Language SkillsSLP Resources

Teaching Wh- Questions…Why you may be doing it all wrong

By June 17, 2019 No Comments

Who? What? Where? When? Why? But…how?

In my experience, goals for answering wh- questions are some of the most common speech therapy goals. At any given time, I have several students with goals for answering wh- questions, and I imagine you do, too. Being able to answer wh- questions is a skill that is so necessary in both academic settings and for basic communication. Understanding the best way to actually teach this skill is where many new SLPs struggle.Blog Title: Teaching Wh Questions Why You May Be Doing It WrongWhen beginning to teach this skill, we first need to understand common language development. Children typically develop the ability to respond to who, what, and where questions first, and then when and why questions.

If a student is struggling with all 5 questions types, it’s best to start from the beginning. Otherwise, begin with the type that is appropriate for their current needs. You can determine this by giving a good informal baseline. I recommend going through at least 10 of each question type (more if you are able) to determine a starting baseline. You can determine what goal accuracy is best for your student, but I typically aim for 70%-80%. While analyzing initial baseline data, be sure to look at how the student is responding. It is important to determine if they are struggling with the vocabulary required to answer, or if they are struggling with the question form.

For example: I might show a picture of a girl holding an umbrella in the rain. I can ask, “What is the girl holding?” If the student understands the question and knows the word umbrella, they should be able to answer correctly. If they understand the question, but do not know the word umbrella, they might respond with another noun or say they don’t know. This would indicate that vocabulary might the area of concern. If the student responds with a word that is not a noun (such as girl, holding, raining, etc.) this would indicate they did not understand how to respond to the question asking WHAT.

When I teach Wh- questions, I try to remove the element of vocabulary in order to ensure that I am correctly teaching and assessing the ability to understand and answer each question type correctly. To do this, I start with pictures paired with a spoken sentence. I might show a picture of a boy wearing a hat and say, “The boy is wearing a hat. What is the boy wearing?” If necessary, I will also provide 2 picture choices for the student to choose from. To ensure that the student is understanding the question type, I will provide one picture choice for the correct answer (hat) and one picture choice that would answer a different question type (girl). Once the student is able to correctly answer with the picture choices, I will then remove the answer choices and just present the main picture, the sentence, and the question.

One struggle with teaching wh- questions is finding materials that allow for teaching of the actual question types, rather than vocabulary. Many published resources rely heavily on the student having the vocabulary knowledge to correctly answer the question. This is why I created my leveled wh- questions resource.

Image of Wh Questions Resource

This resource includes picture cards for each of the 5 types of wh- questions at varying levels of difficulty. There are visuals to help teach each type of question, cards with 2 picture choices, with no picture choices, wh- question scenes, and question lists with no pictures at all.

image of question visuals image of question cards with answer choices image of wh questions without picture choices

You can find this leveled wh- questions resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking HERE. You can also get it as part of the Language on the Go Bundle by clicking HERE.

image of language on the go bundle

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Author Kristin

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