Monday, April 29, 2013

Open -v- closed questions: the importance of the first word

I was talking with our elementary school librarian today about questions.  We were discussing how in Independent Studies we moved the students from simple to more complex questions to research using command words.  During this discussion she told me about a book she was reading about open and closed questions.

A closed question is one that can be answered with a simple phrase or one word answer.  Examples include "Where are you from?" or "Do you speak English?"  Closed questions are:

  • quick and easy to answer
  • fact based
  • keep control of the conversation with the person asking the questions
The first word of close questions is often a word like:  do, would, are, will and if.

Open questions are ones that require longer answers because:
  • they are about opinions or feelings
  • they involve the respondent thinking
  • they give control of the conversation to the person replying to the question
The first word of open questions are often words such as: what, why, how and describe.

The process of moving from closed to open questions was described to me by Ms Heeru.  She said students could first of all generate questions, then be informed about the difference between open and closed questions, then go back to their list and identify which of their questions were closed questions, and finally rewrite these to make then open questions for research.  As we plan for our last unit of inquiry with our Grade 5 students after the PYP Exhibition is over, I want to try out this process with the students as they discuss their transition to Middle School.

Photo Credit: an untrained eye via Compfight cc

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