It’s a Big Problem!
One of the biggest problems my lower-level students have is knowing how to ask questions, especially of the follow-up variety. They’re really pretty decent at answering the basics, like:
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“What’s your favorite_____?”
But once that question is finished, they have no tools for asking a follow-up question. And English conversation, if one can’t ask appropriate questions is awkward and not really a conversation at all.
The 5 W’s
While I still do the question/answer in partners thing almost every class, I get the student who is asking the question to listen to the answer and then ask an appropriate follow-up question. It’s helpful to do a couple examples and write the “5 W’s + how” on the board for them to refer to if they get stuck. Example:
A. What’s something you want to achieve in the next 5 years? (written on the board)
B. I want to finish school and get a good job.
A. What kind of job do you want? ….or…. Where do you want to work?
ESl textbooks often have survey type activities. Like mingling with your fellow students and find someone who can drive a car, or could read at age 4, etc, etc. The book often does not leave space for a follow-up question. When this is the case, I will make up my own worksheets with a column for “one more ?”
(for even more activities, games and resources for your classes, check out ESL Speaking).
Give the Question Form
To help my EFL students figure out questions, I will sometimes write the form on the board so they have to simply fill in the blank with an appropriate noun and verb.
What about You?
How do you help your students ask better questions. Please leave a comment with one tip.