Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Questions, questions, questions....

    Lately, I've been trying hard to understand where does my teaching fail? Why do some pupils master very well asking questions and why do others fail all the time? My answer was simply, they do need more consolidation, more worksheets to practice more. In fact, we have been practicing questions from the beginning of the year , yet, some learners do tend to fail at the simplest questions! 
It is true that I felt very disheartened! As I said to myself, with all this stuff we're doing, they are failing! What should I do in extra to help them recognise their weaknesses and overcome them bit by bit! 
Therefore, I decided  to appraoch things from a different angle. What if learners relied on themselves to write questions on slips of papers I provided them, and they exchange them with all the peers in their class ( a group of 14 pupils). Then, they come to answer at least 13 questions! 
First, I introduced the activity to my learners and  provided them slips of papers to write a question on each of them! Those who mastered very well asking questions were very swift and the  activity seemed trivial to them! As for those who struggled to write one question, even the simplest one: what's your name? did not write it correctly! And that was one of the things that made me feel more disheartened! What we really thought was obvious, was one of the stumbling blocks. At that very moment, I asked them to get inspired by their textbooks and copy some questions. Still, some learners mixed some affirmative statements to questions! At that moment, I have to take my courage in both hands and explain further to my pupils and stress the importance of punctuation. 
The activity was a bit time-consuming, but I made sure all my learners knew what rules to follow in order to write a correct question. They were motivated and keen on checking that  they did answer all the questions their friends asked. Some learners were taking the lead to help other pupils, explain to them the questions and suggest correct answers. It is true that this activity raised the awareness of young learners to the importance of asking, answering questions correctly, which is the basis of any language. One of the observations I made is that this type of activity helped both learners of extreme types, those who are easy-going and those who are reserved. All learners have to move around and check with all their peers their questions and if they answered them or not. Learners argued, collaborated, asked each other and mingled. I was there, to help, observe, listen and guide. 
When they finally answered all the questions, it was the time for all of us to work together, read the questions again and write the correct answers on the board! Some questions were so funny and learn ers were creative and uncommon in their answers. What I liked about the activity is that though, they were struggling to get all of this serious stuff into their minds, they were enjoying the activity and profiting much from each other. 
I think this "slip" activity of questions could be applied to other grammatical structures. 
The journey of learning never ends neither for the teachers nor the learners. We still have to be more patient. Learning  does not come easy for many learners.As a corollary, teaching is hard ,yet very rewarding.
With all of these and much more efforts, I can not claim that all my learners mastered asking/answering questions. I have to check again. 
Below are some samples of their questions! These are beginners and studying English for the second year. 

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