Annoying Orange Technique

One thing we can do with boring kids – and this is most effective – is to always bring a lame kid into the PQA without his permission. This is a major tool in PQA.

I have developed a habit over the years. It is kind of bad ass. I sense, as I am explaining what the structures mean, who is the lamest kid in the room. I’m scoping lame kid out – trying to figure out who the worst and lamest kid in the room is that day. Then, after we gesture and it is time for the PQA to start, I start out on that kid, as per:

“Class, Jeremy wants to be Cinderalla for Halloween!” (circle that) I keep at it until the kid starts answering questions. I hammer the kid with that fact. The class gets into it. Cat calls might happen on Jeremy. I encourage that. Yes, it makes me happy, get over it.

I call this the Annoying Orange technique. I speak their name with an American accent but the other words in French, like “Jeremy! Hey Jeremy! Jeremy! Jeremy do you want to be Cinderella for Halloween!”

Here is a link:

What is really happening when I am being Annoying Orange? I am telling little lame ass Jeremy that HE WILL NOT BE LAME IN MY CLASS BC I WILL SHINE THE LIGHT OF MY INDIGNATION (housed in cheerfulness) ON HIM BUT I WON’T LET UP ON THE KID.

Almost always, after enough of being peppered by the questions about him wanting to be Cinderalla for Halloween (bc I SAY SO), his shoulders slump and he smiles and gives in and pays attention. Those are great moments as lame kids come around to playing the game. Of course, this is not done with certain kids who are at risk in some way – you know what I mean.



15 thoughts on “Annoying Orange Technique”

  1. This is great. I have a class full of lame kids. My problem is that I feel super lame at PQA in my Spanish 2 classes because I haven’t taught Spanish 2 in this style. I feel lame myself. How do I PQA “shoots”? what can I do with grabs? I feel like I am the most uncreative teacher when it comes to making up cute things. Which is silly because I also have an art degree so I know that I am creative. However, I just don’t seem to get there with PQA. I need to practice. I like the idea of getting it vicerally into my body. I am much happier with my Spanish 1 kids because they only know me. Some kids are not happy with my style of teaching and want to do worksheets but for the most part the kids are okay. I am having a lame day bah humbug. I feel like I am lame and my kids are lame. We are all a bunch of lame asses. I imagine I need to practice during my prep period.

    1. Just know that PQA is a big blocker for people who try this and so you are not the only one. I felt lame, and still do on certain days with certain classes, for about the first five years. I even wrote a book to help me figure it out.

      It’s just in the play. I have fun no matter what. I pick on kids. It’s not really PQA but PSA – Personalized Statements and Answers (that I make up about the kids bc they really can be lame but who can blame them when all their lives they have been told that school is serious business).

      They have BECOME lame. We can’t PQA “shoots” around here, but on “grabs”, just grab something from a kid’s desk and circle that and drop it when you can’t think of anything else. I just now finished a class of PQA into a story and it was so lame.

      It is just a boring group, as happens sometimes. (Those are the ones we always get observed in, right?) Upon reflection, I really do think that the quality of the PQA we get now depends on the quality of the human interaction we have built with our kids from August until now. That is a truth for me.

      If the kids know we like them, and in particular if most have jobs, and there are a few sparklers in there, the PQA always flies. But remember that some expressions don’t lend themselves to PQA and you should just punt on those.

      Tough work, this. But somebody’s got to do it, when you look at the absolutely frightening alternatives that do not, never have and never will align with how humans really learn languages.

      1. I have had great luck buttonholing some of my more “reticent” potential PQAers, privately after class or before class for a minute, and asking them if they’d “play along” with me tomorrow when I introduce new structures. Sometimes, I give them an idea of where we “might go” with it.

        Most of the time, they say, “Yes.” I’ve had a few tell me, “I want to do it, but don’t say ____ about me or make me be in love with ______, OK?” or they say, “Can you say _____ about me or have me do ______?” Cracks me up. I always remind them that I don’t really know where the conversation will go, but that I will be respectful of their wishes and will not embarrass them.

