There are different kinds of questions…Below are suggestions and examples for both questions to avoid and questions to include when teaching NWK. These may be a little different from questions asked in a classroom because in afterschool classes the focus is on informal learning and creative thinking.
What do you already know about colors?
What do you feel about storms?
What do you think makes a good friend?
These kinds of questions are great, especially at the beginning of a lesson because they help the children connect to the big idea, objective, theme or concept to be explored. In addition, neuroscience tells us that brains are more receptive to new information when they can relate it readily to what has already been learned, experienced or felt.
Divergent Answer Questions
Where do you see red in this picture?
How many circles can you point to in this room?
What do you feel inside the bag?
These are examples of questions that require divergent answers. These kinds of questions have many possible answers—even ones unanticipated by the teacher. In addition, they sharpen students’ abilities to use their senses to observe and conceptualize the world around them.
What happened in the story?
What was the main idea?
What did we learn from the story?
Summarizing a story or other reading selection is a creative act of synthesis and giving the main idea of the story requires analysis and evaluation. These skills are important to practice for creative thinking and each child’s answer will vary.
What is your best guess?
What do you think will happen next in the story?
What do you think will happen if we mix red and blue?
This kind of question asks children to engage their minds, to predict outcomes and to think about causes and effects, which are key to reading, solving math problems and surviving socially. For example, in reading, good readers are always trying to imagine what will happen next, how a problem will be solved, what a character is feeling, what clues the illustration might give to what the words will say, and so on. In addition, children will use this same kind of thinking in decoding unfamiliar words. In math, students build number sense in part by estimating before counting or measuring. Neuroscience says it is the guessing, predicting and inferring which enriches the brain—not getting the right answer. So let children know they don’t have to be right, but they should try to guess. Of course, this is easiest when the teacher lets kids know that trying and making mistakes are not only okay, but actually necessary for learning.
What was your favorite activity today? Why?
What are your favorite media to use?
What are you learning about yourself as a thinker?
Even young children can begin to build metacognitive/self understanding by being asked to reflect on what they like best.
Would you rather be a grown-up or a child? Why?
Did you like the story we just read? Why?
What do you think is wrong with bullying?
Young children build evaluation skills and social/emotional values by being asked to judge value and make choices.
What if all the colors disappeared? Then what?
How many ways can we use this bandanna?
How would you feel if you were as big as an elephant?
What if this line came to life?
These questions help engender creative fluency. They are the most divergent questions of all, since there is literally no limit to the possible responses. In addition, when paired with imaginative play, they help children see new viewpoints and develop empathy for others.
Where do you find wiggly lines at home?
What are your mom’s favorite colors?
What kinds of things do you build at school?
In order to transfer learning to new contexts, students should be challenged to make connections between what they are doing in NWK and other areas of their life.
How would you describe this in your own words?
How would you teach someone else about shapes?
What are your ideas for how to solve this problem?
On Bloom’s Taxonomy, “Synthesis” is now considered to be the highest level of cognitive thinking. Children have to combine many experiences together into answers that make personal sense.
Positive Comparison Questions
How are these pictures we drew different from one another?
We want to give children ways of comparing themselves to others that develops their (metacognitive) self-understanding and appreciation of others. Also, they should use the Sensory Alphabet to make their comparisons because it can always lead to positive outcomes for all.
What can we do when we feel bad that doesn’t hurt anyone or anything?
What should you do if you have an argument with someone?
What kind of rules would be best for our class?
This kind of question, especially when asked before there is a problem, asks children to be creative problem solvers with their feelings and responses.
Convergent Answer Questions
What is this color?
What do you call this shape?
Convergent questions have only one correct (verbal) answer/label. This kind of question satisfies the egos (of those who answer correctly) but does NOT enrich the brain.
Who was the main character in the story?
What was on the first page of this book?
These are also convergent, low-level questions, which depend on verbal memory and are not that important in creative work/play.
Power Play Questions
What did I just say?
This is a bald management ploy to see who is paying attention. This will separate children in a negative way: those who pay attention and those who don’t. Neuroscience tells us that it is natural to pay attention to things that matter to us or that give us pleasure. Paying attention to someone else talking, if it isn’t interesting, is not natural. In addition, paying attention in an informal learning setting is not the point—engagement in creative thinking is.
Why did you do that?
How could you do something like that?
These kinds of questions are likely to embarrass (or even humiliate) the child and drive a wedge between the teacher and him. They are hard questions for anyone to answer, generate no positive feelings and are unlikely to prevent future bad conduct.
Negative Comparison Questions
Who drew the best picture?
Who did the best job?
This comparison ranks children as to “best” and “worst.” We want all children to feel comfortable making mistakes and not being as good as someone else at something. The idea is to help each one find their unique “genius,” and understand we all can be the “best,” but at different things.
So…what kinds of questions are you asking?