800px-mother_and_daughter_talkingIt’s a practically a ritual in most households, “How was school today?” While your kindergartner might share a lot in answering that question, as they get older, as teacher communication gets rarer, and as more things happen at school that we need to know about, the answer tends to get shorter—much shorter—“Fine.”

Elena Aguilar, a teacher, coach, and education leader, has shared a list of 15 questions to replace, “How was school today?” on Edutopia. She also notes that it is important how and when you ask these questions. You should only use one or two questions each day, and ask them at a time when you can focus on your child and our child is not distracted as well. For many households, these times may be around the dinner table or while driving in the car.

The key to these questions is that they are open-ended and can’t be answered with a simple yes or no or fine. The present the opportunity to have a real conversation with your child. When you start asking these questions, you might find you need to ask for more information or ask about how they felt when something happened to draw out an answer. Once your child is talking, don’t interrupt and validate any feelings that they share with you. Use these questions to pass on the values you want your child to develop, share stories of similar situations you faced as a child or an adult, and work with them to help them solve their own problems or learn from their mistakes. Thank them for sharing and praise them when they are honest about difficult things. Doing so encourages them to share more in the future.

The questions Ms. Aguilar developed can be used for children of any age, though you might need to tweak them slightly for younger children. Among the questions are:

  • Tell me about a moment in class when you felt confused.
  • Think about what you learned and did in school today. What is something you would like to know more about? What’s a question you have that came from your learning today?
  • Were there any moments today when you felt proud of yourself?
  • Tell me about a conversation you had with a classmate or friend that you enjoyed.
  • Is there anything you are worried about?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Questions like these can help your child develop a growth mindset. Be sure to check out the article for the full list of questions and move beyond, “How was school today?”