Tips for asking clear “what” questions to help apprentices who have difficulty with reading

“What” is the most frequently used question word, yet “what” is considered to be the most challenging. It is clear what other question words are asking for: “who” asks for a person, “where” asks for a place. “What” should ask for a thing, but that is true only 5 to 10% of the time. The other 90% of the time, “what” questions ask for something other than a thing.

When you develop worksheets or tests for your apprentices, keep in mind these few tips for asking “what” questions to help learners who have difficulty with reading.

Tip 1: Use direct question words

Changing a question such as “What is the start date of the job?” to begin with a different question word such as “When is the start date for the job?” makes the question more direct. “When” asks for a time. Using a direct question word clarifies what type of information you are looking for.

Tip 2: Be aware that “what” typically travels with a partner word

For example:


Hinting at the type of information you are looking for by using the most precise type of question word will be the first step in helping your apprentices to answer your questions.

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