Skip to main content

Question types

In January one of the training day sessions will be on questioning. It's being led by a chemist and I've no idea what his focus will be. Maybe we shall be referred to Bloom's hierarchy of questioning. He lists six types of question based on the following notions: knowledge (identification and recall of information), comprehension (organisation and selection of facts and ideas), application (use of facts, rules and principles), analysis (separation of whole into component parts), evaluation (development of opinions, judgements or decisions) and synthesis (combination of new ideas to form a new whole).

This may apply well enough to some subject areas, but in language teaching we have very specific goals when asking questions. Usually our aim to use skilled questioning to get students to understand and practise an area of grammar or vocabulary. We are often focused on form as much as content. If we question really carefully we can sometimes get students to induce rules for themselves, a process somewhat akin to natural acquisition of language. At a more advanced level our questioning aims to allow students to develop fluency and to communicate in a more authentic fashion.

Here is a hierarchy of question types for language teachers, starting from easiest:

(1) Yes/No questions: C'est un livre? (This can be done using true/false) The simple answer is oui or non, but you could get studenst to complete a sentence: Non, c'est un cahier.
(2) Either/or questions: C'est un livre ou c'est un cahier? (A longer answer is invited than with Yes/No; more decoding is required of the student. A variation on this is to make false statements which students have to correct. In this case a whole sentence answer is always demanded.)
(3) Choice from several options: as above, but you offer at least three options. This requires more decoding than (2)
(4) Question word question: quand est-ce qu'il arrive au collège? (This is harder as the student has to grasp the meaning of the question word and formulate a whole sentence answer.)
(5) Open-ended question: qu'est-ce qui s'est passé? (This demands a more open-ended response, maybe using more than one sentence.)
(6) Asking for opinion: que penses-tu des frais d'inscription à l'université? (This kind of question should elicit a longer answer. It demands more from the student since they have to supply their own view, not just give a factual response.)

It would be reasonable to assume that the more advanced a student is, the more use will be made of the harder question forms. But even advanced students can be encouraged to talk by throwing in very basic question forms. As language teachers we should always be aware of the full range of questioning techniques. With experience we use the full range of questions instinctively, but it does no harm to plan to use the full range.

This is all pretty basic stuff, but it is worth remembering the value and limitations of question-answer: it is an excellent way of controlling the selection and grading of language to be presented and practised, it ensures plenty of target language use in a meaningful way and it is a form of real, if classroom-based, communication. It is also highly adaptable.  The limitations are the relative artificiality of the communication, especially at beginner and intermediate level and the fact that, if it is conducted with a whole class, only one person can answer at a time. Pairwork questioning overcomes this limitation to some extent.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Learning strategies (3)

This is the third in the mini-series of blogs about learning strategies. So far, we have looked at some (rather scant) research evidence for the effectiveness of strategies. Bear in mind that a lack of research evidence does not mean strategies do not work; if there is any consensus, it is that they are probably useful and probably best used when integrated into a normal teaching sequence. We then looked at a classification of different types of strategies.

In this blog Gianfanco and I look at how you might integrate strategies into your teaching. There is nothing revolutionary about this stuff! You may do a good deal of this type of thing already, but you may also be new to the concepts and applications of learning strategies.


Let's look at how you might use strategies, particularly with regard to the teaching of listening and reading. Remember: this is just about how you help students to use strategies to become better listeners and readers.

How to teach strategies 

The research …