Published Works for Teachers

Open-Ended Questions


Research has shown time and time again that if we pose a close-ended question, our students will elicit a minimal amount of answers. However, we can draft the same question using the following question starters that provoke higher level thinking coupled with brainstorming.

In the beginning, you will find that it is hard to draft an open-ended question. However, with time, it will become easier and easier until it becomes a habit. So, how do you break the habit? Use this simple technique:

1. Begin by drafting a good-quality question. Here are some samples:

2. Utilize one of the following open-ended question starters: These are suggestions or you can write your own-        

  • For what reasons…
  • In what ways…
  • Describe in detail…
  • Explain specifically….
  • Generate a list….
  • Brainstorm as many reasons for…

3. Select the starter that makes the most sense for your question.

  • Why did the American Revolution begin? (changes to:)
  • For what reasons did the American Revolution begin?


  • Who was Helen Keller? (changes to:)
  • Describe in detail the life of Helen Keller.


  • Where does mold grow? (changes to:)
  • Generate a list of all the places where mold can grow.


  • What technique did the cubists use? (changes to:)
  • Explain in detail the technique that the cubists used.


  • How does a musical score affect a storyline in a movie? (changes to:)
  • In what ways does a musical score affect the storyline in a movie?

At first, you will find that you will have to draft the open-ended questions ahead of class time. Before you know it, with practice and repetition, you will begin to draft them in your head without the use of paper.

Be open to being a learner, as it takes practice. So when you find that you have just posed a good quality- but close-ended question- to your students, repeat it. Tell that class, “Let me repeat the question,” and rephrase it in an open-ended manner. Remember, practice makes perfect!

The original article was published (c) 2012, (c) 2021 Update Andi Stix, Ed.D

Do you have another question starter that you would like us to add to the list? (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)

Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching, and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.