question-mark-213671_640What is two add two?

Who are the six wives of Henry VIII?

Have you cleaned your teeth?

Have you put full stops in your writing?



Today I’m talking about questioning and the impact good questioning can have on learning.

The four question above are termed as ‘closed’ questions.  This is basically because they have a limited number of answers, mainly ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

These questions are easy to answer and hardly any thought is needed.What is the capital of France

When I was at school, many moons ago, I can remember enjoying putting my hand up to answer questions such
Can you tell me the capital of France?
Now, I knew the capital of France is Paris but I was a teenager so my obvious answer was
I didn’t get any gold stars although I do remember a detention!

For good learning open ended questions should be used.  This sounds so easy but actually there is more to developing good questioning skills than meets the eye.

Let’s take a look at the four questions at the start of this post and see if we can turn them into questions which would help children to learn more deeply.

What is two add two?4
Alternative open ended question:
How many ways can you make 4? 

Who are the six wives of Henry VIII?
Alternative open ended question:
Why did Henry VIII marry six times?

Have you cleaned your teeth?
Okay, I admit this one is difficult.  You only want a yes or no answer but for the sake of this post I’ll give it a go.
Alternative open ended question:
Is there anything you have forgotten to do? (not perfect but …)

Have you put the full stops in the right place?
Alternative open ended question:
Can you turn two of these simple sentences into a compound sentence?

Effective open ended sentences give children the opportunity to explore and think in a much more creative manner.WHY-


Why do you think…?

‘Why do you think’ is one of the best question starters for making children think.  

Why do you think Harry Potter tried to hide his scar?
Children who aren’t familiar with using their own imaginations will start by saying ‘I don’t know’.
It is worth encouraging answers by giving prompts.
How did he get the scar?
What happens to his scar sometimes?
Do many people know about the scar?

These are not examples of open ended question but rather a prompt to open up a discussion and help the children to think about the main question.

As they become used to the thinking process their imaginations and creativity will come alive and there learning will become more intense.

Although written more than 10 years ago Ted Wragg’s book Questioning in the Primary School is well worth a read if you are interesting in learning more about using quality questions to enhance learning.

As you go through your day, with or without children, see how many time you ask a closed question.  They are so much easier to ask and answer.  I did this experiment a few years ago and was quite shocked about the number of closed questions I asked which could have been turned into effective learning questions.  And, this was in the classroom!