Using Questions to Engage and Challenge Kids

Going Deeper

by Chris Corbett/ November 4, 2015

I was leading a small group discussion with 4th and 5th graders related to the death of Jesus when Lizzie, a 5th grader asked, “Does God love us more than He loves His Son because He let His Son die instead of us?”

I realized at that moment just how deeply the kids in my small group were thinking about our topic. It was also a moment the Holy Spirit used to challenge me as their pastor. I had to ask myself, “Am I asking the type of questions that are challenging kids to think deeply about their faith?” or “Am I asking questions that only test their knowledge and ability to recall information?”

Basic knowledge about the Bible and being able to recall facts and Scripture is very important. But we must be sure to provide kids with an opportunity to critically think about what they believe, and help them explore how their beliefs can impact their daily lives. 

A practical way to use questions to engage kids in small group interactions comes from Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy is an educational tool that provides a framework for determining the level of questioning we are using in the learning process. Questions generally fit into one of the following six categories:

  1. Remembering—recalling or remembering information

  2. Understanding—explain ideas and/or concepts

  3. Applying—using the information in a new way

  4. Analyzing—breaking information into parts

  5. Evaluating—justifying a decision or course of action

  6. Creating—generating new ideas or a new point of view

Remembering, understanding, and applying are considered lower order questions and are usually easier to write. They are also the type of questions we tend to ask the most in children’s ministry.

Writing questions that focus on analyzing, evaluating, and creating will challenge kids to think about what we are teaching in a way that helps them move their biblical knowledge into their lives. These types of questions also move kids from reciting “memorized” answers into developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Theses questions also promote discussion.

Here is a sample list of question stems and methods you can use for each level:

1. Remembering (Worksheets, workbooks)

  • Can you name the …?

  • Can you recite …? 

2. Understanding (Examples, explanations)

  • Can you explain … in your own words?

3. Applying (Demonstration, Interview, Journal)

    • Do you know another instance where …?

    • Could this have happened in …?

4. Analyzing (Charts, Graphs, Surveys)

    • If … happened, what might the ending have been?

    • How is … similar to …?

5. Evaluating (Debates, Panels)

    • How would you feel if …?

    • How would you have handled …?

6. Creating (New Game, Song, Painting)

    • What would happen if …?

    • Can you describe your own way to deal with …?

Think about the questions you and your team ask kids. What level of Bloom’s Taxonomy do they focus on? How can you add or rewrite questions that move kids from remembering or understanding to the higher levels?