Creating questions in the right format continuously can be a stumbling block for students.
Give your students a head-start by following these 3 ways to work on the critical skill of question creation.
Try These 3 Ways to Willfully Work on Question Creation
Practice Formats Often
Students learn a variety of types of questions from the beginner level forward. If they have mastered one question format, use that to your advantage and compare it to the next. It is important to stress whether the question format is yes/no or whether it is an information question. Students should be able to spot the difference pretty quickly. Practice should be separated in the beginning until students can recognize the difference. When they see a question word they will know that they must give a long answer whereas when the question starts with a helping verb, generally they can answer with yes or no.
One comparison that all students find useful is the difference between to be questions and questions with do. Before they can move on to information questions with helping verbs, they must first master the difference between when to use to be and when to use do for yes/no questions. Do is used in conjunction with other verbs, whereas be is used as a linking verb. Be is also used for states and emotions. Making these distinctions over and over again will help students master the challenges of different question formats.
Use lots of examples and always detail on the board the Q format as well as the A format. Always show contractions as well as the short answer since that is generally more natural. For example:
To be questions
Are/Were You...? I am/was Is/Was he/she it..? he/she/it is/was Are/Were they/we...? they/we are/were Q: Are you happy? A: Yes I am.
No I am not. (no contraction)
Q: Was he in school today? A: Yes he was.
No he was not (wasn't).
Q: Is he a teacher? A: Yes he is.
No he is not (isn't).
Do questions look like this:
Do/did you...? I do/did Does/did he/she/it..? He/she/it does/did Do/did they/we...? They/we do/did Q: Do you like chocolate? A: Yes I do.
No I do not (don't).
Q: Did he go to school today? A: Yes he did.
No he did not (didn't).
Rounds and Triangles
Creating the right kind of questions appropriate for varied circumstances takes a lot of practice and continued review for ESL learners. One sure way for students to retain the information is to practice often and with exercises that incorporate asking and answering questions. To practice the above structures have students perform Q and A in rounds or better yet, in triangles.
Rounds simply means that you start on one side of the room and have the first student ask the next student a question. The second student answers the question and then asks a question to the next person in line. This is a very effective way for students to practice a specific format, but to also come up with the substance of the question on their own. It enhances answering questions, and challenges students to create language organically. Don't allow students to ask the same question as another, and provide some prompts to make for more challenging or interesting practice. You may also want to debrief at the end of three to four rounds to make sure students were listening to one another and not just concentrating on what they would ask. You can let them know ahead of time that they will have to report back on what they learned about their classmates.
Triangles are similar but a bit more difficult to explain. The first time you introduce triangles, it may take students a few examples to truly understand. Put your students in groups of three and give them a Q and A task, like ask each other questions about the summer break. Student one begins by asking student two a question about student three. Since student two doesn't know the answer, he or she must first ask student number three the question, and then report back to student one. They don't have to use reported speech to relay the answer, they simply report back using the student's name. For example:
Student 1 (Mary): Where did Jack go on vacation?
Student 2 (John): I don't know. Turns to Jack and asks, Where did you go on holiday?
Student 3 (Jack): I went to Prague for a week.
Student 2 says to student 1: Jack went to Prague for one week.
You can do innumerable activities with rounds and triangles, and vary the purpose and the structure to keep things interesting!
One of the most entertaining practice opportunities is the game Hot Seat. This activity is useful because it can be set up in a matter of seconds and you can easily alter it. One student is put in the Hot Seat. Have the student sit in a chair facing the class, and away from the board. The teacher writes a phrase or word on the board. The student must ask the audience yes/no questions to guess the word. Don't make it too easy, because you want the student to ask a lot of questions. Also be sure it is something the class has recently learned, and can relate to. You can switch this up in a number of ways. One way is the student in the hot seat is not the one being challenged. The class must get only yes answers, only no answers, or a set amount of one type of answer. The student in the hot seat must answer honestly. This one is lively and can get rowdy because now the audience is firing questions at the hot seat. Make Hot Seat a part of your repertoire, and vary it according to level and style of class.
Asking and answering questions is a crucial skill when learning English.
Try these question creation methods and your students will acquire inquiring skills in no time!