Questions questions questions
January 16, 2012 3 Comments
Let’s face it, question forms in English are difficult; no matter how much controlled practice or feedback on the form of ‘subject’ or ‘object’ questions, there are still likely to be slip-ups along the way. Broadly speaking, there are two problems associated with questioning:
1. Cumbersome form to manipulate while speaking, thinking and communicating meaning.
2. Lack of practice asking questions, i.e. eliciting information the learner desires to know.
Ultimately, practice makes perfect. Nevertheless, practice needs to be as authentic as possible; questions that elicit information learners want to know.
Isn’t it better when they make the questions anyway?
Find someone who actually did it
1. Put 6 sentences on the board, which contain bits and bobs you’ve got to know about your learners, you could even throw in a few curve balls as well with completely false information.
2. Ask the class to make up questions to find out this information, e.g. “somebody went skiing over Christmas” – “what did you get up to over Christmas?” Discourage questions like “did you go skiing?” and encourage more open questions.
3. Learners mingle and find answers. Compare and report back to class with interesting information they found out.
When do you….?
1. Draw or put a clock on the whiteboard and ask learners to make questions which involve the clock. You can make an example if you think they are likely to struggle. A variation might involve putting a calendar up on the board.
2. Ask learner to write the questions on the board and interview each other. Mingle and help out with vocabulary or reformulation.
3. Report back on any interesting answers/write a summary of the conversations they had
4. Extensions could include
a) Adverbs of frequency: often/from time to time/hardly ever etc.
b) Ask learner to find out who is a morning person/afternoon person/evening person.
c) Draw a time of day/feeling graph and ask learners to explain their graphs; help out with adverbs of frequency; combine with activity b.
d) Acting adverbs: divide the board into two sections; dedicate one section to actions you heard; ask learners to come up with adverbs of manner for the other side of the board, add some yourself as well. Put learners into small groups and have them act out the sentences while the others guess the adverb. E.g. “eat dinner slowly” or “have lunch on the go” “get to the bus stop just in time”.
Profile questioning (good for teens and younger learners)
1. Ask students to invent a profile or write the profile of a famous person. This can be done with personal profiles depending on the class. From experience, I’ve found that younger students get more involved if the profile is made up; they don’t have the share anything too personal.
2. Put students in groups. Tell them they are going to make interview questions and write them on cards. Monitor and reformulate any incorrect questions/push learners to dig deeper.
3. Collect all cards, shuffle them and put them into piles. Put learners in different groups and tell them they are going to interview each other, but have to stick to the information in their profiles; they have to act the person.
4. Swap groups or swap profiles to make the activity more difficult.
a) With the personalities you could ask learners to write dramatic dialogues or take part in a dramatic roleplay in an everyday situation.
Classroom posters in schools
I took the ninja Phil Wade’s advice in this post and considered the materials in my classroom for a moment. I noticed that there is an abundance of posters in class. You know the type of poster, topic-based, full of information etc etc. The posters are in L1 but they are to be used as a springboard for L2 discussion.
1. I asked learners to collect the posters that interest them (permission to use posters might be a wise idea)
2. Work in groups to make a quiz on the very information heavy posters.
3. Distribute the questionnaires and ask students to find the answers and record them in English.
4. With all the information learners have found out, ask them to write a short report on the topic in English.