As students get older and approach the middle grades years, dialogue begins to likely become more like this when you pick up your student:
Parent: How was your day?
Parent: What did you learn?
Parent: You do anything exciting?
Three questions, three words given in total for an answer. Students are often actually all too happy to talk and share about their day, but the question has to be asked that engages them in sharing. They need to feel like they are talking and not that they are answering questions. Ironically, the way to get them to this feeling is by asking them questions, so it is important to identify some different types of questions that will prompt this feeling.
Some potential question prompts to consider asking, in an effort to get a more specific answer and start them on the path of “talking” instead of “answering”:
- What game(s) did you play at recess today?
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Did anyone do anything super nice for you, or for someone else, today?
- Did you do anything super nice for someone today?
- What was a prayer request shared by a friend this morning that you want to remember to pray for tonight at home?
- Who made you smile today? Why did they make you smile?
- Tell me three (or two or one) new facts you learned today.
- What was the best looking food item at lunch today?
- What is one thing you did today that was helpful to someone else?
- With our theme of honor this year, you could substitute and make the sentence, “What is one thing you did today that honored someone else?
- When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
- What rule was the hardest to follow today?
- If you had the ability to change one thing that happened today, what would you change?
- If I called the teacher tonight, what three words would he/she use to describe the class today?
- What three words would you use to describe the day?
- What was a challenge you faced today? How did you (will you) overcome it?
- What prayer was said at lunch today?
- Did you have Bible today – what did you learn? How does that connect to what you heard at church on Sunday?
- (If your student’s class is doing a read-aloud) – What is happening in the read aloud book? Or what is happening in the novel you are reading?
- Side note: most of the novels our students read are ones that we ourselves could read – the conversations that can be initiated if you have read the same book are almost endless as you can make connections between the events and characters to your own child’s experiences. How is the situation faced by character X similar to what you felt today? What character reminds you most of yourself? When was character X upset about something that happened and how did they deal with it?
- Who was the guest reader today? What did they read?
- (On Wednesday) What was the topic for assembly/chapel?
- What special did you have today? What did you play/sing/create?
Some bigger questions to shake things up away from the day-to-day:
- Connect to a movie/book/event – if your teacher was a character from a book, who would they be? If Trinity was a ride at Busch Gardens (where you just were), which ride would it be?
- If one of your classmates could be the teacher for a day, who would you pick and why?
- If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you change?
- If you had the chance to be the principal tomorrow, what would you change?
- What do you think is your teacher’s most important rule?
These questions were pulled from a variety of websites along with some personal additions. As I looked up different questions, I was struck by how many questions included a negative focus, often about other students (who struggled to follow the rules today, was one of them). It is one thing if your student volunteers that type of information but I encourage you to not seek out negative information about other students with your questions, as then students begin to seek the negative to be able to share with you later that day.
Another element I want to encourage parents to focus on is to help provide proper weight to issues your student faces. One of the reasons I encourage you to ask these types of questions is so that as you have a fuller picture of their typical day, you can better understand and help them process issues that may upset them. If they were reprimanded at the end of the day, that is going to be the focal point of everything that they share with you when they climb into the car, regardless of how great the rest of the day was or how justified the reprimand may have been. What comes out as “The teacher is mean and doesn’t like me” can be dissected with good questions that perhaps uncover the fact that the teacher likely reminded them for the 8th time to be on task and instead the child chose to talk to their friend. Asking open-ended questions not only helps you learn more about the positives in the day that your child would not think to tell you, but it also helps your student remember the positives and place the challenging moments in a more accurate context.
My job comes with the unique privilege of getting to see, most days, multiple classrooms in action. I get to hear students laugh daily, I see their enthusiasm and excitement throughout the day, but I also know that does not always make it home to you. My hope is that asking these types of questions helps you hear more of the wonderful things I see happening each day!