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Councourse 2

Strand 1: Asking questions, listening to answers

ask

You arrived here because you agreed or fully agreed with one of these statements:

I usually already know the answer to the questions I ask because I am asking them to find out how much they understand

I listen very carefully when my students talk to me to make sure they are getting the language right


Read through these examples of snippets from classroom interactions.  What do you notice?
Click here for some comments when you have thought a little.

T: What city is the main subject of the text?
S: Paris.
T: Right.  Does the writer like it?
S: He loves it!
T: Excellent
T: What city is the main subject of the text?
S: Paris.
T: Right.  Does the writer like it?
S: He loves it!
T: Have you been there?
S: Yes, once.
T: Do you have the same feeling as the writer?
T: What tenses do the writers use in the story?
S: Past most but some present like "He jumps up."
T: Good.  Why do the writers use the present in a story about the past?
S: It makes it  .... err ... dramatic.
T: Fine.
T: What tenses do the writers use in the story?
S: Past most but some present like "He jumps up."
T: Good.  How does 'He jumps up.' make you feel.  Is it different from 'He jumped up.'?
S: It seems more strong.
T: Mmm.  It does, doesn't it?  Did you enjoy the story?

so what?

So what?

Good question.  Any answers?  Click here when you have.


dinosaur

The other problem

We saw above that the other problem with the teaching exchanges was that it is always the teacher who does the initiation and the student is consigned to the role of responder.  (For more on Initiation, Response, Feedback routines, see the guide to speaking.)
Why should this be a problem?  Click here when you have had some thoughts.


developing

Developing the skills of asking the right questions and having the right people ask them

This really isn't too difficult.  Here are two proposals for short, simple development programmes to encourage you to use real questions in class as well as the other sort (which are, indeed, sometimes very helpful) and to get your students to initiate more.

1

Proposal 1

1
Record a lesson or get an observer to watch and note down all the questions that you ask during the lesson.  Make a list of them.

2
Now divide the list into two columns: real questions (to which you didn't already know the answer) and questions asking students to display their knowledge to you and the class.

3
Make a new plan for the next lesson in that series or on that topic inserting real questions at least once between each display question.  Try to keep the lesson format similar.

4
Teach that lesson and see if student commitment rises.

5
Canvass the views of the learners about which lesson they enjoyed most and which one they can remember best.



2

Proposal 2

1
Record a lesson, replay it and note down all the times someone initiated during the lesson.  Make a list of what the initiations were.

2
Now divide the list into two columns: initiations from you and initiations from the learners.

3
Now follow steps 1 and 2 to make a list of all the responses and who did the responding.

4
Make a new plan for the next lesson in that series or on that topic.  This time, insert procedures where the learners must initiate.
Make sure there are also one or two occasions when they must initiate and you must respond.  Try to keep the lesson format similar.

5
Teach that lesson and see if student commitment rises and they are more active.

6
Canvass the views of the learners about which lesson they enjoyed most and which one they can remember best.

For proposal 2, it may be helpful to look at the guide to teaching speaking.


Gauging progress

There's a separate guide in this section of the site to gauging and measuring progress in your development.  Go there for more ideas.
In terms of asking questions and listening to answers, you may not be the best judge so, if you can, get someone to observe how you pose and react to questions and ideas and discuss whether your question or reaction was the right one.
If it wasn't, try to think together about what would have been the right questions and the right response.