Nav: Home

Preschool teachers ask children too many simple questions

July 25, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When preschool teachers read books in their classrooms, the questions they ask play a key role in how much children learn, research has shown.

But a new study that involved observing teachers during class story times found that they asked few questions - and those that they did ask were usually too simple.

Only 24 percent of what teachers said outside of reading the text were questions, the results found. And the kids answered those questions correctly 85 percent of the time.

"When kids get 85 percent of the questions right, that means the questions the teacher is asking are too easy," said Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University.

"We don't want to ask all difficult questions. But we should be coaxing children along cognitively and linguistically by occasionally offering challenging questions."

While this study was done with teachers, the same lessons apply for parents. Previous research suggests that most parents don't ask any questions at all when they're reading with their children, according to Justice.

The study appears online in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly and will be published in a future print edition.

Participants in the study were 96 prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers at schools in the Midwest and South and their students, said Justice, who is executive director of The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at Ohio State.

The teachers were videotaped in one class while reading the 25-page book Kingdom of Friends to their students. The book is about two friends who argue at playtime but learn how to resolve their problems.

Researchers transcribed all talk during the reading session, including both teachers and children.

The researchers recorded 5,207 questions asked by teachers and 3,469 child responses.

About 52 percent of the questions asked by teachers were yes-no type questions, such as "Does he look happy?" As expected, most of them resulted in one-word answers from children.

The other 48 percent of questions included "what" and "why" questions like "What did he do?" and "Why do you say 'friends'?"

This also included what the researchers called "how-procedural" questions, like "How did they become friends again?"

"When the teachers asked these more sophisticated how-procedural questions, the children would give more elaborate and complex answers," Justice said. "Those are the kind of questions we need more of."

Asking these more sophisticated and difficult questions means that children are more likely to give wrong or inappropriate answers, she said. But that's okay.

"There should be teachable moments where teachers can help their students learn something new. You have a conversation that is conceptually challenging for the child, because that is going to push their development forward," Justice said.

Some experts recommend that 60 to 70 percent of shared reading conversations should be easy, but 30 to 40 percent should challenge children to learn new concepts.

The fact that 85 percent of children's responses in this study were correct suggests that they are not being challenged enough, Justice said.

Story time should include lots of questions, including ones that allow children to stretch their language and thinking abilities, she said.

For example, when parents or teachers are reading a new book they could ask the child "How do you think this book will end?"

"You can see how a question like that is going to evoke a complex response," Justice said.

"With some practice and reflection, we can change how we talk with children during shared reading and help them develop stronger language and reading skills."
-end-
Co-authors on the study were Richa Deshmukh and Tricia Zucker of the Children's Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Sherine Tambyraja, of Ohio State; Jill Pentimonti of the American Institutes for Research; and Ryan Bowles of Michigan State University.

The study was supported by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

Contact: Laura Justice, Justice.57@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, 614-292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Reading Articles:

Cerebral reperfusion of reading network predicts recovery of reading ability after stroke
'Our findings support the utility of cerebral perfusion as a biomarker for recovery after stroke,' said Dr.
A lack of background knowledge can hinder reading comprehension
The purpose of going to school is to learn, but students may find certain topics difficult to understand if they don't have the necessary background knowledge.
A map of the brain can tell what you're reading
UC Berkeley neuroscientists have created interactive maps that can predict where different categories of words activate the brain.
Questions during shared book reading with preschoolers need to be more challenging
When it comes to challenging young minds to grow language, asking how and why during shared book reading to preschoolers can be more beneficial, according to new research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
Intellectual curiosity and confidence help children take on math and reading
Children's personalities may influence how they perform in math and reading, according to a study by psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
Reading between the lines: Are we as savvy as we'd like to think when it comes to reviews?
New research suggests we are willing to blindly trust hotel reviews when they conform to our preconceived ideas.
Teenagers have a hard time reading one another's tones of voice
Newly published research in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior shows that the ability to understand what someone is feeling based on their tone of voice can be challenging in mid-adolescence (between 13-15 year olds), particularly when it comes to tones of voice which express anger, meanness, disgust, or happiness.
Kids connect with robot reading partners
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have built a robot, named Minnie, to serve as a reading buddy to middle school kids, and Minnie's new friends grew more excited about books and more attached to the robot over two weeks of reading together.
Beyond the 'Reading Wars': How the science of reading can improve literacy
A new scientific report from an international team of psychological researchers aims to resolve the so-called 'reading wars,' emphasizing the importance of teaching phonics in establishing fundamental reading skills in early childhood.
Boys continue to lag behind in reading
When boys start school, they recognize fewer letters and their corresponding sounds than girls do.
More Reading News and Reading Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.