Tips and Tricks: Answering Questions


How to Teach Children to Answer Questions

Oh this one can be tricky!  Lots of our children need help learning to answer questions.  This can be due to a variety reasons: intelligibility (how clearly they speak), receptive language (what they understand), expressive language, autism, echolalia (repeating what other people say), attention...and more!

There are several different types of questions that are often targeted in speech therapy:
1) YES/NO questions
2) WH questions: These include who, what, when, where, why, what doing
3) Hypothetical Questions (ex. what would you do if you couldn't find your coat?)

Yes/No seems pretty simple...and it is for a lot of children.  For a child with speech, language, or other developmental delays, it can be really challenging. 

Yes No Questions

I remember the day my son answered a "yes/no" question correctly for the first time.  I nearly cried.   His SLP taught him to answer a yes/no question and he carried this over in a functional context at home. This was a BIG deal!  I asked him if he wanted goldfish crackers...he answered "yes". 

The SLP had contacted me while working on this and asked me "what is something he does NOT like to eat?".  I told her "white milk".  So, when she joined his class at snack time, she presented him with a question: "Do you want milk?"  If he gave any incorrect answer (other than "no")...he got the white milk.  He learned very quickly how to say "No!" 

Teaching this concept can be broken down to the most simple level. This is called No Fail Teaching or Errorless Instruction.  When we use these methods, we give the child the correct answer and only the correct answer.  

Online Games for Teaching Yes and No

This resource includes:

✔ No Fail (Audio + 1 picture choice = Errorless Teaching) YES only

✔ No Fail (Audio + 1 picture choice = Errorless Teaching) NO only

✔ No Fail (Audio + 1 picture choice = Errorless Teaching) YES or NO

✔ Level 1 (Audio +2 picture choices) YES or NO

Free Printable Visuals for Teaching Yes and No

Video Modeling for Yes and No

Video Modeling can be a great way for children to learn new concepts.  My daughter graciously helped to create these for practice. 

Here is a social rehearsal video for how to answer "no".

Here is a social rehearsal video for how to answer "yes".

Here is a social rehearsal video for how to answer "yes" or "no".

WH Questions

WH Questions include: who, what, when, what doing, and where.  Children need to understand the following before they can answer these types of questions:
  • Categories of Nouns: people, places, things, settings, locations, etc.
  • Time Concepts: dates, times of day, events
  • Action Words or Verbs

It's important to start with this type of vocabulary prior to introducing questions.  I like to use visuals paired with books and games to teach these concepts.   

Online Games for Categories of Nouns and Action Words

Once your child is consistently labeling the above vocabulary, you can move on to directly targeting WH questions.  You can do this in a variety of ways.  Here are some examples from your day:
  • At mealtime: What would you like for breakfast?
  • During the day: Where is Daddy?
  • Before bedtime: When should we read our book? 
  • While reading books: "Where is the kitty on this page?" (You can look at pictures and model asking and answering questions.  You don't have to read the text.)

Online Games for Teaching WH Questions: Who, What, When, & Where

Books for Answering Questions

You can use ANY picture book for answering questions.  Simply turn the pages and model asking and answering questions while you look through the book.  Here are some of my favorite books for directly teaching this concept. 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle
Pete the Cat (any of them...they're all wonderful!) by James Dean
I went Walking by Sue Williams

Many of my interactive books (or adaptive books) and Book Companions contain built-in components and interactive pieces for teaching both yes/no questions and wh questions.  You can download this book for free. 

Hypothetical Questions

These are the most abstract and difficult types of questions to answer.  Example: What would you do if you couldn't find your shoe?  They involve complex understanding of language and situations. Teachers and therapists typically teach these last once their is a clear understanding of the other question types.   Once your child has mastered other questions, you can target these in conversation and while looking at pictures.  

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