Lesson Skeletons: Asking questions
October 14, 2011 5 Comments
Introduce a stimulus to stimulate discussion
1. Bring in an object or find one in the classroom that can be used as stimulus. Place it by the board and ask students to make questions about the object. Make it clear that this is an open activity and it could involve anything. With a stronger class you can give them the choice of opinions or questions, with a weaker class you could give them a question box.
2. After 5 minutes ask students to come and write their questions on the board. Elicit any corrections and make a mental note of the topics.
Learners focus on topic/language area
3. Ask students in groups to answer the questions. Allow for discussion to develop and allow the lesson to go in a different direction from here. In this stage I normally find the ‘meat’ of the lesson emerges. You can also input vocabulary at this stage.
4. Get feedback from students on their answers to the questions
Change skills focus/use language to extend
5. Now there are a variety of choices:
a) Ask students to write a magazine article answering one of the questions in more detail.
b) Include a relevant part of the course book as an extension.
c) Hold a classroom debate on a topic that interested learners.
d) Do a roleplay on the topic.
c) Ask students to write a conversation between two people with opposing opinions regarding a question.
When did I last use this?
I have used this skeleton a few times since starting my new job. On Wednesday I put the clock at the front of the class and it elicited lots of “how often” “how many times per week” questions, but also “how many seconds are there in a day?” “were people late before they invented the clock”. Lots of language emerged about what my teens have to do on a daily basis. We looked at modals ‘have to/must’ ‘don’t have to
/mustn’t’ ‘should/shouldn’t’ and I asked learners to write the rules and advice for a perfect day, had them write their finished versions on the board and asked them to reformulate their modals to focus on form and looked at the pronunciation of learner-produced language on the board. For homework I asked them to write a more personalized version and do a few exercises in the book on this topic.
1. Can be used as an intro to a course book unit on the topic.
2. Can use the course book to extend language and include it as homework.
3. Encourages learners to ask questions, pushing them to think more critically with their questions.
4. Learners tend to have more to say about the questions they ask rather than the ones given to them.
5. Gives lots of power to them, they control the content, the questions and the output.
6. It is open ended: the stronger can fly and the weaker have a chance to get to the edge of their comfort zone.
7. Lots of room to be flexibile and go in any direction in the later stages of the lesson.
8. Great for teens, who, in my experience, love writing on the board.
Areas to think about:
1. Lots of questions may make it difficult to pinpoint emerging difficulties/topic extension opportunities.
2. Some learners may find it intimidating being given so much control over lesson content.
3. Make sure there is a bit of correction but don’t over correct, otherwise learners may be less willing to be so creative if they think writing on the board is a means of correction.
4. Think about which stage is best to focus on form.
5. Learners may give one-word answers and then stop talking, look at you and say ‘finished’. Have a few tricks up your sleeve like asking the opposite of the questions, writing a report on your answers, swapping groups.