Talking about school with the kids is sometimes like teeth pulling! Julie from Reading Row, a preschool teacher, is here to share some tips and questions to ask your kids after a day at school to get an answer more than “I dunno”.
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As a parent, sometimes we forget how many activities occur within a single day of school. It’s also easy to forget how important it is to understand what happens with all of these activities.
Just the other day, as I was waiting to pick up my daughter at school, I thought about the types of questions parents can ask to learn about their child’s action-packed day at school. Here’s a breakdown of how to spark discussions with your child after a day at school.
Going beyond “How was your day?”
If you’re like most parents, asking “how was your day?” is the natural way to get information after a day at school. Often, this question elicits a brief, non-descriptive response from your kindergartner or preschooler. “Fine” is usually the mumbled response you receive from your child. As a former second grade teacher and current preschool teacher, I encourage parents to take questions to another level. In fact, you can skip “how was your day?” altogether.
Learning about your child’s activities
Before asking any question; however, I feel it’s important for parents to be aware of the curriculum and to be cognizant of the various activities used for learning. Usually, a teacher will send out a newsletter (or some other communication) to let parents know which types of activities are coming up. The newsletter often outlines the unit of study for the day or week. For example, I sent out a brief email asking parents to dress their children in pajamas for our “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” celebration. I let them know that we would be eating pancakes and exploring elements of the story. This information is important for parents to absorb and use for follow-up discussions.
Sample questions to ask:
After you have a solid foundation of the activities planned for your child, it’s time to ask more relevant questions. I encourage parents to ask their child more in-depth questions about the activities planned throughout their day. I use this strategy with my own kindergartner and preschooler and find that it ignites conversations beyond “fine.” At the end of the day, children get excited to share information when you give them a topic they’re excited about.
To give a more concrete example, here’s a set of questions that can be used to help facilitate discussions.
- Which story did your teacher read to the class today?
- What was your favorite part of the story?
- What was [insert another child’s name] favorite part of the story?
- What does your teacher have planned this week?
- What are you looking forward to at school tomorrow?
- What has been your most favorite activity this year (ask this at various points throughout the year)?
- What was your favorite part of your day?
- Did you get frustrated with anything at school today?
- Were you able to finish all of your work today?
- Do you have any questions that maybe your teacher couldn’t answer?
- What did you have for lunch (or, snack)?
- Who did you sit by during lunch? What did you all talk about?
- Who did you play with today?
- What are your friends doing this weekend?
Why it is important to talk about school with your kids?
Specific questions about activities are helpful in many ways. On one hand, the answers to these questions clue me in on whether my daughter is paying attention and focusing in school. Secondly, the answers convey whether the teacher is engaging his/her students in literature each day (something you should look for as a good component of a reading program).
Questions pertaining to social aspects provide information on social development. By asking questions about recess or group activities, you can easily understand how your child is interacting with others. In addition, these questions help to identify any issues that may be brewing amongst students.
Ultimately, if you ask your child three specific questions after school, you can gain some valuable insight. Aim to ask one academic question, one social question, and one open-ended question such as “What was your favorite part of your day?”