Befittingly falling on Albert Einstein’s birthday, International Ask a Question Day is meant to encourage inquiry. As parents, you know how curious and naturally inquisitive children can be. Asking and answering questions is the best way to quench that thirst for information. So besides the go-to, “How was school today?” how else can parents encourage children to practice questioning and answering at home? And, why is the simple practice of asking questions so important to academics?
Depending on your child’s age, he or she may have a smartphone or tablet. These technologies are sometimes seen as distractions when it comes to academics. However, the educational apps available now are greatly beneficial when it comes to asking or answering questions. Apps such as VideoNot.es and Notability allow users to interact with digital or video content while taking notes on a split screen. This is especially helpful if your child struggles with handwriting; instead, children can easily type questions or observations while working through the material. These VideoNot.es will automatically save any notes or questions into a Google doc, as well, keeping all of your child’s questions saved and organized.
Encourage dinnertime questions by discussing a new topic of interest, something that will spur conversation and curiosity. Ask questions like, “If you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?” But, don’t just stop there—prod for more information like, “Why that location over somewhere else?” “Who would you take with you and why?” “What types of items would you need to pack?” These questions not only give your child an opportunity to share his or her personal preferences, but they also encourage a higher level of reasoning and explanation.
Another dinner table game is the well-known party game “just questions” in which everyone is only able to communicate using interrogative statements. This improv theater exercise encourages children to practice consciously phrasing and rephrasing questions. Participants must think on their toes and apply knowledge of appropriate word choice and sentence structures in order to continue the conversation.
After a bedtime story prompt your child with broad questions like, “Who is the main character in the story?” Then, elevate the level of inquiry from there. Kick that question up a notch by adding another component or more complex level of thinking. For instance, you might change the original question about the main character to, “What does the main character say or do that shows us his personality?” This practice subtly adds a layer of deeper analysis to the initial, more general question.
There is no doubt about it—inquiry is a lifelong practice that spans far outside the realm of the classroom. The ability to ask questions, gather relevant information, and formulate answers is an exercise that will benefit children and teens, not only as they navigate through their schooling, but as they enter adulthood and the workforce, as well. It seems like an obvious and simple skill—especially since children are so eager to ask questions—however, elevating the exercise of asking and answering questions is something that can steadily enhance engagement and learning.