Series STEM in Early Learning : Asking Open-Ended Questions

Asking Open-Ended Questions

Lesson Objective: Encourage critical thinking and reflection
Pre-K / Science / Discussion


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What are the benefits of asking open-ended questions?
  2. How do students develop science skills through this activity?
  3. How could you incorporate more open-ended questions into your classroom?


  • Private message to Diane Nelson

Open-ended questions encourage students to think beyond the literal answer and explore alternatives responses. Open-ended questions encourage creativity in children.

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  • Private message to jennifer neff
what are the benefits of asking open ended questions ?- open ended questions invite children to express their ideas and observations.
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  • Private message to Luz-Elena Nieto
Using open- ended questions presented in this video to early childhood students could very easily be applied to all grades. The benefits would be the same. The Scientific Method is followed and the student learning styles are addressed
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External Resource Materials


  • Asking Open-Ended Questions Transcript

    Narrator: One of the most important ways we can nurture the development of young children's critical thinking

    Asking Open-Ended Questions Transcript

    Narrator: One of the most important ways we can nurture the development of young children's critical thinking and problem solving skills is to use open-ended rather than yes or no questions to encourage conversation.

    Teacher 1: Who is this?

    Students: Walter the Baker.

    Teacher 1: Walter the Baker. That's right. And what does Walter the baker do?

    Students: He bakes things!

    Teacher 1: He bakes things. What kinds of things?

    Students: Pretzels!

    Narrator: When children are encouraged to share their ideas and explain their thinking, they are learning to consider, predict, problem solve, and evaluate their own assumptions as well as build their own language skills.

    Teacher 1: That would be awesome if he did.

    Students: And bake!

    Teacher 1: And bake? Yeah, that's right. Those are all things that we use to bake.

    Now, Walter the Baker was known even outside the walls of the town. He was the best baker in the whole kingdom. Early every morning, while everyone else was asleep, Walter would bake his breads, rolls, cookies, tarts, and pies.

    Students: Don't you love bread?

    Teacher 2: When you read a book to children, "Walter the Baker," and you then do an activity related to the book, like making pretzels, once the children are engaged in the activity, not only are they exploring and engage in a science experience you're introducing, they're going to go back and recall the story and they're going to be using the words and like, "Oh, Walter did this, and when he rolled it out and he did this, he made two holes or three holes." So children are also recalling the story and so you're bringing literature into your STEM experiences.

    Teacher 1: Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's men, bake me a cake as fast as you can. You roll it, pat it, mark it with a B.

    Today we did an activity of baking where we made pretzels. My friends used measurements and we discussed the different sensations that they could smell, touch, feel, and we introduced that concept through the book, "Walter the Baker."

    I would like you to take your hands and gently mix all that together. Gently. Here we go. We're going to use our gentle hands. What does that feel like, my friends?

    Students: Flowers.

    Or soft.

    Teacher 1: It feels soft? Do you think so?

    What does it feel like, do you know?

    Students: Feels softy.

    Teacher 1: What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you think will happen when the salt is mixed with the flour? Those things are science and they're using their observation skills to describe and use their words to tell you what they see and what they feel.

    Teacher 2: A skilled educator will know when to approach a child and when to stand back. If a child is totally focused on the activity, you don't want to come in and ask them, "Oh, well, what are you doing? And how is that going to work?" because you're going to break their concentration. You rather allow the child to complete what they're doing and then ask you're open-ended question. If a child is looking around and engaging with other children, that's the time that you can come in and ask a question.

    Teacher 1: So what shapes are you guys going to try to do? I heard some interesting suggestions.

    Students: Snake!

    Teacher 1: A snake? What else can we do?

    Students: We could twist it.

    Teacher 1: You can twist it! You're right. You're right.

    Students: And we can make a pancake out of it.

    Teacher 2: Open-ended questions are really important in STEM exploration because we want children to learn the basic scientific method: Observation, prediction, being able to express and communicate what they have found. So open-ended questions allow them to think critically and to analyze what they're saying and the information that they have come across.

    Teacher 1: What does it taste like? What does it taste like, guys?

    Here. That's for you. What does it taste like?

    What does it taste like?

    Students: Pretzels.

    Teacher 1: Pretzels?

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