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The Lost Art of Questioning


Teaching and parenting are endeavors 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, and telling them what to do differently the next time.

In teaching and parenting, there is certainly a place for telling, especially when something is being taught for the first time. But we should give greater attention to questioning because it involves the listener more fully in the conversation.

Once your child or student has 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 that a child must provide the answers to comprehension questions at the end of a story they have read. Instead of saying to the child, for a particular question:

That happened at the beginning, so look at the beginning of the story.

Try saying:

Where did that happen in the story? At 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 manages to get their homework done but day-after-day forgets to take it to school, the questioning may go like this:

Where would be a good place to put your homework so that it stays neat and flat? In your jacket pocket or in your notebook?

Where do you need to put your notebook so that you won't forget it?

Once your notebook is in your backpack, where should the backpack go so that you'll be sure to take it in the morning?

Do you think that 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 work with students. Questioning develops thinking and problem-solving skills, and it enables teachers and parents to instruct rather than nag.

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