The secret roadmap to asking your kids better questions

The secret roadmap to asking your kids better questions

Categorized under: education

As a parent, you want to make sure that you're staying involved in your child's education, and that you're encouraging them to think deeply about the content that they're learning. Every parent has had the experience of helping their kids with homework, and wondering if they could be doing more. How great would it be to have a tool that supercharges these conversations with your kids? I want to share an invaluable framework that educators use to stimulate a diverse range of thinking in their students. It's called Bloom's Taxonomy.

Bloom's Taxonomy is a set of categories that divide probing questions into varying degrees of complexity. Asking a range of questions throughout these categories gives you the best idea of whether your child is deeply processing a topic on multiple levels. The categories that Bloom's Taxonomy uses include remembering, comprehending, applying, analyzing, creating and evaluating. They're roughly presented in order of complexity, although there is no clear agreement on hierarchy among analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating. Let's dive into each category!


These questions are all about the facts. They're the low-level who, what, where and when questions you probably hated answering as a kid. They're a bit boring, but the easiest to come up with. Don't write them off though, since remembering questions often serve as a base or prerequisite before learners can grasp more complicated questions. Here are a few examples:

  • When was the first computer invented?
  • What's the capital of Illinois?
  • What are the steps in the scientific method?

Important question stems: who, what, where, when, list, show, match, select


Comprehending questions ask students to process information instead of just retrieving it. They ask students to connect and organize knowledge by summarizing and interpreting concepts in their own words.  Here are a few examples:

  • Why are functions useful in programming?
  • In your own words, what do you think this code does? 
  • What category does this animal belong in?
  • What is the main idea of this essay?
Important question stems: outline, group, categorize, explain, translate, paraphrase


At this level, students need to independently apply prior knowledge.  These questions go beyond checking to see if students remember or understand specific information and check if students can use that information to solve a problem.  Here are a few examples:

  • Try to use one of the debugging techniques you've learned to figure out where your code is breaking
  • What would happen if you dropped some Mentos into a bottle of Coke?
  • How could you setup your gears to make your robot move faster? 
Important question stems: build, develop, model, solve, debug, use, determine


Analysis questions require students to break down and reorganize their knowledge to find new relationships between concepts. They'll usually require students to remember and comprehend prior knowledge as part of the process. Here are a few examples:

  • What are the differences between functional and procedural programming?
  • Why is object-oriented programming useful? What problems does this style of programming create?
  • What evidence can you find that pair-programming is helpful for creating high-quality code?
  • How would you break up this group of galaxies into categories?
  • What are the different arguments in this essay?
Important question stems: analyze, divide, dissect, break up, distinguish, compare, contrast


Creating questions give learners room to be imaginative and inventive. Similar to analysis, synthesis requires learners to deal with component parts. However, instead of breaking up an idea into components, synthesis questions require learners to combine those parts in novel or interesting ways. Here are a few examples:

  • How would you refactor this program to make it more efficient?
  • Build a web application that solves an annoying problem in your life
  • Design a new type of classroom to improve student learning
  • Write a short story set in the 1940's America
Important question stems: build, design, combine, propose, improve, modify, imagine, formulate, construct


These questions require students to to make judgements about information and defend their views. Here are a few examples:

  • Why is object-oriented programming useful? What drawbacks come with this style?
  • Do you think our three branches of government are effectively divided? Why or why not?
  • What is your opinion of Atticus Finch's character from To Kill a Mockingbird?
  • What limits should be placed on genetic engineering?
Important question stems: defend, evaluate, justify, judge, support, recommend

In case you're feeling overwhelmed, just know that you don't need to ask questions in every single category to push your child's thinking. Just make sure you're picking a variety. If they're having trouble with higher-order questions, start with lower-order questions to build confidence and establish a knowledge foundation. If they seem bored with lower-order questions, try out higher-order Creating or Evaluating questions. 

Hopefully this roadmap gave you some more options for talking to your kids about what they're learning. Even if you're not a subject matter expert in the topic, using the provided question stems to formulate a variety of questions should make for much richer conversations with your kids. 

About the Author: Arjun Venkataswamy is the Head of Product at Digital Adventures.