Answering “wh” questions is another important and challenging goal to target with our students. Answering “wh” questions requires both receptive and expressive language skills. The student needs to understand and process the different “wh” questions terms and then use his/her expressive language skills to answer the questions. It is important to remember how the student communicates. Students can verbally answer questions or with various AAC systems.
Our students really need to practice understanding and answering “wh” questions before we can expect them to answer “wh” questions after listening to or reading a story or other challenging language tasks. I start by answering “what”, “what doing”, “where”, and “who” questions using lots of visual supports and practice to help my students succeed.
Use a puzzle with simple items and ask simple “what” questions. Hold up a piece and ask “what is it? or “what animal?” Some student might benefit from a verbal choice of 2 answers such as “dog” or “sheep” paired with the visual of the animal. If the student knows color concepts you can ask “what color?” Keep the “what” question simple and don’t add lots of extra language because then the student cannot focus on the “WHAT” component.
Use a simple Bingo game with objects. I got this Building Language 3-D Lotto game from Lakeshore learning and use it all the time with my students. Pull the object out of the bag and ask “what is it?” After the student answers the questions by naming the item he/she can put the item on his/her board. If the student is non-verbal he/she can point to the picture on the Bingo board, point to the picture on a communication book, or use another AAC system to answer the question.
I created these Present Progressive Verb Cards to target answering “what doing” questions. The cards are simple and provide the visual support to help with answering those “what doing” questions. The student can again just say the action verb or find the verb concept on his/her AAC system. “what is the girl doing?”. The student can respond with “eating”.
Again you can provide choices for you student to answering. “What is the boy doing?”….“swimming or running”. Providing choices sometimes helps the students process the information and allows them to answer the question.
You can start simple and use familiar objects with a cup or other object. For example “where is the bear?” “in the cup” or “out of the cup”. “under the cup” or “on the cup”. Focus on just a couple locations at a time so the student can focus on answering the “where” questions and not learning lots of new prepositional concepts at the same time.
Here is another activity I got from Lakeshore Learning but you can find familiar activities which contain visuals and manipulatives. The student can place the item in the correct location and then you can ask a “where” question. For example “where is the car?” or “where is the duck?”
Have the student match animal pictures to where the animal lives. You can make some simple picture cards of different animal homes and give the student a choice of 2-3 answers when asking various where questions. For example; “Where does the cow live?” and give the student a choice of a farm or a house and have the student identify the correct picture. I found this “Where Do I Live?” matching game and the student matches the animal to the correct animal home. I ask lots of “Where” questions during this activity. “Where does the bird live?” or “where does the fish live?” This visuals help support the student answer.
Have pictures of students and teachers in the classroom and pull out a picture and ask the student “who is it?” The student can earn 5 stars for answering the “who” questions and then get a reward or a turn at a preferred activity. You can also do the same activity by going around the circle at group time and asking “who is it?”…”it is STUDENT’S NAME”. If the student is non-verbal, he/she can use his/her device or answer a “who” question by pointing to the correct person. Example – “who is wearing red?” Then the student points to the correct student.
I also use this “Who Am I” puzzle to work on answering “who” questions. I have the students put together some of the different people and then I ask “who” questions and have the student identify and/or say the correct person. For example, “Who teaches children?” or “Who helps put out fires?” Having the different choice of people provides the visual support that “Who” is a person.
Including “when” and “why” questions can make it more challenging. These are difficult concepts. When questions require your student to have an understanding of time concepts and conditional concepts. For example; “when do you brush your teeth” – “in the morning” or “when do you use an umbrella?” – “when it is raining”. Why questions require some beginning inferential skills. For example; “why do you go to the doctor?” – “because you are sick”. Again giving the student choices of answers is a great way to begin working on these more difficult “wh” questions.
Sasha created some “Wh” bingo games which can help practice answer those “when” and “why” questions; as well as, the other “wh” questions terms. “Wh” bingo is great to use with your students because it provides visual choices for answers. You can target one question concepts at a time or when the students appear to understand the different “wh” question terms you can play the combo game. Here is more information about it – Wh-Question Bingo
Check out our Wh- Mega Pack for even more ideas to target this skill! The more practice with the “wh” questions the better.