Open-ended and Close-ended Questions
Purpose: English language learners often have difficulty identifying the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions. Making the distinction is very important in situations like job interviews, where a potential employer wants more information about a person’s skills or experience.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Materials: copies of handout
Prep: You’ll need plenty of examples to illustrate the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions, and copies of the handout for your student(s).
- Questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer are close-ended questions, because no more information in needed or required.
- Q: “Did you eat lunch today?” A: “Yes, I did.”
- Q: “Have you ever used a computer?” A: “Yes, I have.”
- Questions that require the answerer to give more information or details are open-ended, because they “open” a conversation and provide an opportunity for new questions to be asked.
- Q: “Why didn’t you come to school yesterday?” A: “My son was sick and I had to take him to the doctor. Then I had to go to the drugstore to fill a prescription, …”
- Q: “When are you available to work?” A: “I can work days, evenings, and some weekends.”
- Introduce the idea of open-ended and close-ended by asking your students a series of questions. As they respond, talk about the difference between their answers and help them to categorize the questions you’ve asked into open-ended and close-ended. Be sure to ask questions that are clearly one or the other.
- Ask students to pose questions that they think are close-ended. Talk about whether or not they are and why. Repeat with open-ended questions.
- Give students the handout and review the definitions again. Look at Exercise I and go over the directions together.
- Students complete Ex. 1 in pairs, reading the examples aloud and adding their own example.
- Ask students to share their ideas with the class.
- Students work individually to complete Exercise II, then practice asking and answering the open-ended questions they’ve written with a partner.