Teaching basic WH questions

HOW do I teach WHAT questions?

When working with my Head Start and PreK students, I have found that it is easier to use photos, pictures, gestures, objects, basically anything that may get their attention and help them remember the purpose of the activity we are working on. So I created these printable flash cards to use as visual prompts when working with students on this skill. I give the classroom teacher a deck to use in her classroom as well, especially when working in small group with language impaired or slower learning students.

Some of the goals I would recommend for an early RTI language student who shows weaknesses in the area of comprehension and expression of WH questions would include:

1. Student will demonstrate understanding of WHAT questions by pointing to the object described in 8 out of 10 trials.

Begin the activity by having the student identify the items on the WHAT cue card by asking and pointing, “What is this?” If the student is able to name the pictures, you can use 10 cards with photo or drawing of objects on them for the next phase of the activity. If they are not able to understand the photos, move back to objects. 

We will pretend that this student is able to name things from photos and pictures, but we will use objects to make the activity more interesting for the student the first two or three times we practice.

Place 10 familiar items in a box or on the table. 

***This is important***
Use items that they already are able to NAME/Identify.

I would ask questions like: “What is (color)?, What do you (function) with?, What do you like to (action) with?” As they choose the item, encourage VERBAL responses. 

You would ideally work on this task 10-15 min 4-5x/week until mastery is achieved. The objects should be changed out when student masters the goal and continued to be worked on informally as you progress to the expressive task: Asking WHAT questions. 

An example goal for acquiring this ability would be:
1. Student will demonstrate the ability to ask WHAT questions when provided with an object or photo as a prompt/topic of question in 8 out of 10 trials.

By this time in the RTI process, the student has heard many examples of WHAT questions from the teacher/SLP. They should have a general idea of the drill. It should not take long to teach change in inflection of voice and sentence structure. Start with the student producing several repetitions of WHAT questions in the same context: “What color is the apple?, What color is the cup?, What color is the car?”

Then move onto function and action sentences. Give them a variety for their 10 actual trials on the day after initial instruction.

Once the student has met that goal, upgrade it to a more classroom generalization goal: “Student will spontaneously ask (#) WHAT questions during a new activity or upon presentation of a new toy or item. Another goal could be “Student will spontaneously ask (#) WHAT questions during their school day.”

I like to work on WH questions beginning with WHAT, followed by WHO, WHERE, and lastly WHEN. 

I hope you will print my cards and stay tuned for more WH question RTI and therapy ideas!


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