By Amy Hoffman
I love trivia. I love learning random facts and attending trivia events, and I even developed a love of hosting a virtual trivia league last year; I’ll share more about that league later. Maybe my love of trivia is part of what made me enjoy teaching 3-year-olds. Not only did my students love to ask questions (and believe me, they REALLY loved asking), but they also loved hearing answers and finding out answers on their own.
Children are curious. They are natural explorers and love to learn by exploring their environment. As an early learning educator, you can provide children with opportunities to explore. When was the last time you introduced new materials in your block or dramatic play center? How often do you provide new books in the reading center? Every time you bring in new items or add something different to your display, you are providing children with the opportunity to explore and ask questions.
And speaking of asking questions: What types of questions are you asking the children? Knowing the children in your classroom will help you to know what types of questions to ask to extend their thinking. Are you asking questions that encourage children to analyze, evaluate, and create? Dust off your Bloom’s Taxonomy for more guidance about higher level questions.
When was the last time you asked an open-ended question and waited for the answer? Believe me, children want to talk and share their ideas. Some children will answer quickly, and some will take a little more time to think about what you asked and to come up with an answer. The wait time is part of the process as children learn critical thinking skills. When a child does answer a question, listen to their responses; take time to ask another question or comment about what they said. “Tell me more” is always a good response. Engaging in conversations with children is a fantastic way to increase language skills and enhance their thought processes.
So, how does my trivia league tie into the importance of asking questions? Each week as I host, the teams engage in a variety of thinking strategies as they find answers. Sometimes the questions are simple (e.g., Who was the first president of the United States?) and sometimes they require deeper thought. They also ask me questions for clarification and will sometimes challenge my answers; these interactions keep me on my toes and have taught me to write clear questions with definite answers. At the beginning and end of each event I spend extra time chatting with the participants. I’ve been able to form bonds with many of the team members, and participants have developed friendships within their own teams and with other teams. If asking questions can create relationships among adults in a trivia league, they certainly can create strong relationships for children in the classroom.
Check out the following resources for some simple strategies to use in your classroom or to encourage parents to use at home to encourage children’s curiosity.