Wh- questions are a key part of language development for children. Through wh- questions, by asking and answering them, we have a conversation. Children must be able to understand these questions to pass information to others and ask things.
Asking and answering wh- questions are considered to be a milestone. Most children start to reach this milestone between the age of 1 and 2 years. These questions help children develop their receptive and expressive language skills.
What is a WH Question?
Wh- questions are questions people ask to get information or communicate their wants and needs. These could be about anything. We use them every day at home, at work, and in the classroom and we use them frequently.
Here are the wh- questions:
- What is for asking about something (what is that?)
- When is for asking about a time (when do you wake up?)
- Where is for asking about a place (where are you coming from?)
- Why is for asking about a reason (why are you running?)
- Who is for asking about a person (who has your toy?)
- How is for asking about the condition, manner, or quality of something (how do you draw?)
Asking and answering wh- questions involves various language skills. For a child to answer a wh- question, they have to understand the question word, the grammar of the question, and the vocabulary following the question word. They have to make sense of the information provided and understand the social context. Then they need to fashion a response, put together words and give the response. This is a lot of skills combined into a seemingly single action.
WH Question for Kids
You might be wondering why are wh- questions are important. They are considered to be developmental milestones because they build the foundation for children to participate in conversations. These questions enable children to demonstrate their knowledge and collect information both about themselves and the world around them.
Usually, children start to learn wh- questions starting with more concrete questions, about their environment. They ask and master the ”what” question earliest. Then ”who” and ”where” follow. Generally, due to its less concrete nature, the last question to be mastered is ”why”.
In order to assess whether or not a child is meeting this developmental goal, we first need to know at what age we would expect most children to be able to provide answers to different types of questions.
Here is a little guide for that:
Not all questions are the same. Some are easier to learn, while for others children need to have complex thinking and verbal skills. As we mentioned before, there are ages where it is considered typical for a child to ask certain questions.
From age 1 to 2, children can answer ”where” questions by pointing at things. They can choose from two objects when asked what they want. They can answer yes or no questions, and start to use question words beginning with ”what”.
From age 2 to 3, they can point to objects when described. They may be able to answer longer questions that start with ”where” and ask basic questions about their own wants and needs, like ”Where is my toy?”.
After learning about the milestones, the assessment part comes after. To find out whether your child is meeting the milestones, you need to assess their ability to answer these question types. This way, you will be able to find out what areas they would benefit from through practicing.
There are many standardized tests to evaluate a child’s ability to answer and ask questions. However, you do not necessarily need to take a test to evaluate. You can also gather the information informally. You can start by taking note of what types of questions your child asks and seeing whether they ask them correctly. If you feel like your child doesn’t really ask any questions, you can start out with easy types of questions.
For the assessment of the child’s ability to answer, ask them a lot of questions. For starters, ask a series of similar questions. Make these questions similar except for the ’wh-’ word. Here is an example:
- What did you eat for lunch?
- Where did you eat your lunch?
- When did you eat your lunch?
These questions will help you figure out if your child understands the ”wh-” words or not. For instance, your child may answer ”apple” to the ”where” question. This would mean that they don’t know the difference between ”what” and ”where”. This process will allow you to see what your child is having trouble with and what you need to work on.
As an exercise, start with asking them 10 of each type of question. Take note of what they can understand correctly and calculate a percentage. If you see that they can answer around 80% to 100% of the questions right, you can assume that they do not really have a problem with that type. If not, these will be the areas of focus for practice.
While you are assessing, make sure to take note of where your child is having diffuculty . Do they understand the question words? Are they having trouble comprehending the grammatical structures? Can they formulate a grammatically and semantically correct response? These questions will help you find the root of the problem.
How to Teach WH- Questions in Speech Therapy
A study showed that compared to children with typical development who meet their developmental milestones for language, the language-disordered children were not only less successful in giving answers that conformed to the informal category constraints of the particular wh- form, but they also provided fewer responses characterized by fact and logic.
Moreover, deficits in the ability to ask and answer questions were found to seriously impact a student’s development of communication and classroom performance as well as on the development of reading comprehension.
After the assessment, you will have a pretty good idea of where to start and what to focus on, and what your child needs help with. When you figure out problem points, start with the easiest questions. You can begin with ”what” and progress to harder and more abstract questions like ”why”.
Try to make the wh- questions direct and explicit . You can use pictures and photos. Define each wh- question for your child. For instance, when you are working on ”where”, say ”where means a place” and repeat this until your child grasps the concept.
Provide opportunities and repetitions of similar questions through different activities during the day. For instance, you can ask a ”what” question while you are in the kitchen cooking, and ask the same ”what” question during the evening when you are sitting outside.
There are also many activities that can help you increase your child’s understanding of the wh- questions. Ask about your child’s day in wh- questions, like ”When did you wake up this morning? What did you eat for breakfast? Why did you put your toy under the bed?”.
Another fun activity is to make a collage by cutting pictures from magazines and books. You can make a Wh- question chart with each type of question in columns. Show the picture and ask your child to place it in the correct column.
There are many wh- questions for speech therapy online that you can use to get inspiration. Here is also a list of wh questions for speech therapy to give you an idea and a headstart.:
What Questions for Speech Therapy
- What do we use when it rains? (umbrella)
- What do spiders build? (web)
- What do cows make? (milk)
- What does a red light mean in traffic? (stop)
- What did you do at school? (learn)
- What is your age?
- What is your favorite toy?
- What makes you feel happy?
- What is on TV right now?
When Questions for Speech Therapy
- When did you wake up in the morning?
- When did you go to school?
- When did you go to the park?
- When did you eat an orange?
- When do we turn off the lights? (at night)
- When do we use an umbrella? (when it rains)
- When was your birthday?
- When do you have breakfast? (in the morning)
- When do we wash our hands?
Where Questions for Speech Therapy
- Where do you sleep? (in a bed)
- Where are the clouds? (in the sky)
- Where do we buy our food? (from the store)
- Where do we put gloves? (on our hands)
- Where do fish live? (in water)
- Where is the milk? (in the fridge)
- Where can we sit? (in a chair)
Why Questions for Speech Therapy
- Why do we use an umbrella?
- Why do we wear glasses?
- Why do we brush our teeth?
- Why do we sleep?
- Why do we take baths?
Who Questions for Speech Therapy
- Who is mommy?
- Who is daddy?
- Who takes you to school?
- Who did you go to the park with?
- Who gave you this toy?
- Who do you go see when you are sick?
- Who puts out fires?
How Questions for Speech Therapy
- How much soup do you want?
- How many apples are there?
- How many shoes do you have?
- How do you put on a hat?
- How many strawberries did you eat?
- How much water do you drink?