The Power of Questions

Former Administrative Director Lori Falchi shares something important to her both personally and academically. What follows is a heart-felt piece of advice to families who hope their children will get excited about asking questions, digesting answers, and pursuing lifelong learning.

One winter morning, my son woke up asking “How many stars are there?” I wondered how long he'd been working on that one! Thinking of Carl Sagan saying “billions and billions. . .” about the countless stars and galaxies, I went online to find an answer to this query. But I did not find definitive answers: 100 billion, 200 billion (possibly half of that), 300 million in the Milky Way. . . We don't know.


The search for answers to our children’s questions is where powerful learning happens. When children ask questions, we are often busily engaged in our everyday tasks. I was blown away by that one, and I believe I began to model how to search for an answer.
Listening and responding lets your child know that you value their questioning. A week later my son asked, “Where did the ducks go?” As adults we can respond in many ways. When children show curiosity and interest in their surroundings, we can listen to them and their ideas. You support your child in generating thoughts and theories on such “big questions” when you respond with enthusiasm.
While searching for answers, your child can hypothesize and explain what s/he thinks. If you look online or at the library, seek out resources in Spanish. When children investigate the world, they learn vocabulary in a specific area and become experts in that area as they acquire complex language and knowledge.
Discuss ideas even if you do not know the answers. Not only do you support their oral language by extending these conversations, but you examine your ideas together.
Your child may participate in inquiry projects together with other children. You can document what they learn through drawings to think out their ideas. Over time your child’s interests and passions may grow in this specific subject area.
My academic work is centered on qualitative inquiry into the bilingual literacies of emergent bilinguals. I have learned a great deal about learning, and for this piece I drew on an exceptional book by Megan Blumenreich and Beverly Falk research entitled, The Power of Questions: A Guide to Research for Teachers and Students. They created a resource where teachers can apprentice children of all backgrounds by engaging them in meaningful student inquiry projects that draw upon their questions.
So encourage questioning by active listening, response, and inquiry. As you document your child’s questions, you pay close attention to his/her interests, ideas, and knowledge on which they will build over time.

Lori Falchi is completing her fourth year as Administrative Director. This fall, she will be pursuing other interests in the field of early childhood bilingual education. She hopes to improve the quality of education of young children and make a meaningful contribution to the field of childhood bilingual education through work with teachers, and through research, policy, and leadership. We look forward to continuing our relationship with her in the future, and wish her the very best in her new endeavors.