Question stems don't have to be something we spoon-feed to our students. We can use that 10% of English time to pose a question to them and let them use what they know about the language to figure out how to communicate the question. I did this today to get my students to think about how to create questions they want to ask rather than just regurgitate canned questions they get from our lessons. Since our current unit is on the home and neighborhood, I guided my students to build these question stems:
- Do you live...?
- Is your house...?
- Does your house have...?
You might notice that they are very simple, but the possible questions my students could come up with really are endless. Also, my hope is that they will pick up the pattern of how to use the structure of these stems with other verbs and vocabulary in the future.
Other benefits of question stems are that they force our students to employ vocabulary in new ways thus forcing them to use words they might normally neglect and never own. Also, they are a balance of just enough structure and just enough freedom to make attempts at creating with the language less scary and uncertain. Question stems are an anchor in what students know and what they are confident about. I believe that in order to make an average student take risks something about the new situation has to be familiar.
If we can create the right scaffolding for our students they will learn how to create their own questions while also gaining new levels of confidence in their own knowledge base and proficiency. That confidence is a powerful tool in convincing students of the fact that if they can create language within one context successfully they can probably do it again in an unfamiliar context. As their teachers and coaches, we have to create learning experiences in which they are never totally comfortable yet never without a little something to hold on to.
Happy Coaching, friends!