These questions might be used on quizzes and tests - they’re quick and easy for the teacher to correct. Unfortunately, they show only surface knowledge rather than deep understanding.
Closed Questions in School
An example of a closed question might be “Who is the main character in Mildred D. Taylor’s novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?” The answer would be Cassie.
Answering correctly indicates little more than low-level knowledge about comprehension, opinion, and evaluation of this Newbery-winning novel. It simply means one can identify the main character.
During math class, a closed question would be “What is four times eight?” The answer is thirty-two. This answer is correct, but doesn’t give much information about the understanding of multiplication, number sense, or anything else.
Closed Questions in Life
Imagine a conversation made up entirely of closed questions. What could be more boring?
“Are you having fun?”
“Are you looking forward to summer vacation?”
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
(Hope you don’t hear that last one!)
Bottom line: closed questions serve a specific purpose, but ultimately aren’t much more valuable outside of school than they are inside of school.
So...what about open questions? Now, we’re getting somewhere!
Open Questions in School
In contrast to closed questions, open questions may have multiple answers and require deeper thinking. Open questions are perfect for discussions, and will elicit nuanced answers showing more about comprehension, opinions, etc.
An open question might begin with “Why do you think…” or “What might the character be thinking…”
An open question in reading may be something like, “What was your favorite part of the book?” or “What do you think about the way the Sims brothers talk to TJ?”
In the area of mathematics, an open question might ask, “How can you explain the process of multiplying four and eight?” With an open question, the teacher will not only get the right answer, but will also hear the thinking behind it.
Open questions leave room for debate and have room for people to share opinions.
Open Questions in Life
Think about the last great conversation you had - chances are, it was made up mostly of open questions.
For example, “What were some of the coolest things about your trip to Maine?”
“Well, we went deep sea fishing, which was awesome. We caught an enormous fish and saw a shark! Then we got to see a ton of historical buildings, some dating back to the 1800’s! That was crazy - like thinking of the people who’d been there before us….”
Conversations made of open questions are much richer than those made of closed questions.
Both open and closed questions have their places in the classroom, but the level of insight you’ll get as the teacher goes up exponentially with the use of open questions.
What’s the ultimate open question? “Can you tell me more about that?” Once you ask that question, just sit back and get ready to listen!
About My Guest Blogger
- Classroom Teacher
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies