What questions should teachers ask based on children’s
levels of thinking?
The type of question is an outgrowth of the child’s interactions
with the materials.
1. If the child is acting on objects to see how they react, or if the
child is hanging back and not interacting with the materials, then
the teacher can ask open-ended questions that encourage play
“What can you do with these objects?”
“I wonder what this can do.”
2. If the child appears to be acting on objects to produce a
desired effect, or if the child has already had a long period of free
exploration, the teacher can ask questions that focus thinking on
“How can you move the basket to your side of the pulley
“What will happen if you shorten the rope on the
3. Although research indicates that young children will not be
able to describe completely how they produced the desired
effect, the teacher might occasionally draw the child’s thinking
along those lines.
“Could you tell John what you had to do to knock over all
“What did you do to the ramp to make the car roll faster?”
4. While asking young children to explaincausesis generally
fruitless, sometimes teachers interject such questions to encour-
age children to ponder possibilities. Teachers can expect magical
answers to this type of question; therefore, they should most
often gear questioning to levels of thinking that are closer to the
child’s developmental level.
“I wonder why the water doesn’t come out of this hole.
What do you think?”
1. Constance Kamii and Rheta DeVries, Physical Knowledge in Preschool
Education(New York: Prentice-Hall, 1978) 48–50.