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How to Ask Questions That Make Kids Think

by Rebecca Rutherford

Throughout your curriculum, you may note where session plans give guiding questions about the content. Sometimes these questions occur prior to the lesson in order to engage the student as an attention-getting device. The questions are posed as a model for creating wonder and excitement as the learner and the content intersect. A sense of wonder and prediction enriches a child’s ability to gather and retain information. It also can be a motivator as you introduce new ideas or even review. The purpose of the "wonder" questions is to hook a child’s curiosity.

The following are some factors to think about as you craft your own "wonder" questions around the story:

  • Age Level. Take age and grade into consideration for asking age-appropriate questions. Younger children need more concrete questions, while older children have begun to think more abstractly. Example: While introducing Zacchaeus to preschoolers, you might ask, “Have you ever had to stand on your tiptoes in order to better see something?” For older children, you might ask, “Have you ever wanted something so badly you were willing to do something unusual to get it?”

  • Environment. Ask leading questions that make sense to your student’s surroundings and environment. Example: While talking about Noah, you might ask, “Have you ever been caught out in the rain?”

  • Connection. Create connections between what the children know and what they don’t know by starting with something that is familiar. Example: While introducing King Solomon, ask, “Who is the smartest person you know?” “How do you know they are so wise?”

  • Imagination. Ask questions that engage children’s imagination. Example: “I wonder what it would be like to be in the middle of a storm on a small boat.” or “I wonder what it would have been like on the third day of Creation.”

  • Narrative. Use narrative to help capture interest. Invite a child to share a story related to your main idea. Example: “Have you ever been fishing?” or “What kinds of tools did you need?”

  • Point of View. Ask questions that take a character’s point of view in the story. Example: “I wonder what Peter was thinking when he denied Jesus.”

  • Metaphors. Ask questions that frame the story with another story. Jesus used this all the time while telling parables. “How is the kingdom of God like a mustard seed?”

  • Empathy. Use a sense of empathy for a character or event to set up a question. Example: “Why do you think the father might have been sad for his son to take his inheritance and leave?”

When developing your own wonder questions, it is important to keep in mind that you are providing a guide for students to connect with the content or idea. As you ask questions, it’s important to follow up with feedback or another question that keeps leading them to the point you want to make. Though these questions guide students in a direction, it is important to allow them to discover and investigate along the way.