The lesson on “Questions” is a great one. I looked back through my teaching materials from over 20 years ago and found several lists of simple questions. Although short answers could be given in a conversation, I always required the students to make complete sentences as answers to the questions. This helps them to perfect their grammar.
Although there may be a few answers that are acceptable, there is usually one that is perhaps the best. That is the one I coach the students to use.
- Where’s Paris? —> It’s in France.
- Who’s the president of the United States? —>Mr. Obama is. or Barack Obama is.
- What are there in a library?–>There are many books (in a library).
- What language do they speak in Austria?—>They speak German (in Austria).
- What’s bread? —>It’s something to eat.
So after practicing the list of about 15 questions with the students so that they can get a feeling for how to answer them, I have them ask each other the questions and try to answer quickly in order and then I again ask them the same questions in a random order. I have them ask me the questions and show them how to answer them very very quickly. I give them to goal of getting down below 30 seconds to answer the questions.
As you many have noticed all the questions above are “WH” questions. You actually want to work on questions that require a “Yes or No” answer too. And do not forget to work on questions that require them to pick between two or three possible answers. Questions such as “Do you prefer shushi or steak?” should be practiced too.
The power of this practice is amazing. You can require the higher level students to make questions about the weekly mini lessons to make those lessons more beneficial for them too. For example; For the March 15th 2009 Mini Lesson (Click Here for the Video), you can have them ask questions using the sentence pattern or phrase. So instead of just practicing examples such as “The other day, I met (my friend) by chance at (Ueno Station) so we decided to (see a movie and have dinner afterwards) you can ask and have them ask each other questions such as “So what did you decide to do after meeting your friend by chance?” or “What movie did you decide to see after meeting your friend near Ueno Station?” etc. The students can never get too much practice at asking and answering questions.
I have made some videos for practicing asking and answering questions for students to practice. Try them out sometime and introduce your friends to them. The second set are not so simple. If students can answer those with complete sentences, they have really made a lot of progress with their English. They should not rest until they achieve that level of ability.
By the way this idea of practicing asking and answering questions came to me after finding a book written in 1961 by J.S. Kennard Jr. and entitled “Thinking in English“. I just found out that it is still in print and it’s worth getting a copy to practice on the train. The questions are arranged in sets of similar structure and with similar answers and the questions are on one page with the answers on the next page. So the student has to turn the page to check if the the answer they imagined silently was correct or not. Then after the student practices about 5 different sets of questions there is an excercise in which they have to answer a mixture of the 5 sets. It is a very unique and useful book for students.
So get your students asking and answering questions and push them to do it quickly.