So what's tricky about questions?
Some of these remarks are more relevant to German than, for example, to French, but the general points remain valid.
For pupils who try to think in English first, questions are a nightmare.
- Firstly, you have to ignore the "do".
- Secondly, you have to remember to invert the verb and personal pronoun.
- And THEN.. you need to convert the continuous present "Are you going.." to "go you.."
I've been revising questions with Y10 this week, and I've found these things effective:
- Emphasising finding the verb and personal pronoun.
- Drawing their attention much more than usual to the fact that "do" is to be ignored.
- Tonnes and tonnes of practice exercises
- And then.. my secret weapon: Fredericke, my German visitor. People can't help themselves - they are curious (or nosey) by nature, and my Y10 class are no exceptions. The Y10s had 5 minutes to ask as many questions as they could of Fredericke. I asked her to score the number of follow-up questions they asked, and there was an edible prize for the winning team.
Making it stick.
I have been trying to work this through for a while. The recent blogposts by Joe Kirby and David Fawcett have helped to crystalise some thoughts on helping the grammar points which we have taught stick. I have been guilty of assuming "job done" because I have taught something. In many ways, it is simple - use it or lose it. I do feel that we de-skill our pupils by providing questions simply "because it's quicker" or by not giving them the opportunities to ask questions. Making the TL the routine language in the classroom helps, as does revisiting the skill on regular occasions. Joe Kirby, drawing on work from Daniel Willingham, refers to "distributing practice" and "interleaving", which I found very useful. I found a recent blog by @oldandrew where he argues for practice to be part of the path towards fluency in maths and some of his points about deliberate practice resonanted with me. This also tied in with Joe Kirby's further principle of "overlearning", i.e. practising for a further 20% worth of effort in to master the material. The issue of having enough practice is certainly one which needs addressing, but it needs something more. The penny often only drops during more authentic speaking situations, such as group talk, or speaking to a "real life German", like my pupils did this week. The practice was invaluable, but the application of it brought some of "lightbulb" moments for my pupils.
I hereby commit to making pupil form the questions I want them to use in speaking questions, and when I do "word scatter" starters, I will include question words to encourage them to form questions as well as the usual statements. I will also plan more group talk activities that require the pupils to devise questions. Momentum is the name of the game. You see, now I've written this in my blog, I have to do it :-)