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4 Speech Therapy Strategies to Improve Answering Questions

Wh questions are a big part of language. We ask them, we answer them, we use them all the time to communicate. So, it's no surprise that answering wh questions is a frequent goal for language development in speech therapy.

Developing skills to answer wh questions can often significantly improve overall language functions. But with wh questions, there can be a lot to address and it can be confusing to know where to start. And it can be frustrating if your child isn't seeming to progress.

Children all require different levels of help and cuing in order to successfully answer wh questions, so following a prompting guide is a great place to begin targeting wh questions. Here are some examples of prompting that you can follow with your child:

1. Model the answer for your child.

This prompt provides the most direct prompting. At first, children may need a lot of assistance to answer wh questions. This means as the educator or caregiver, you are directly providing the answer for them, and then often repeating the question to give them an opportunity to copy your answer. This may sound something like this:

Caregiver: What is girl holding?

Caregiver: Book!

Caregiver: What is girl holding?

Child: Book

2. Provide the 1st sound of the target answer.

Modeling the 1st sound or syllable of the target answer helps to initiate a child's thought process in answering questions. Here is an example:

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Caregiver: “buh” (or “buh, buh, buh”, repeating the sound)

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Child: Buh, buh, book

3. Provide a fill-in-the-blank or a rhyme for the target answer.

Providing a short, fill-in-the-blank sentence for your child to complete provides less cuing than a sound or syllable. Similarly, providing a rhyming word provides some assistance, though still encourages independent thought.  Example:


Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Caregiver: The girl is holding a school _____.

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Child: A school book


Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Caregiver: It rhymes with "cook"

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Child: Book

4. Request a response from your child.

If your child needs less prompting, but still benefits from some assistance, you can provide an indirect request to answer the question. This sounds like:

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Caregiver: It’s your turn to answer the question.

Caregiver: What is the girl holding?

Child: Book

Note: indirect requests (ex. "it's your turn") are preferable to direct requests (ex. "can you answer the question?"), as indirect requests place less pressure on communication. Indirect requests are great for fostering a low-stress communication environment. 


Here are some of my favorite resources for practicing answering wh questions:
Wh Questions in Short Stories - Target answering wh questions with a variety of stories. All short stories include 5 different types of wh questions for a comprehensive approach to answering questions.
Expanding Language using Wh Questions and Real Pictures - Practice answering wh questions and increasing language output with 80 real picture targets. This activity includes 3 wh questions and a prompt for all targets. This is a great resource for children who enjoy learning from real pictures!
Wh Questions with Topics and Real Pictures - Improve answering wh questions using this interactive Boom Cards activity. Each target topic has 4 unique wh questions and a story prompt for additional language practice.
I hope this post helps to spark some great ideas for facilitating communication practice. Thanks for following along!

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