Sending your kids to school can be hard. For the first time we have no way of knowing what they are doing each day. Will they make friends? Will they listen to the teacher? Have they learnt anything? Questions, questions – so many questions. At the beginning, children are happy to answer questions. After all they generally love to talk about themselves (who doesn’t!) But by the middle of Reception and definitely into Year 1 upwards, it can be a little like getting blood out of a stone! If we listened to our children it would seem that they did ‘nothing’ at school, played with ‘no one’ and learnt ‘nothing new!’. As a former teacher, I can confirm that none of this is correct! But how do we find out what are children are doing each day? How do we ask kids about school without them shutting down? Here are 15 different questions to try!
- Who did you sit next to today?
- Tell me one time you had to use a pencil today.
- What made you laugh?
- Tell me one thing you had to colour in.
- How many times did you have to sit on the floor/carpet?
- Tell me one silly thing/funny thing your friends said.
- Can you teach me something you learnt?
- Did you have to use scissors or paint in class?
- How many rooms did you go into during the day? What were they?
- What’s a nice thing someone said to you / you said to someone during the day?
- Tell me a helpful thing you did during the day.
- What was the easiest/hardest thing you did today?
- What was your teacher wearing?
- Tell me the best thing that happened today.
- At lunch time, did you play by yourself or did you play in a team?
Even though these questions may seem a little odd, and the answers you get might be even odder, they will definitely get the flood gates open, and hopefully lead to a more detailed conversations. As a parent, I have found it surprisingly difficult to get my children to talk about what they have done in school each day! A typical conversation with Little Sir at 4 would go:
Me: So did you have fun in school today?
Me: What did you do?
LS: Play all day!!!
Literally nothing else! It was maddening – especially as his school has a great tool whereby they send me pictures and videos to show what the children have been learning – and it’s definitely NOT all playing! However, as frustrating as this was, the conversation with Little Miss at 6 was even more maddening!
Me: So what did you do in school today?
Me: You must have done something! Did you do Maths?
Me: Right, so no Maths. You must have done some writing then?
Me: So no Maths, and no writing. OK so did you have playtime?
At this point, wanting to bang my head against a very large brick wall, I would just give up! It wasn’t until I started approaching the questions in a different way that I would actually get a snippet into their lives. As a teacher, you really don’t realise that it is so hard to ask kids about school in a way which will make them tell you anything. The number of times I told the children in my class to talk to their parents about something important, and was baffled when it just didn’t happen!
The moment I realised that I needed to change my tact was when LM was taking part in her first Nativity play. I’d asked her again and again who she was in the play, what she was doing, if there were any songs etc. And got nowhere! So I assumed that perhaps she was just in the chorus and didn’t know how to explain this to me! Imagine my utter surprise on the day of the Nativity when we realised exactly who she was! MARY! Yep, the main character (albeit one with no words to say but still!!). Thankfully, things are a little better now – and the children are much happier to answer questions which don’t feel like the Spanish Inquisition!
Just on a side note, I definitely wouldn’t advocate asking your child all of these questions every day – I’m pretty confident that they will quickly stop answering them, and you’d be back where you started. But I have discovered that, asking two or three of these each day, spaced out over dinner time, tends to start the words flowing.
Have you had difficulties finding out what your children are doing in school each day? Let me know in the comments if you have a great way to ask kids about school and get more than a one word answer!