Tuesday, 3 September 2013

5 Best Afterschool Questions to Ask Your First Grader

The following questions are really the spark that generated this entire blog and hopefully some useful material for teachers and parents of school-aged children.

For some time I have been mulling over the best way to communicate with the kidlets.  Of course each child is different and responds differently to different types of questions, tones of voice and levels of sarcasm.  The standard question "How was your day" is stale and unproductive and yet, I seem to use it again and again.  Admittedly, I whole-heartedly do want to know how their day was, but it doesn't matter if you're asking a 5 year old or a 15 year old, I guarantee you will not get the response you're looking for with that question.

 As a teacher and generally curious person, I always stand firm behind the statement, "There are no stupid questions".  Yet, to be perfectly frank, I challenge you to ask the question, "How was your day?"  and not get a "stupid" response.  (If not stupid, it will most certainly be generalized, monosyllabic and boring).  And so, without further a due, here is my list of the questions I plan on asking my 6 year old this afternoon when she bursts through the door. 

1. What did the teacher say or do that made you smile?

2. Where did you play on the playground?  With whom?

3. Who had the coolest/tastiest/best-looking lunch?  Why?

4. When did you feel the happiest?

5. What will be fun tomorrow?

My daughter, at her tender age, shares quite openly and freely, so I have no doubt at least one of these questions will certainly be answered without it being voiced by me, so my first plan is to certainly listen and pick up her verbal and non-verbal cues.  But as the evening, week and month progresses I think these questions will give me a good base to draw some thoughtful conversations.

Since my little girl started pre-school I've been post-it noting the most potent questions I can think of, so for a while at least, this blog will focus on those.  Stay tuned for more "best after-school questions" to ask in coming posts and maybe even a freebie fridge poster if I get my act in gear developing it!

In the meantime, "back to school" is the perfect time to start fresh with afterschool/dinnertime conversation.  Make that vow to turn off your phone, put the mail/paper/distractions aside and sit for 1/2 an hour just conversing and interacting with your child(ren). Here are some tips to asking the "right" questions:

1. Use open ended questions.  Starter words like "Who" , "What", "Where", "When", "Why" & "How" will ensure at least more than a one-word answer and can often lead you down more specific question-paths.

2. Avoid "Did" and "Are" as question starters.   These will only give you a Yes/No responses.  Note: sometimes these are good to "warm someone up", so-to-speak, but have a few "5-W question" in the side-lines to follow up and create conversation.

3. Be specific.  Use the teacher's name (do they call her/him by their whole name or just Mrs. K? or some other abbreviation?), friends names, subject names and place names that are used by your child.  If they call quiet reading time "DEAR" or "SQUIRT", use that term instead of "quiet reading time". This degree of comfort and familiarity leads to quicker and more free conversation.  If you don't know what some terms are, ask your child's teacher at meet the teacher night, or send them a quick email explaining what and why you'd like to know. 

What was the first thing you asked your child this afternoon?  And what was their response?

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