Good question. Questions show our interest and motivate continued creative thinking. I favor open-ended questions (those that have many possible answers), avoiding those with right and wrong answers and avoiding yes/no questions.
There are two ways to respond. I am first answering as though you are looking at a painting that the second grader is painting or some that she has painted. If you are asking about a painting in a museum or gallery visit, see below.
This page link has questions for the schematic age.
If your second grader is a bit more advanced than the schematic stage. Questions are similar to those one might have in a conversation with a friend. I might say, "I like this part right here because of the way the colors mixed together." After beginning with an affirmation, I continue with an open-ended question to reflect my curiosity and my own interest in learning from the child. I give a specific reason that I like. It may be something the child has done by accident or on purpose. It might be, "How did you decide on the colors to use here? or-- Did you already know how these colors go together to make this color, or was it a new discovery?" Some questions are very specific to what is in the painting, but in almost any situation I can ask the child, "Can you tell me about this part of picture?" "How did you think of this?" "What part was the most fun to paint?" "What was the easiest?" ".. most challenging?"
Their answers are often followed with questions that build on what they say. This helps them think of a way to make the painting richer in information. For example, there are questions that continue the story, such as, "What do you and this dog like to do together? I wonder how you would paint that. Do you remember when you and dad …….. (ask something that relates to the picture). Is there any space left on the paper in case you wanted to add that?" While the child is working, questions can be used to call into awareness the things that the child already knows, but has not thought to include it in this painting. We call it, making passive knowledge active (from Lowenfeld by way of my instructor who studied with him - his book listed on the right).
This age likes to socialize with friends. I might ask about games they play together. I avoid being critical with my questions because I know they will continue to work more if they are made to feel good about their painting. Of course, it is important for me to explain what I think is good about it (not empty praise). Some of the best students come to resent praise that is redundant without being helpful.
For finished paintings, I like to see two similar paintings together that the same child has made. I can ask her to tell which she likes better (always being positive) in regard to particular attributes of a painting. I often agree and ask for a bit of an explanation for what they liked better. I could say, "As we look at these two paintings, in which one do you like the sizes better--or the colors, or the textures, or the shapes, or the expressions, or the skies, or the overlapping, or the balance, or the way things seem to go back, or come forward, and so on?" The same two paintings can be compared on 20 different attributes and one will be better in some ways, and the other will be better in other ways. Sometimes these questions help a child become aware of all kinds of things that were never consciously considered while painting.
Use common sense, and refrain from pushing the conversation too long. If the child gets distracted or bored, it has gone on too long. I am there to coach and affirm, not to push or dictate. One or two questions is often enough to notice the most important things that have happened. The questions depend on what can be discovered in the particular things you are discussing.
Questions to ask when looking at the painting of an artist
When visiting a museum, there are many approaches. Of course there are many styles of art and may purposes for paintings. Obviously, the realistic painting of a queen might suggest different questions than a landscape painting. An abstract action painting would have different questions than those for a painting by a minimalist who produces very quiet and cerebral works.
We are all more interested when we have a choice of which artwork we want to look at. If I am in a gallery or museum room, I like to ask the child to choose which artwork to talk about first. What follows are a few examples of questions I use.