The next unit in the book (Wow! 5) practises questions in English, using do/does, also with question words and the topic is related to families and jobs. I decided not to concentrate on the book for this unit, but to make use of the fact that two Australian girls (aged 7 and 9) were coming to visit the class in the near future, and I decided we would spend some time working towards thinking up suitable questions to ask them.

Content aims: revision and practice in formulating and using questions, especially using do/does and questions words. Revision of vocabulary related to people and countries.

Thinking aims: to notice how previously-made ENV models could help us with a task; modifying the parameters and values to suit a new situation (the function has changed).

The previous year this class had made an ENV of a person (see) based on writing about their grandparents. They had more or less made a ’passport’ of a person. I was hoping that they would realise that they could return to this.

WARM-UP: I asked them what kinds of things they know about their friends. They all had to write a few sentences and we wrote many of the sentences on the board. We would return to these soon.

STEP 1 Making room for thinking.

TASK: They have to prepare suitable questions to interview someone they don’t know. I now asked them to consider the situation when they don’t know a person. They could imagine that they are on holiday abroad and get to know someone their own age who doesn’t speak Finnish. What sort of things would they like to know about them, to get to know them better? Is there anything they might want to ask about that person’s country? (We had also made a ’passport’ of a country in the past).

They started writing questions, but most of them couldn’t think of many and their ideas dried up rather quickly.

Step 2 Building the stairs I then referred them back to their description of their friend and they sorted their sentences into  parameters. They suggested family, hobbies, age, likes and dislikes, character, appearance and home-town. I asked if they remembered that they’d done this last year?  They vaguely did and we returned to their ’passport’ which we’d made then. It had the same parameters, but also pets and everyday habits. We then considered how this could help us with our present task. Their problem at the moment was not so much how to ask questions as what to ask.

They all agreed they could use these parameters as ideas for what to ask, so they returned to the original task and found it much easier.

Step 3 Reflecting We stopped to consider what they’d done so far, and they all agreed that it was easier to get some ideas, but it would be nice if there was a particular person in mind to whom they were asking the question. Linguistically, their questions were also full of mistakes, and they realised they had a lot of difficulty asking exactly what they wanted. I asked where they might find examples of people asking questions, and they came up with interviews and with their books. For this reason we decided to return to their course book and to read the next chapter which was in the form of an interview.

Teacher’s reflections on this lesson

While writing this posting I realised myself that I should have given the pupils a reason for writing about their friend in the first place. As it is, I just wanted them to quickly revise/use the vocabulary for talking about people in general, so that it could be used to find / remind them of the parameters they had made before for describing a person. The idea is that they will then (when they make questions for our guests from Australia) have to decide if their present questions are relevant to this particular situation and these guests.  I’m not sure how I could have done it, but I think it could have been more ’economical’.

In general, however, this lesson met its aims as the pupils did find that the parameters helped them, but then became aware of the gaps in their knowledge concerning asking questions correctly in English. I tried to make the grammar part more ’thinking’, but I know it didn’t work out quite like that and I have to work myself on how to do this. I report how I did this here Questions for a guest , grammar.



# Irina Buchinska 2012-02-19 20:30
Susan, I think it was good that you spoke about what you may ask about a person in general, as it is a more generic vision, at least as I understand it.

Susan, I think that it was not the first time you had done this Unit. Do you see any differences between what your pupils could do during previous years and can do now? Is there any difference between how you felt before dealing with this unit and how you feel now?
# Susan Granlund 2012-02-24 23:16
Thanks for your comments! Yes, maybe the generic vision is okay at first, especially as we will also be having a guest from Ecquador in the spring, so we can adpat the same thing again - this time the country and the age of the guest will be different from the present situation.

Yes, I've done this unit a couple of times before and felt it was very contrived, so I didn't much enjoy doing it, nor were the pupils particularly interested in it.
I felt a lot better now, as I felt I was giving the pupils practice in something they really need, and for a real purpose - it was ideal that our guests were coming soon. In the end we just used the chapter as a bank for questions and didn't concentrate much on it otherwise - that felt fine, as I think the pupils are now better at actively trying to say things they need, as opposed to just learning rote what's in the book, doing the odd pairwork speaking task, and doing grammar exercises. I think when we read the chapter they noticed the questions forms more this time.

I'm not sure about being able to compare what my pupils can actually do with previous years. I would say they're more motivated and active now, and rather than learning the vocabulary in the book, they've been learning words which have come up when they've been asking their own questions or writing their own texts. Questions are still very difficult, as always, as are basic sentences, in that they find it very hard to remember for example the third person 's'. However, I'm sure this will come with time, and I've just been pointing it out when I notice they make mistakes and not labouring the point. I feel it must be helping them to be using the language more. Every class every year is always different too! This class is lively and imaginative, so I want to make use of that.
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio