'What' Questions for Speech Therapy

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Children with language delays often have difficulty answering questions. This lesson will give you some ideas for practicing 'what' questions with your students, which will help them communicate with their family and friends.

'What' Questions

Formulating and answering 'what' questions can be a difficult task for kids with speech and language delays. Most children who are two to three years old tend to begin asking and answering 'what' questions appropriately. Kids with language delays may develop this skill much later, and only after individualized instruction and lots of practice. Understanding and answering 'what' questions is critical because it enables us to communicate more clearly with our family and friends. The inability to answer 'what' questions can impede a student's reading comprehension and academic performance.

Practicing 'What' Questions

Let's looks at some different activities for practicing 'what' questions. Most of these activities are meant to be used in a one-on-one setting, but you could easily adapt them for groups as well. You can also change these activities to be more appropriate for your students' ages, interests, and abilities.


Cut out a variety of pictures from a magazine and have your student choose a picture. Ask 'what' questions that can be answered by looking at the picture. Some examples of questions are listed below.

  • What is she wearing?
  • What color is his hat?
  • What is happening?
  • What is in the sky?
  • What is the puppy eating?

Reading Comprehension

Write sentences on flashcards and ask the student to pick a card and read it aloud. If your student cannot read, read the sentence to them. Then ask them a 'what' question about each individual sentence.

''The puppy is eating his breakfast under the table.''

  • What is the puppy doing?

''Jenny wants to go to the mall, but her mother said no.''

  • What does Jenny want to do?

''His house caught on fire last year, and now he building a new one.''

  • What happened to his house?


Find or make flashcards with a variety of everyday school and household objects, like a pencil, a vacuum, a desk, a paper clip, a pair of pants, and a blender. Write the numbers 1-6 on the back of the cards and tape them to the white board. Have your student roll the dice, and pick up the card that matches the number they rolled. Allow them to look at the object while you ask the following questions.

  • What color is it?
  • What shape is it?
  • What can I do with it?
  • What is it?

After the student has done all six of the flashcards, take them down and replace them with six new ones.


You could modify the above flashcard questions game into a guessing game. You would keep the cards on the board and mentally pick one of the items. The student would ask you 'what' questions until they could figure out which picture you are thinking about.

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