Asking questions to children is significant for development


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Preschool teachers ask children less and simple question: Study.

Some experts recommend that 60 to 70 per cent of shared reading conversations should be easy, but 30 to 40 per cent should challenge children to learn new concepts. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

Washington: Questions asked by preschool teacher plays a significant role in how much children learn. But a new study found that they asked a few yet too simple questions.

Only 24 per cent of what teachers said outside of reading the text were questions, the results found. And the kids answered those questions correctly 85 per cent of the time.

"When kids get 85 per cent of the questions right that means the questions the teacher is asking are too easy. We don't want to ask all the difficult questions. But we should be coaxing children along cognitively and linguistically by occasionally offering challenging questions," said Laura Justice, co-author of the study.

While this study was done with teachers, the same lessons apply to parents. Previous research suggested that most parents don't ask any questions at all when they're reading with their children, according to the study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Participants in the study were 96 prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers at schools. The teachers were videotaped in one class while reading the 25-page book Kingdom of Friends to their students. The book is about two friends who argue at playtime but learn how to resolve their problems.

Researchers transcribed all talk during the reading session, including both teachers and children. The researchers recorded 5,207 questions asked by teachers and 3,469 child responses.

About 52 per cent of the questions asked by teachers were yes-no type questions, such as "Does he look happy?" As expected, most of them resulted in one-word answers from children.

The other 48 per cent of questions included "what" and "why" questions like "What did he do?" and "Why do you say 'friends'?" This also included what the researchers called "how-procedural" questions, like "How did they become friends again?"

"When the teachers asked these more sophisticated how-procedural questions, the children would give more elaborate and complex answers. Those are the kind of questions we need more of," Justice said.

Asking these more sophisticated and difficult questions means that children are more likely to give wrong or inappropriate answers, she said. But that's okay.

"There should be teachable moments where teachers can help their students learn something new. You have a conversation that is conceptually challenging for the child because that is going to push their development forward," Justice said.

Some experts recommend that 60 to 70 per cent of shared reading conversations should be easy, but 30 to 40 per cent should challenge children to learn new concepts. The fact that 85 per cent of children's responses in this study were correct suggested that they are not being challenged enough.

Storytime should include lots of questions, including ones that allow children to stretch their language and thinking abilities. For example, when parents or teachers are reading a new book they could ask the child "How do you think this book will end?"

"You can see how a question like that is going to evoke a complex response. With some practice and reflection, we can change how we talk with children during shared reading and help them develop stronger language and reading skills," Justice said.