Who, What, How, and Where Questions in Speech Therapy

Who, What, How, and Where Questions in Speech Therapy

“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” – Peter Abelard

WH Questions: What you need to know. 

Why are WH questions so important, anyway? Asking and answering these questions require a lot of language skills. The child must understand the question, grammar, vocabulary, and context while also being able to formulate a response using the appropriate syntax and semantics. Socially, it means they can participate in conversations with friends and family, respond appropriately in a classroom setting, demonstrate knowledge during testing, follow directions, and stay safe. For more activities, games, interventions, and skill building ideas contact me for a free consultation today! 

Learning ‘Who’ Questions

‘Who’ questions involve understanding identity. Begin with the most basic ‘who’ question of all: ‘who’s this?’ When asking the question, point to yourself, your child, or another caregiver. Doing so teaches the basics of the word: the fundamental difference between people. The aim is to get them to identify the person correctly. If they struggle, give them the answer, then ask them to repeat it. Keep practicing these speech and language therapy exercises.

Next, move out of your immediate circle and ask about a character in a storybook. It’s best to start with something familiar. Or, if they struggle with this, use pictures of yourself and your family. Here, the aim is to develop an understanding between appearance and identity. A person is still the same in the picture as in real life.

Then start to build up the grammatical and semantic complexity. For instance, ‘who do you go to when you’re sick?’ or ‘who delivers the mail?’. These sentences demonstrate a deeper understanding of the word ‘who’ and how it can be used. ‘Who’ doesn’t just apply to an individual; it can also apply to a job or another form of role or identity. Finally, when you’re out and about, ask about someone or something that isn’t there. Ask about their teacher at school or one of their friends. If they struggle, give them some options from which to pick.

Understanding ‘What’ Questions

‘What’ questions are about objects and actions. Like ‘who’ questions, start small. Asking ‘what’s this?’ is a good starting place. You could point to a fork or a toy. If they don’t answer or repeat the question, say the name of the object and get them to imitate. You’re building an association between the thing and the word. However, if they get it correct, give them praise. You want to let them know they’ve got the right answer. Positive reinforcement is pivotal to locking in the correct response and understanding.

After they’ve mastered objects, then move onto actions. ‘What are they doing?’ is a key question. You’re trying to get them to understand you’re asking for a specific action, be it talking, dancing, or running. The importance is also on the grammatical structure of the word. The person isn’t ‘dance’; they’re ‘dancing.’ However, if they struggle with adding the -ing, focus on getting the verb correct. This type of speech therapy improves significantly with practice.

Now we can make things personal with our third question: ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘what do you… like to eat… want to wear?’ These questions can be connected with an action you’ve seen. If you see someone wearing a dress, you can say: they are wearing a dress. Then ask ‘what do you wear?’ or ‘what are you wearing?’ Finally, extend this to inanimate objects. For instance, what do you do with a spoon? Eventually, you want the child to respond in full sentences: “I eat with a spoon.” 

Knowing ‘How’ Questions

‘How’ questions are one of the most complicated types of questions. There are four main types:

Quantity ‘how’ questions

Deal with the amount of an object. For example, ‘how many people are there?’ or ‘how much food is left?’ There are two methods of answering these questions: by giving a number or an estimation. Giving a number can be practiced by asking them to count the number of objects, such as cows in a field. You can then qualify this by saying, that’s ‘a lot’ or ‘a little,’ thereby connecting numbers with abstract quantities.

Quality ‘how’ questions

Get us to describe sensations: ‘how does that taste?’ or ‘how are you feeling?’ To explore this idea, get your child to mind map all the possible words associated with a particular object for a question. For instance, list all the different tastes of an orange or the different sensations of a flower.

Extent ‘how’ questions

Extent questions are about intensity. ‘How cold is it?’ or ‘How fun is this?’ You’re looking for your child to use words like very or to understand the difference between good, better, and best. Ask them to write out the scale of how they feel or of temperature. This can help give an appreciation of intensities.

Procedural ‘how’ questions

Are about learning how to do something. ‘How do I put my t-shirt on?’ In this instance, you want answers that order actions into a sequence. Words like ‘first,’ ‘then,’ ‘next’ and ‘finally’ should be used. Ask them to develop their answer in a stepwise process.

Grasping ‘Where’ Questions

‘Where’ questions are one of the easiest to grasp, dealing only with location. The aim is to combine the object and a location with a preposition. For instance, if you ask, ‘where is the bag?’, you might expect the answer ‘the bag is on the chair.’ The sentence structure is thus object-preposition-location. Other examples of prepositions are under, between, over, next to,  and on top.

Teach your child with simple ‘where are the…’ questions. Use a familiar object and familiar location to get them to use the correct preposition. Then once they’ve grasped the connection, try a different item. You can even do this when out and about: ‘where is the house?’ ‘The house is on the hill.’

There is, however, another aspect of where questions: time. Objects move around in both time and space. The bag may have been on the chair, but it isn’t any longer. You can now use the past-tense: ‘where was…?’ Similar to before, use familiar objects.

Finally, combine with actions: ‘where do we plant seeds?’ Here we combine a verb – a doing word – with an object. We’re looking for the location that the item should go. Think of some examples and test them out. As before, if they get it wrong, give them the correct answer and ask them to repeat. Teaching WH questions is a tricky type of speech therapy but you don’t have to struggle alone. Contact us today to schedule your Free Consultation.


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