current surroundings?
Some kids will assume they did something wrong if you ask them to explain, so be sure to start with something that they feel confident in giving an explanation about if you’re not already asking this question often. They’ll wonder why it’s so easy yet you don’t understand, but it’s really okay to play dumb and ask as long as they’re open to explanations.
This question focuses in on getting kids to compare and contrast. Why this and not that? If this changes, how did this change too? Metacognition is merely “thinking about thinking” and reflection gets kids to verbalize their reasoning for choices.
5. Does this remind you of anything else?
Extension and Divergent Thinking
Also known as……
How does creativity and thinking outside the box extend learning?
This is one of those probing questions that will surprise you!
Your child seems to understand and can demonstrate that understanding by solving problems, answering questions, and even writing an explanation or drawing a model, but what happens when you ask him to think outside the box?
This approach will probably either scare your child and make him really uncomfortable or give him the feeling he’s been looking for! The kids who need it most will also be the most resistant being the rule followers and compliant kids or the most cautious being perfectionists. They need it too. And so do you!
So, break the box. Yes, it’s scary, but also liberating! Like this…..
How can we take our dolphin out of his habitat and put him on land?
What parts would we have to change?
How would he survive?
Can you draw me a dolphin who has be altered to fit into his new land environment?
Kids LOVE this activity and it really gets them thinking about how our body systems are designed to help us survive!
6. What else can you do?
This last question seems like overkill, but once you get some kids going, it can snowball. That’s okay, let it snowball. If your child is burning out earlier in the questioning series, stop. No one learns under pressure. Memorizes under pressure? Maybe. Can a child put a half-hearted attempt? Maybe; but it’s certainly not a long-term strategy for learning.
Breaking the schedule is a good thing if your child is truly learning and interested in a topic; isn’t it?
Don’t burn yourself and your child out trying to fit into the learning box because …..
THERE IS NO BOX!
Don’t forget to follow up with “I bet you’re proud of yourself!” afterwards.
If a child worked hard enough to answer these questions along the way, he’s done a lot of thinking.
“Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of
the box.” -Deepak Chopra