Talk About School with Your Kids: Questions to Ask

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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”.

If your child isn’t in school yet, here’s 2 must reads for preschool and kindergarten.

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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.

Talk About School with Your Kids: Questions to Ask

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?

Talk About School with Your Kids: Questions to Ask

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?”

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Great advice – we find that asking anything when J gets out of school is pointless the best time to find out about his day is over dinner, when we’re playing after dinner or at bedtime. As school finishes he’s so drained he needs time to process what has happened and to get home before telling us anything at all.

  2. says

    these are really helpful questions. I try and find out a bit about what has happened at preschool from the info board so I can ask relevant questions with my son. He is still at the stage where he likes to tell me stuff but sometimes without context it is very hard to work out what on earth he is going on about.

    • says

      Agreed! Thankfully we get a weekly newsletter from the teacher of what’s going on, so I know what letter and number they’re working on as well as the theme of the week.

    • says

      Marina – I’d talk to your child’s teacher about it. I guess for Henry’s school, they are learning their letter sounds. I’ve found that if we keep an open conversation with his teacher, its much easier to have an open conversation with him as well. It helps us all get on the same page. [Sometimes preschooler stories doesn't explain the story very well... often big chunks are left out!]

  3. Becky S. says

    My struggle is giving three school age children their own quality time. Dinner is usually chaotic with two toddlers added in. Any advice?

    • Miranda says

      We used to have a “talking cup” at the table. When somebody had something they wanted to say they asked for the talking cup and held it up to show they had it. We would go in rounds to everyone first. Each person got to tell something about their day and people could ask them questions, but if it got chaotic and somebody had something to say, out came the cup and whoever had it could get what they had to say out and everyone had to listen (usually used if there was an argument). It was pretty effective.

  4. Ally says

    Very good tips and some of the questions are useful indeed. If I may add a tip for a conversation starter: i find that if I start talking about my day and the things i,ve been doing while they were in school, my kids will instantly interrupt me with their own stories of the day… Whoooray…mission accomplished, everything comes out…

  5. abby smas says

    Ally made the most super comment when she suggested talking about her own day. I used to do this with my own kids (now in their 30′s, still do it today!). After all, this is what we are trying to teach/model for them: exchange of information and heartfelt communication. Even starting out with your own feelings (“Wow! Guess what I learned today?”) gets them started. “you know what made me feel awful today?” et cetera. What fun!

  6. Kelley says

    One of the BEST questions is to ask…”Who got in trouble today?” This is a question that I always got an answer and it opened up for discussion. Kids always like to talk about what other children did in class. Then you can go about and say well why did the child do that and further more, what did you learn from this child’s behavior. You can learn a lot by asking this!! ;)

  7. Megan says

    I had friends who always asked their kids if they heard any new words at school. They would talk about the word, it’s meaning and whether they should continue using it…could be a swear word or something they shouldn’t repeat to others.

  8. JM says

    These are great questions. Thank you for sharing. One thing to keep in mind is that right after school some kids may not feel like processing it all right then. I have found for my kids that they ready to talk about school at the dinner table or even at bedtime. They’ve had time to unwind by then and take it all in and are usually much more apt to share and recall details of their day later rather than the moment they get home from school.

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