No More Question Words Except in Chinese?

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18 thoughts on “No More Question Words Except in Chinese?”

  1. Pinyin (phonetic spelling of how the characters sound) isn’t on my question word poster or connector words poster, either. I pause & point when I say them with level one and most of the time with level 2 and 3, fairly often with the highest group, too. Less common or known late-acquired question words always get pointed to.
    Now I feel really cool about that since Linda does it, too. I said to a couple of students who wanted pinyin on those words that they’ll hear them a lot in class, so when they need to say them, they’ll know without pinyin. I hope that pretty well ensures they’ll use the question words only after they’ve been acquired in context. Maybe that would help for French – let them hear the words for months and finally let them read them in context, where they’ll find out how they look in written form?
    I put pinyin on three posters: some of the useful words (like “may I go to the bathroom?” and “please say that again”) and emotions and fun words (like “amazing!” “oh no!”) — things that I think students may want to say before they hear it from me enough.
    Yeah, so I just admitted to having like 6 or 7 big posters of words on the wall. I really would be limited without them. I can’t count on any comprehension by students of any words in Chinese without establishing meaning or pausing and pointing at a word wall. There are almost no loanwords except a few foods, and those aren’t all that obvious — just faster to remember once introduced. HanbaoBAO: sound like “hamburger”? I had to clarify what I meant by chaoMian in the context of foods at Panda Express – I thought chow mein was a well-known food, but it wasn’t by some students. So if I want to use almost any word, it needs to be on the wall or introduced as a new word through the 3 steps.

  2. I’m in the same boat as Diane. As feedback at NTPRS and iFLT showed me, Gaelic is not nearly phonetic as I had thought. We also have a lack of cognates beyond words like computer and cat so reps and establishing meaning properly are both extra important.
    I’ve found that doing bursts of TPR helps my younger kids (6-7th grade) and doing a dictation right after establishing meaning eases the transition into aural input for my older kids.

    1. Hi Jason, can you say more about the dictation right after establishing meaning? I have one class that has such internal distraction that they get far less from the input in class than my other groups do. I am looking for ways to keep compelling them to hear and process meaning; it is not easy. To the point that after working with a word for 2 days, and beginning to use it in reading, not one of them recognized it or its meaning when I said it aloud. I do not believe it was a late acquisition issue; this is a problem of listening with the intent to understand.

      1. That sounds like many of my 8th graders. I think “squirrely” was the word Ben used and it suits. You’re not alone! What I do with them is establish meaning, gesture, do some TPR as a class, have a quick half the clas vs the other half TPR competition, then everyone writes and draws the word in their picture dictionaries. Perhaps that would help?
        As for the dictation, I establish meaning and we may do a word association if possible. I PQA for a minute or so but that often falls flat with my advanced kids because 2/3 of the class are surly as heck and the other 1/3 doesnt want to engage alone. So instead of wasting my energy forcing PQA, I do a bunch of dictation sentences to get them hearing the structure. Plus, they’ll see it in context and have it in their notes for any future revision. Scotland is revision crazy.
        Does that help?

        1. Helps a lot, thanks. I think that I will need to find ways that THEY feel they are actively “doing” something — many of them have a hard time doing the classroom expectations & seeing that as valuable language input. I remind myself that several of them do value how class operates, and it can be great in short spurts. I feel like with greater obvious activity like dictation and writing, they are much better at living within the classroom expectations. Drawing helps, too.

  3. I am relieved to hear you say this, Ben. Misery loves company, right? So no question words? And no reading either? No words with translations on the board? Only spoken French (and pictures and gestures) for …how long? Because it’s not just the question words, like you say…
    That would certainly change how we plan our classes.
    OR, what about this idea: We reaaallllyyyyyy sloooooowwwww down and Pause and Point and speak very clearly and maybe even repeat every time we use one of those tricky French words, whether it be during Step 1, 2 or 3? And we tell them why we are doing this.
    OR maybe we have a new job: the question word repeater. A different kid for each word.
    OR maybe we need to PQA the heck out of them,
    OR do call and response type warm-ups.
    I don’t know. I’m just tossing out ideas. We could just start running out in the hall and falling down and flailing our arms! Hmmmm…That might make them take notice.
    I’ll let you know what I decide for Monday. You let me know, too. We’ve got to figure this out.
    I hope some other French teachers add some thoughts here.

  4. Ruth I don’t think I am willing to let go of the readings. The students really don’t pronounce anything when reading and the question words aren’t there anyway, not really. As long as we don’t work on accent in Reading Option A. (Now I have to change that in my book.) Right? I just can’t see dropping the reading. I don’t think excessive PQA will help because the visual faculty is so dominant in language learners if it’s allowed in. Call and response for an hour could not overcome the damage caused by one point and pause to one question word, in my opinion. The word repeater wouldn’t work for the same reason of visual dominance. I’m going to keep the reading, but remember that with ROA the dominant instructional modality of that (Step 3) class is translation and auditory spin offs minus any visual dependence on the question words.

