You try to fake it, but it limps right out of your mouth, barely alive: “How was school?”
You might use a slight variation like, “What’d you learn in school today?” but in a single sentence, all that is wrong with ‘school.’
First, the detachment–you literally have no idea what they’re learning or why. (You leave that up to school because that’s what school’s for, right?) Which means you know very little about what your children are coming to understand about the world, only able to speak about it in vague terms of content areas (e.g., math, history).
Then, there’s the implication–they don’t talk about the way that they’ve been moved or impressed upon or changed but in the rarest cases; you have to drag it out of them.
And there’s also the matter of form–you ask them, as if a developing learner will be able to articulate the nuance of their own learning to make for a conversation that will do anything but make it seemed like they learned nothing at all. So what to do?
Well, that idea of form has some legs, doesn’t it? Show me. Demonstrate it. Let’s look at some artifacts that show thought and affection. Let’s see the impact of your work and effort. That’d actually make a pretty good post in itself. But let’s stick to the old questions-on-the-car-ride-home or over-the-dinner-table format.
What are some alternatives to “What’d you learn at school today?” Here are a few ideas.
- When did you notice yourself most interested and curious today?
- Was there a time today when you were especially confused? How did you respond?
- What is one thing that was hard to believe? Not confusing, but surprising?
- If you were more ____ today, how would it have impacted the day?
- When were you most creative today?
- Tell me one fun thing you learned, one useful thing you learned, and one extraordinary thing you learned.
- What does a successful day at school look like to you? Feel like?
- What sort of different reasons do your friends go to school?
- Who worked harder today, the teacher or the students?
- How else could you have learned what the teacher taught?
- How do your teachers show they care?
- What do you know, and how do you know it?
- What would you like to know more about?
- What is the most important thing you learned today? The least?
- Tell me one chance you took today, and how it ended up.
- What is one thing you learned from a book?
- What is one thing you learned from a friend?
- What is one thing you learned from a teacher?
- What still confuses you?
- What is something you say or heard that stuck with you for some reason?
- Based on what you learned today in ______ class, what do you think you’ll learn tomorrow?
- Tell me three facts, two opinions, and one idea you heard today.
- What should you do with what you’ve learned?
- When did you surprise yourself today?
- What’s stopping you from being an (even more) amazing learner?
- What great questions did you ask today?
- What did you discover?
- What surprised you?
- Where did you travel?
- Why are you learning that?
- How do you know you are learning?
- What did you learn/do that made you smile today?
- What was your favorite part of school today?
- What was your favorite moment at school today?
- If you had been responsible for the lesson, what would you have emphasized or done differently? Why?
- What was your ‘good’ for today? What was your ‘bad’?
- What did you protect or improve today?
- What challenged your thinking?
- How did you contribute to other student’s learning?
- What touched your heart today?
- Did you experience anything at school that motivates you to make a difference in the world?
- Did you experience any ‘aha’s’ today – understanding or seeing something different than you previously had?
- Did you experience any moments of full enjoyment in learning today? If so, when and how?
- Did you invent or create anything new today?
- What do you want to do with what you learned?
- What could (or should) you do with what you learned today? What do others do with this kind of knowledge, skill, or thinking?
- How could the teacher have taught or structured the class in a different way and what do you think the effect of that might’ve have been?
- What did something you learned today remind you of?
- What was the most and least valuable thing you learned today?
- What’s something you learned today–or something you reviewed–that may not seem useful today but could be one day? Or vice-versa–What’s something that you learned today that seems useful but one day could be less useful or relevant?