Open questions

20 minutes

Create a safe and positive learning environment by agreeing ground rules for the session.

Download the session: Open Questions

You can use this session as a starter for ‘Supporting a friend’, ‘Expressing feelings’ and ‘Developing listening skills’

In this session we will learn:

  • what an open questions is
  • to recognise barriers to listening
  • how an open question helps listening
  • to understand what rehearsing means
  • to ask questions relating to the information given





  1. In small groups play ‘guess the animal’ – one person thinks of an animal and others have to ask questions that can only be answered with yes or no. Allow five minutes. Remind the class that these were closed questions. Remind students of what an open questions is, usually beginning with why?, how? when, who? or what? The answer to these questions has to be more in depth than yes or no.
  2. In pairs give each student ‘job cards’. The task is to discover what job your partner has by asking open questions. The rule of the game is that each question you ask must relate to the previous answer you were given. So if an answer is “I work from 9 to 5 every day,” the next question must relate to this, i.e. “Where are you between 9-5?” One student starts by asking open questions about the other’s job on the card. If they ask a closed question, the students swap and the other person asks questions. The only closed question you can ask is “Are you a...”
  3. Ask the class – how did it feel not being able to prepare questions in advance?
  4. Was it easy or hard? What did they notice happened? What were particularly useful questions?
  5. Summary: When we are chatting to someone, we often start to prepare what we are going to say next in our heads. This is normal and called ‘rehearsing’. When we really need to listen to what someone is saying we need to switch our rehearsal off so we can concentrate on what someone is telling us. It’s not easy to do. Open questions give us more information and help us to focus our attention and demonstrate that we are really listening.



What have I learned about the value of open question?


Links and Learning Journeys

This session links to: Managing stress | Building resilience | Self-harm myths and facts | My support network | Who are Samaritans? | Ups and downs of the day

It is also part of a suggested learning journey:

Learning journey: coping: Ups and downs of the day | My support network | Self-harm myths and facts | Supporting a friend | Open questions (short) | Coping with changes | Who are Samaritans?

Make sure young people know what support is available and how to access this support.