      2. Thanks. It is uplifting to know that even the “pros” have lame days. I figured that “shoots” is kind of dangerous so I am talking about using a slingshot and a water gun instead of a glock, but I totally get that it wouldn’t even fly at all in Colorado. This is the video that I have been teaching vocabulary for because in Ven Conmigo we have to teach reflexive verbs (though I haven’t spent more than a few grammar pop ups on the fact that they are reflexive)
        It is pretty fun except there is the small part about him shooting his alarm clock.

        1. Jody- I think that in some of my classes I will need to start doing this because I need some good PQA (PSA) or I might go CRAZY!!!!

    1. Thanks for the link, John.
      Karen, for what it’s worth to have a little sympathy, I feel that PQA is initially kind of hard, too. I have found lately that interest is gained when I find a student willing to pretend. I now tell them “imagine” (it’s on a word wall) and then the skeptics hush and the creative kids get into it. I had the word “sick” and “see a doctor” recently and rather than try to deal with real illness or doctors, we imagined. I asked “Who is sick?” and a cooperative, fun girl put up her hand and smiled. It went quite well. We ended up getting her up and doing a scene where she went to an eye doctor (a less enthusiastic friend in the class).

      1. Thanks for the tips. I will work with this and I will fill out the circling template before class so I am not totally fumbling.

  2. First, not everything is great for PQA. Words like “shoots” is just better with TPR. It’s so visual. So is “grabs.” soooo…

    Another way to look at PQA is to ask yourself:

    What can I learn about these students using this word/phrase? (or start with CAN I learn anything about these students using this word/phrase?!)

    That often helps me to think of questions.

    Sometimes the PQA with reluctant kids must start with an either / or choice:

    They don’t have to be creative, they just have to pick one.
    You are going to a wedding and they only serve vegetarian food. Will you eat the food or bring some food?

    hang in there amiga!
    with love,

  3. “They don’t have to be creative, they just have to pick one.”

    Thank you for reminding us of this, Laurie. To repeat myself from an earlier post, we are not clowns, and it’s not our job to take up their creative slack. Students must do their 50%, not just sit back and say (to quote the Nirvana song) “Here we are now, entertain us!” I really struggle with that guilt when I have an uninspired class, but I am forgetting that my job is to foster acquisition through compassionate CI.

    1. Laurie and John,
      I love giving them a choice. I have never really thought about that before but I give them choices all the time, especially when I am asking them a story. John you are so right, we DO NOT have to entertain the students. They can do their %50. I am so tired of language classes being expected to be party classes. NO! I refuse.
      I do feel like I am becoming Eeyore this year. grumble grumble grumble.

      Peace and Love,

    2. That song has been going through my head this past week! Because I have about 5-6 dominant 7th graders with that attitude. Susie Gross has a nice beginning-of-the-year information she gave to students, including a description of her responsibility and students’ responsibility. I might use that with them next time it seems the right time.

  4. “What can I learn about these students using this word/phrase? (or start with CAN I learn anything about these students using this word/phrase?!)”. Thanks for sharing this thought Laurie… priceless! Sometimes I overlook the fact that if I want to have their attention, I have to focus on THEM and not the language.

    Karen, I had a couple rough years while transitioning the level 2’s and up out of the program. It’s easier to do skits and projects, as Ben said in a post recently, but it’s not acquisition activity. Have you tried going back to TPR much? And I second Ben, if the class sucks at stories/PQA, or if you feel you do (which is just fine, this is all so new for us), reading and/or translating stuff for big chunks of time is a nice way to let them sit and try to pick it up on their own and not exhaust and depress yourself in the meantime.

  5. “What can I learn about these students using this word/phrase?”

    I am going to put this on a poster on my wall. I think I forget that it is PERSONAL questions and answers.

    Great discourse. Once again I feel so supported from our PLC.

    1. “What can I learn about these students using this word/phrase?”

      We now do written MidYrEx evaluations to see what we need to do to help our students improve. It would be basically a pain were I back in the textbook days–kids need to do their HW and study harder. But wading through all of the great CI stuff it gives me a good opportunity to summarize what I am/should be doing. What I have realized is that it does not matter what the exam results are the solution is pretty much the same: offer more input, make it comprehensible, and make it personal. This blog making everything more concrete, and therefore doable, for me. Like circling we just keep approaching the core ideas from different directions.

      So when I came across Laurie’s question, I pasted it into my evaluation: I can make the class more personal by considering every word/phrase in terms of what we will be able to learn about each other.

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