World Language Speaking – The Power of Asking and Answering Questions

As I looked at a modern language  textbook, I saw that it had mini-conversations of 2-3 lines.  For example, “Who is looking at the car? ….. Chris is looking at the car.”   In reality, such conversations simply practice the recently introduced grammar of the unit. These conversations do not communicate anything other than grammar.

For me, the ability to ask and answer questions is key to being able to converse in a world language. However, students do need to practice in asking and answering questions.  They need not only to understand what the question word means but also to know how to answer the question word. For example, the Spanish question word, ¿Dónde ….?” means “where” and the student answers with a place.  My students practice in asking and answering questions.  During a recent summer school final, my students, working in pairs, asked  ten questions and gave ten answers based on a randomly selected  common topic in a three minute period; they had no time to prepare to talk. They just began their conversation.  To develop that skill, I have my students do activities like Spanish Question Words Speed-Asking Partner Speaking (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spanish-Question-Words-Speed-Asking-Partner-Speaking)  in which they practice seeing how many questions they can ask about a topic and Spanish Questions Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking  (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spanish-Questions-Modified-Speed-Dating-Whole-Class-Speaking) in which they ask a question from a card and their partner answers the question, then the partner asks a questions.  Students need much practice in asking and answering questions before they can do it spontaneously  to find out information from a partner.

How much do you have your students practice asking and answering questions about common world  language topics?  How well do your students communicate in a conversation?

I originally published this blog at my eduwithtechn site

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.  My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

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