Questioning Techniques

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7 thoughts on “Questioning Techniques”

  1. Blaine is credited for the “what did I just say” thing. I have heard him say it hundreds of times over the years. It is ingrained in my own questioning. But it shouldn’t be, as per Tina here:
    …for one, sometimes a kid could not tell me what I had just said. So, they felt bad. When really it was my fault for losing them….

  2. I also fully support this point:
    … now I just assume that if they do not get 100% of what I am saying, I am OK with that as long as they are getting the overall message….
    This is 100% supported by the research. Krashen and his (35 years of pure) research tell us that we want to establish in our students’ minds the illusion of comprehending the language while their focus is ON UNDERSTANDING THE MESSAGE, not the words. Why?
    Because the mind can only focus on one thing at a time, either the message or the words. This is why Tina and I started the FB CI Liftoff site and why we wrote those last two books in what will become a “Natural Approach” trilogy* – all to support this simple idea.
    WE WANT THEM FOCUSED ON THE MESSAGE AND NOT THE WORDS**. This creates the “din”. For more search “Krashen Din”.
    The tragedy, and that is not too strong a word, is that so many teachers who are interested in CI try to teach the language instead of the message. They focus on certain verbs, certain words, certain verb tenses. No blame. They are teachers so they think they must teach. But all this is not that difficult, not really. WE make it complicated. All we need to do is speak the language to our students so that they understand and enjoy. Testing (“weighing the pig doesn’t make it grow any faster” as Blaine likes to say) is not necessary. We don’t need to fret so much on the “what” but rather just focus on sharing ideas w the kids and THEY WILL ACQUIRE better and do so faster when we do it that way.
    *The books are:
    A Natural Approach to Stories
    A Natural Approach to the Year
    A Natural Approach to CALP (ready in 2019)
    (hard copies from Teacher’s Discovery; e-versions from this site)
    **the argument by the TPRS Old Guard is that the teacher first establishes meaning of the “target words” for the lesson that day from a list somewhere (a semantic set, a high frequency list of words, words necessary to read a chapter in a chapter book, etc.), then uses PQA to teach them (which is very hard for the teacher and mostly boring for the kids and a fatal flaw, actually THE fatal flaw in TPRS, for which I am partially responsible for writing PQA in a Wink! in 2007. We don’t need PQA to teach words from a list, from a textbook. The research demands that we do not target. The research requires that we merely create the “din”. The price we pay when we target is critical loss of interest.

  3. Tina, I’m not sure what exactly you are looking for in a critique, but I can share the questions and thoughts that came up in my mind when I read this.
    1. I have run the gamut when it comes to questioning techniques through my discovery of and experimentation with first TPRS and then NTCI, from abusing my barometer student to whole-class questioning. I, too, have used individual questioning as a bludgeon and that makes me sad. I have found what I think is a happy medium. I totally agree with whole-class questioning BUT, in the vein of equity, I fear losing some students to those other, louder, more outgoing students. (That’s my question…does whole class questioning sometimes equal exclusion?) There’s no denying that some students are just louder and often answer faster than other students. I worry about the very thin line between protecting each student’s personality (and ego) and unintentionally excluding quiet students who KNOW the answer and WANT to answer but don’t have a chance. Inevitably, there’s always a student over there who mumbles, “I just said that like five times.” And then I feel like crap.
    SO, through experimentation, I have found that (for me in my classroom) I can begin the year with whole class questioning until I know my students and then I can begin to call on individuals (with great attention to the student being questioned and the type of question I’m asking…in my mind I call it intentional questioning…cause it makes me feel smart to call it that 😉 ). OR I ask the question and then ask for volunteers so that the quiet students have that chance. What I mean by intentional questioning is that I pick a lower kid who is SHOWING me that they’ve been paying attention and then I ask a question that they could answer even if they haven’t been paying attention, especially after a W&D of perhaps a OWI (and only after we’ve been through the story/OWI a lot of times…kind of as a final activity). I can ask an either/or question, while pointing to the answer on the visual aid AND in the text. They for sure cannot get it wrong.
    Then I can call on a next-level-up kid and ask a question that’s not either/or but is super obvious. And then on up the ladder until I’m at the kid who is dying to answer (the one who is usually ALWAYS listening and is a sponge and who can already speak in complete sentences) and ask them a WHY or a WHY DO YOU THINK… question. Intentional (and careful) questioning of individuals = differentiation.
    I guess the bottom line is knowing our students. We know it in our souls when there’s a kid who doesn’t ever, ever want to be called on. I don’t know how to impart that in your lecture but those are my thoughts.
    2. There is something you said in your lecture that I would so pounce on like an animal if I heard you say it…like, I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it and would miss the rest of your lecture. It’s
    … and I have had to learn other ways to reengage students who are not tuning in to class….
    I would need to know what those things were so I would need you to either tell me them right then (not possible) or PROMISE me RIGHT THEN that you were going to tell me some of those ways shortly or in the next segment or whatever.
    I am not trying to instruct you in any way and I hope it doesn’t come across that way! What do you think about the quiet kids and whole class questioning?

  4. I believe in everything Tina & Ben write here affirm that it’s consistent with the research on the primacy of The Message – not the words that comprise The Message. HOWEVER, I, like Jessica, find the thorn in the student/s who for whatever reason are not demonstrating comprehension (but maybe they are getting it? I feel I must know…) – Either they are not attending (anymore?), or slower processors who fell off the Train, or are the kids whose IEP hasn’t been written or hasn’t kicked in yet, etc…
    I relate to that ugly experience & subsequent guilt for publicly outing the slacker who’s daydreaming or whispering; it’s the fastest (and nastiest) way to stop it:{ but of course it humiliates and burns up good will….
    When the choral responses are weak and it’s the same 4 wunderkins responding, I often harp on the familiar trope of “I can’t gauge how well the whole group understands if only a handful respond…” That seems to help in the short term. What seems to work best is if I tell the Ss for how long we’ll be doing this type of call & response Q&A and then shift to a different activity in the canon so that it doesn’t feel like a predictable and inane drag…
    Though sometimes I am late in getting the message that it’s time to shift…I gotta work on that!

  5. I have also stopped the individual “What did I just say?” questioning in favor of whole class questioning (“en inglés”). You can’t have it all. The WCQ is so much nicer for students. No shaming. So when I get weak responses, I repeat what I said in Spanish and have them repeat until I hear most of them saying the meaning. Advantage: by the third time they’re all on board. Disadvantage: there is more use of English than I wish. But I’m not going back to the individual cold call my principal likes so much.

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