  5. What are you going to try, Leigh Anne?
    Now I am thinking back, and I don’t believe I ever said kwande or kwee when I was in junior high level 1, and I was no 4%er. I don’t remember if others did. I used to write out my ALM dialogues phonetically and memorize them ;-0
    kee ess? say tune amee.
    sheek a lore! jay onvee daysayay mayski nuf… to mepret tay vyuski alore? Okay, I’ll stop.
    I have to say, the dialogues I memorized gave me a sense of the rhythm and sounds of the spoken language. It was a physical sense because it was me talking even if at first I didn’t know what I was saying. At some point I learned what they meant and actually used patterns or structures from my memory of them later on as I continued to learn French on my own. Not saying we should resurrect ALM, just saying. For me, they were not in the same deadly category as book grammar exercises and forced responses. More like poems or songs.

  6. Are there 2 issues here?
    1) Mispronunciation claimed to be caused by seeing the written L2 form.
    Common reasons for pronunciation problems:
    a) want to sound like the peer group vs. the teacher
    b) falling back on L1 phonology for lack of L2 acquisition of sounds – the task demands exceed acquisition
    c) high affective filter (anxiety) may interfere so as to make the student not trust their L2 acquired system and apply L1 properties
    I dug up a similar observation about #1 that I made Aug 26 on moreTPRS:
    “My own teaching experience indicates that if you give beginners visual text (I teach Spanish) of new words and expect oral output too early, then some students tend towards L1 pronunciation. And if they’ve read-only I’ve noticed this L1 pronunciation sometimes persists despite successive aural input.”
    You could experiment with orally establishing meaning (glossing) of the question words or getting rid rid of the L1 and using a visual instead (e.g. a clock for “when”). Like others, I use call-and-response with “Who,” “Where,” and “When” and this reduces the need to point to the poster.
    2) How Linda Li gets so much output from kids in level 1.
    Output is a result of input. Class size, student motivation/affective filter, degree of targeting, teacher’s skill at providing input, etc. all play a role. Fluent output may be improved by output practice. So maybe encouraging more output and providing more space for it will improve it. But it has to be acquired FIRST.
    I don’t have definitive answers.
    Note: Fronting a question with a question word is a later developed output procedure (stage 4 of 6 according to processability theory).

  7. This is the problem with cognates. They are visually similar. I used the word “automático” with a Spanish 2 student. She had no idea what I meant. After one (or more) years with primarily visual Spanish the ear is not trained to hear real Spanish. Her face lit up when I wrote the Spanish. There was no need for English. She now understood my whole comment to her.
    Linda Li and Diane are connecting to (Chinese) sounds to symbols which for which the student has no other reference. We ‘alphabet types’ are trying to connect new sounds to familiar symbols. So we must postpone the presentation of the familiar so until the students are, let’s say, at the recognition level of the sound. When we write the word on the board there is a moment of discovery (so that’s how it looks!) or of confirmation (that’s what I thought it would be!)
    Perhaps a key is to pull out the word associations. With ‘qui’ it might be “Who has the ‘key'”? With ‘quand’ it is a little trickier because English does not lend itself to nasal sounds at the end of the word. Maybe “Can you tell me when?, with a British “can” that is nasalized.
    Last year I never got around to posting my laminated Q words. I spread them out across the chalkboard tray. I had one student who had difficulty with ‘quién’ (who?). So I passed him the laminated ‘quién’ and had him hold up the word every time ‘quién’ was used. It helped with attention issues because when I had to wait I (and everyone else) knew he was not exactly in synch with us. So I waited and and a few students would say his name, and he would catch up to us and put the word card in the air. I enjoyed the flexibility in the use of the cards. (This is a version of Ruth’s question repeater job, without the need for the student to speak.)
    This year I forgot to dig them out, and just started writing them as I needed them. Perhaps the processing of rewriting allows the students to see the word unfold. It is a good time to not only say the word several times, but also to spell it for them. And since we are talking about a lot of monosyllables for the names of letters, they will start to join in as they become more familiar and comfortable with the letter names.
    Another trick when there is a pattern of a disturbing mispronunciation is to, at some point, present the word as such:
    1) Listen to this word…’Quand.’
    2) Listen to how I say it if I have to guess at it…’kwande.”
    3) Can you hear the difference?
    4) Repeat the words again.
    5) How many of you can year the difference?
    6) Raise you hand if I say it like a Frenchman (or, en francais): ‘Quand’ (all hands should be raised). ‘Kwande” (no hands should be raised).
    7) Repeat this to make sure they understand: ‘Kwande.’ ‘Quand.’ ‘Quand.’ ‘Kwande.’ ‘Kwande.”
    8) Refer to word association: CAN (nasalized) raise you hand when I say QUAND?
    9) C’est francais? ‘Quand’ (oui)
    10) C’est francais? ‘Kwande (no)
    11) Quel est francais? ‘Quand’ ou ‘Kwande’? (Quand)
    You can probably imagine variations of this. And, of course, you will know when you have met your goal and it is time to do something else.

