How to get your kids talking about School

8 February 2016

Dear Friend,

How many times have you asked your kids; How was school today? Only to be greeted with the answer, ok or fine or rubbish or a shrug? I think most parents share this struggle.

It is almost impossible for me to get any information about school from my big lad as he has autism. On a course for parents of autistic children the psychologist described an autistic child's mind as like a filing cabinet, she said that there was a file for each topic e.g. Home, school, grandma's. She went on to explain that when school is over the file is shut and placed in a draw and it is very hard to open it again. Why are you asking about school when this is home?

Perhaps the key to this lies in asking the right sort of question. As part of my teacher training I spent a long time analysing the kinds of questions teacher's ask children and learned that we should aim for more open questions than closed to promote deeper thinking. "How was school today?" is a closed question so it is little wonder we get one word answers and learn little else.

Here is a list of questions that I often ask my boys at dinner time. I find that I get a better response at dinner time than straight after school as they have had some time to process their day. I also like to hang around a bit at bed time after stories because often my big lad likes to talk then and get things off his chest before he sleeps.

1. What is the best thing that has happened at school today?
2. What is the worst thing that has happened at school today?
3. What happened today to make you laugh out loud?
4. What frustrated you the most today? Why?
5. Did anything make you sad today? Why?
(Sad can be substituted with happy/cross/frustrated/bored/laugh/tired/excited/scared.)
6. If you could change anything about today, what would it be?
7. If you could choose, who would you like to sit next to in class? 
8. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
9. If you could only do one thing all day what would it be?
10. If two of your class mates were leaving who would you want it to be?
11 What would you like to do more at school?
12. Which lesson do you wish you didn't have any more? 
13. Did the teacher say anything funny/silly today?
14. Who is the funniest in your class?
15. What did anyone do to help you today?
16. What did you feel most proud of today? 
17. What is your favourite playground game?
18. If you could choose 3 children to go out to play with who would you choose?
19. If you could set the timetable for the day at school what would you do?
(This last question can be very telling! You could also ask, what do you want mummy/daddy/brother/sister/babysitter to know?)

Why don't you try out a few of these questions and see what response you get.

My best friend once asked my son a rather unexpected question too: Did you catch anyone picking their nose today? Yuk!

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