Examples of Open-Ended Questions for Language Arts

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An open-ended question in language arts is used to promote critical thinking. Teachers use them to connect with student curiosity and facilitate engaged learning. Design questions that do not have a specific or correct answer. Start with how, what, where, when or why. Set boundaries when writing an open-ended question to keep students on topic and encourage discussion. Design the question to foster student interaction that is cooperative instead of competitive.

Elementary School

  • The elementary reader, who is just beginning to read independently, begins to think critically through answering open-ended questions. Students synthesize what they read and discuss it in the classroom. Design your questions around what they are reading. An open-ended question for “The Paper Bag Princess," by Robert Munsch, is “How did the princess know she could trick the dragon?” Another question you could ask is “What made the princess decide that she didn’t want to marry the prince?”

Middle School

  • Novels are used as teaching tools in the middle school classroom. One story that is appropriate at that grade level -- “Steal Away” by Jennifer Armstrong -- is about two women who run away from a southern farm in the 1850s. An appropriate open-ended question for the story is “How does the author create tension in the story?” You can follow up one open-ended question with another. A second question is, “Why does that tension occur?”

High School

  • High school students begin to synthesize what they read in relation to the people and world around them. Reading assignments are more complex and controversial. Mark Twain's “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a recommended book for high school. An open-ended question is, “How does Huck look at Jim?” It allows students to give different perspectives on the relationship between the characters. A second open-ended question for the story is, “What did Huck learn from faking his death?”

College Preparation

  • Writing assignments may mimic questions you will encounter during a college admission interview. One question you may be asked during a college interview is, “How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses?” Language arts classes in high school may offer an opportunity to write and essay that can accompany a college application. A question on a college essay may be “What have you overcome?” or “How have you learned from a situation where you had to overcome adversity?”

References

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