Make it your Own!
Open-ended questions have the potential to expand conversations and develop thinking skills
because they can be answered in many ways; there is no one right answer. Because of the
range of possible answers, open-ended questions work best with students who have verbal
Teachers can create opportunities to build oral language and deepen knowledge through
everyday conversations. One of the most effective strategies for promoting oral language is to
engage students in extended, interactive, and informative conversations. These rich
conversations often begin with a well-formed open-ended question. The ‘Open-ended
question starters’ easy guide provides some examples of different ways to ask open-ended
questions. Starters instead of complete questions are provided because knowledge about
student interests will allow teachers to individually tailor engaging questions.
Listening and talking are the basis of relationship forming interactions. Speaking and listening
skills learned in the preschool years are essential to future reading and writing achievement
and school success. In addition, thought-provoking, clear and engaging open-ended questions
can develop children’s thinking skills. For example, well-formed open ended questions can
challenge students to, make predictions, consider consequences, compare and contrast,
problem solve, and evaluate.
As a teacher, use your unique understanding of your student’s interests to form the
most successful open-ended questions. Also, if you are working with a student whose
language is limited, asking open-ended questions may not be the most effective
communication strategy. This is because verbal skills are needed to respond to
open-ended questions. Instead, begin with strategies like self and parallel talk,
repetition and extension, and asking closed ended questions. Once the student’s
skills have expanded, start to introduce open-ended questions based on
student interests in familiar settings.
Open-ended question starters