Open Ended Questions

Kindergarten children are learning to express themselves so that others understand what they are thinking.  This is new for many as they have had 5 years of Mom and Dad knowing what they are going to say, understanding what has been said and often even finishing sentences for them.   Then they come to school.   When a child gives me a correct answer, I will ask him/her, “How did you know that?” and almost all of the time the answer will be “I just do” or “I always knew that”.  Formulating thoughts is very challenging for Kindergartners and they need us to help them learn how to do it. Listen to the conversations that you have with our own child and always try to encourage more words and thoughts from your child.  Please do not let them answer you in short simple sentences.  Try not to ask your child questions with one word answers.  Keep probing.  Ask open ended questions that will tell you how your child is thinking and feeling.  Here are some samples of questions:

Not open ended:  What color is your block?

Open ended:  Tell me about what you are building.

Here are some sites with sample open ended questions for you to start using with your own child.  Not all of the questions will be ‘just right’ for 5 and 6 year olds, but read through them and I am sure that you will find many that will be perfect for you to use with your child.

Top 50 open ended questions:

Top 100 open ended questions:



Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Open Ended Questions, Parents

6 responses to “Open Ended Questions

  1. stephanieconlon

    I love your blog and all the relevant information on it! With a kindergartner (a 2nd grader and 2 preschoolers) myself, I always enjoy learning more ways to tune in to their learning and where they are developmentally. Thanks for taking the time to help us all be better parents and educators to our children!

  2. kindergartenteacherclaire

    Thanks for writing. My hope is that parents and teachers will be able to pick up some useful tips from reading my blog. Glad you are enjoying it and picking up some tips yourself!

  3. Erin

    My 5-yo daughter has a lot of trouble with this. To the point that she’s not finishing her writing assignments. Her K teacher expects them to not only come up with a “I like ‘a’, because ‘b'” type sentences, she also expects them to write the sentence with very little monitoring (with correct punctuation and capitalization.)

    When finishing these assignments at home, I find she has lots of trouble coming up with a sentence to begin with, much less retaining it half way through writing it.

    I have started making her come up with three good things that happen at school everyday, for the last week it’s been like pulling teeth to get her three out. But I’m making her think – which she really doesn’t like to do. Maybe at some point I’ll even make her write them. But for now it takes good amount of time to tell me what happened at school.

  4. kindergartenteacherclaire

    You are doing the right thing by asking her to think about her day…you could prompt with questions also, such as, what songs did you sing, what books did you read, what friends did you play with..just to get her used to the line of questioning and then venture out to ‘how did you feel” or why did you like the book?As for correct punctuation and capitalization..hmmm seems like that is pushing it a little for mid year in Kindergarten. We do have to remember that these little brains are only 5 years old and can only developmentally do so much. No wonder your daughter is not enjoying school she is really stressing over this writing which will backfire and make her not like writing at all. We do teach about capitalization and periods but don’t expect it from most of the kids…we introduce these skills and keep reviewing but it is developmental and not all kids are ready for it. let me know if I can be of any other help..Claire

  5. Sarah

    Hi Claire,
    I’m hoping you have tips to help my daughter complete open-ended tasks. She’s in kindergarten now and is academically gifted (in a G&T class). She learned to read at 3 and these days concentrates really well when reading. Same with math puzzles/problems, and games like chess. She does love building with Lego, but when it comes to most open-ended tasks like writing stories, drawing pictures, making birthday cards, or even picking out her clothes, she gets stressed out and can’t get the task done. Her finished creative assignments are stylish and thoughtful — it just takes *forever* to get there. Her teacher says she never finishes writing assignments in the allotted time; she’s often rolling on the floor in class when the others are getting their writing work done. Part of me thinks, “Screw it, she’s smart and she doesn’t need to be a novelist.” But then I think about those standardized tests, during which kids need to get their work completed in order to score well. In NYC, where we live, middle school admissions depend on these scores. Anything I can do to help her focus without stressing her out? Thanks in advance!

    • kindergartenteacherclaire

      Oh if only all of our children could be perfect and perform all tasks at school well! It sounds to me like your daughter is comfortable performing tasks that 1. she knows she is good at 2. she knows have a definite answer, right or wrong – (math, puzzles, problems, chess, etc.) but not as comfortable when she isn’t certain about the end result. That’s exactly what an open ended question is: no definite answer and she does not like this. You are right about needing this skill as the years go on and it is one to practice over and over and over. Tips: 1. You could start with her picking out her clothes. You as the adult pick out 3 outfits and lay them out for her and be ready to accept whatever she chooses. When you start with a small collection of clothes, the task of choosing is more reasonable as opposed to ‘go upstairs and get dressed’. That statement is very overwhelming for some kids. 2. Children who can read well and do math well are just performing well on ‘some’ of the academic areas not all. Just think of it like a pie, where your daughter is able to read, (one piece of the pie) and do well in math (another piece of the pie) but there are several pieces o the pie missing. 3. Your daughter sounds like she is acting out her frustrations in the classroom (rolling on the floor) while others are writing. This should never be accepted by the teacher but that is another story as I don’t know the teacher. I would never allow this. Get your daughter a writing journal for her to practice on at home. She is what I would call a reluctant writer and reluctant writers try very hard to win. Tell your daughter that she is going to write for 10 minutes and then set the timer on the counter. Accept any writing from her, even if she is just writing the letters of the alphabet over and over. 4. Do this writing every day for 10 minutes at the same time every day. This is a hard task and she won’t like it, but don’t let her get up and roll around or do anything else for the 10 minutes except sit with the book and a pencil. 5. Children will write if they have a purpose (have her write your grocery list -even though you already know it) have her write names of all of the friends in her class, write all toys that she likes, all games that she likes, have her do lists…. 6. When she realizes that she has the ability to write down things she knows about, in time she will be more comfortable writing and answering those open ended questions. 7. You could also role play with her at home with no paper involved. you both could be Kindergartners asking each other what you want to play at recess. Your daughter may benefit from this as well as once again it sounds like she only will do something if she is pretty certain what the outcome is going to be, and OH if only life were like this. 8. She should be given lots and lots of opportunities throughout the day to make decisions (no matter how small the decisions seem to you) (should we eat at the kitchen table, or on the deck tonite) should I drive home on Elm st, or should we go down Oak st., do you want a fried egg or a scrambled egg…etc etc. 9. The moe opportunities that you give her to make decisons, she will realize that there are many ways to be right, just as there are many ways to be right about the writing process. 10. You could pick up some magnetic letters and let her write on an old cookie sheet with the letters. She has to learn to love it and it seems like that step is missing in her development. 11. When is her birthday, she is exhibiting some behaviors of a very young kindergarner, regardless of her ability to read and do math?

      Hope this helps, Write back if you have more questions Claire

      On Sat, Apr 27, 2013 at 10:13 PM, Thoughts from a Kindergarten Teacher –

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