    1. What you describe here is a more carefully done version of how I clarify words that sound similar to students, as those words arise or students ask. Compare 2 sounds, see if they recognize the meaning of each based on their sound – then again using those words in sentences, see if they recognize the meaning again.

    2. “After one (or more) years with primarily visual Spanish the ear is not trained to hear real Spanish.”
      This is what I have noticed, too, now that you mention it. Thanks, Nathaniel, for putting it into a sentence and into my conscious mind. I would love to have more of a balance between visual and aural.
      Thoughts About Balancing Visual and Aural CI Assuming That the Visual is Stronger
      – Maybe we do get rid of written question words, like you said Ben (neither language). Just have a symbol or gesture. So we say the word and point to the symbol or gesture. They then see the written word only when we finally get to the reading.
      – Can we establish meaning generally without any words being written down? Yes, we do it all the time with TPR. What can we do to take the place of Point and Pause? Symbols? Gestures?
      – I am going to try spending more time before step 3 reading, just talking about the story or whatever it is – more y/n and other questions, more retelling the story, kids retelling (ties in with my goal of more output opportunities), more related talk of some sort before they read.
      – It feels so good to get to Step 3. The kids are proud of being able to read, and sometimes they get restless (or worse) if they think they’ve had enough questioning in context/retelling, but I am going to try to delay the reading (I know I just said that above). Then after the ROA turn off the projector and talk some more. And delay things like Textivate a bit. This is a plan anyway.
      – Often, students want to move away from a story too quickly because they already know what happens. They see it as finished and they don’t see it as the vehicle for acquiring French. And they seem to have no qualms about letting me know what they think we should be doing.
      So I guess my job is to spice up the questioning in context and other aural input if I am going to be spending more time on it and keeping them engaged.
      – This is fascinating. I love this blog! I have tons of other stuff I should be doing right now here at home, but I might have to go to school and redo some things.
      Main idea in my mind right now – No written words until Step 3
      Who else wants to try this?

  8. Another issue is when the word is visible to the students are they hearing the word over and over? Or are they seeing it when it is not being used? If hearing it over and over by the teacher, I would think that the spoken sound will cancel out and overpower the student’s imagined /invented pronunciation based on L1. If a word is still not part of her listening vocabulary there is nothing to challenge and overcome the natural tendency to revert to L1.

  9. Eric is right. Two issues are combined here. The one I was thinking about first in the other post was the second one, the amount of output at the beginner level. I don’t see how simply having the question words posted enables the kids to create full questions in the TL. It doesn’t in my classes. As an aside I noted the mispronunciation, which I had also been wondering about.
    So, about the amount of output and what to do to encourage it. I know I need to develop some output strategies.
    – Just seeing/knowing the question words doesn’t enable my kids to create full questions. In general, they comprehend, read, and do fine with the one-word, yes/no, and simple phrase responses and one-word questions. They can cobble together some simple retell sentences and things like that as group, but coming up with coherent full questions is beyond them, without prompting.
    – Yes, fronting a question with the question word is more difficult. I form questions both ways when I deliver CI. Often I hear myself repeating a question with the question word at the end the second time. Maybe at this level I should concentrate more on that way, so the kids hear those over and over without also hearing the other way. This way they might acquire the questioning language more easily.
    I should only be using the simple language that they can then use. I’m sure this is something I should have figured out before. It’s not that I use complex language regularly, but I think it is really good to be aware of keeping it simple all the time. I am actually doing better with that already with my new 6th graders.
    – And then providing more opportunities for output of acquired language that goes beyond the one-word answers. I’d like to target output in a more deliberate way and more often. I don’t mean a drill! I mean just giving them chances to use what they are hearing at the time, regularly and in small chunks (Besides the weather and how they are feeling and that daily talk).
    I never thought about it as “input-output” then more “input-output” but rather “input-input-input…input – output”
    I think I have tended to think of the input as accumulating over time and then sorting itself out in their heads and turning into output automatically when the kid is ready. “Come on, you’ve been hearing me ask questions for how long?” Hmmmmmmm….. No, I don’t say that! I just think it sometimes when everyone is acting very dull.
    I am thinking as I type, so I hope it makes sense.

  10. I have not heard real issues with pronouncing question words in German. They are still fairly new in general and pronunciation is not perfect, but it is not headsplitting either. German pronunciation is as a whole fairly straightforward, however. I am reluctant to not write or gesture to question words because I think it does connect students to the letters that represent the sounds in the language. This should make it better for reading. I have been reading a book by Daniel Willingham that focuses on the fact that one of the reasons students have problems with reading is that they cannot connect what is written to what they hear.

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