Ask specific questions
Asking questions that only require a one-word answer will often times produce just that. You can encourage your child to give something more by asking "situation-specific" questions, such as:
* "What did you do in math today?"
* "Who did you play with on the playground?"
* "Tell me the best story your teacher read today."
Start a "names I know" list
Have your child start a list at the beginning of the school year called "Names I Know" or "My Class." Keep it on the refrigerator. Ask specific questions about the kids on the list. Young children can have trouble keeping track of names, and your child might want to talk to you about someone whose name they can't remember. Keeping an on-going list serves as a memory jogger for your child and a conversation starter for you.
Give your child time to unwind
Think about your own after-work needs. Just like you, kids need time to decompress after a long day at school. Try not to jump right in with questions about school the moment your kids are dismissed. Give your child time to get home, unwind, and sit with a snack. You might even want to wait until dinner; that just might be the amount of transition time they need.
Help your child's conversation skills
Helping your child practice the art of conversation will serve them well. Show them that a good conversation begins with eye contact, appropriate body language, and a warm greeting. Conversations are give and take; listening is just as important as sharing!
Share some of your day
By sharing how your day went, you're modeling for your child the kind of information that you'd like to hear from them: "This is what I did today that I felt really good about; This is what I did today that was a little bit hard, but I did it anyway." These statements naturally lead to questions that you can ask your child: "What was one thing that you did today that was hard (or fun) for you?"
Play a conversation game
Children at this age have rich imaginations and love stories. Try turning school conversations into stories. Begin by saying, "Today, I went to school and sat down right next to _________." Let your child fill in the blank. "First, we opened up our backpacks and I took out my folder and looked inside and saw ______________." Continue until you get to the end of the day, or until you're satisfied that you've heard more than your child would normally volunteer.
Get the facts straight
From time to time you'll hear information that may concern you about your child's day at school. Don't ponder the details -- ask the teacher! It could be that you and your child's teacher is using different terminology, and your child is confused by your questions. On the other hand, if your child complains about being teased or picked on, repeats a complaint with regularity, or complains of frequent trips to the nurse, there may be a problem; Asking the teacher is the best way to find out.
(Adapted from an article by The American School Counselor Association)