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Asking the Right Questions

Reflection of Inspiring Hiring Level Thinking in Young Children - NAEYC Presented by Janis Strasser and Lisa Mufson Bresson Based on the book Big Questions for Little Minds


Kids ask a lot of questions! Some studies show that a 4-year-old asks as many 300-400 questions a day. Their questions can range from simple to “let me google that for you.” The question is, are we asking them the right questions? Are the questions we are asking our children teaching them how to answer questions, to think critically, or to show understanding for other people’s views? A high-level question is a question that each child will answer in his or own way. It encourages children to expand their thinking and perspective and is developmentally appropriate for the individual child. The higher the level, the more thinking, language, and diversity the answer will have. The levels, in order, are as follows; Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create.

Questions that fall under the Remember or Understand levels are necessary to build vocabulary and comprehension so that a child can answer Apply and Analyze level questions later. Remember questions include identifying, naming, counting or recalling information such as “What color was the cat in the story?” Responses to Understand questions explain, summarize or describe something, “what happened in the story?”. Apply and analyze questions ask the child to problem solve a situation, “why do you think the cat went into the hole?” and “what could he have done differently?”. To answer questions like “do you think it was a good idea?” or “what would you have done instead?” children are required to have gained experiences and knowledge to draw from to form their conclusion. Hence, the Evaluate and Create levels are the highest form of question and answering.

Small group gatherings, such as circle time at school or around the dinner table at home, are great places to ask children questions that will lead to a conversation. You can use the opportunity to have the children assist in classroom problems, expand on themes, show empathy, work on particular educational skills or reflect on happenings of the day. Together you can build ideas from one another and build their language and thinking skills. To ensure the conversation is challenging and appropriate for all children, use a combination of the question levels.


“What did we do in art today? (Level 1)” “How would you describe the way the clay felt (level 2)?” “Can you think of something else that feels like that (level 3)?” “Do you remember what colors we used (level 1)?” “Why do you think we used that color (level 4)”? “How does our art project relate to our story (level 5)?” “What other things could we make with the clay (level 6)?”

You can use the higher-level questions as a different approach to conflict resolution. It is important to note that in this scenario you want to make sure to draw attention to positive solutions, be observant of the child who is being discussed and his/her reaction, and be prepared to follow up with individual children. Another great use for high level questions can be used to support children’s understanding of diversity. Although sometimes a challenging subject, mixing different level questions into a conversation can help gear children onto the right path of acceptance.

Using these types of questions promotes a child’s development, critical thinking skills, and vocabulary. It is an effective way to teach social skills, build concepts, and steer children into making informed and appropriate decisions on their own.


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