We just wrapped up a lesson on school (classes, schedules, teachers, activities) and as a quick daily grade I wanted to do something with questions. I just want them to think about how to ask the questions THEY want the answers to, not just the questions that we make them memorize. I don't want their conversations to be canned, plus asking personalized questions is an intermediate level skill. That being so, I am pushing my students every chance I get to develop those types of skills and move them up the proficiency scale.
The assignment I created is called Questions Crunch and because it sounds like a cereal name, I created a graphic for it on a cereal box! But I digress... The activity is simple. I asked my students to generate all different questions on a topic I give them. I only graded one aspect of their work. If their question made sense they earned 10 points towards their grade. I also told them they could write however many questions they wanted, but they could not earn more than 100 points. Naturally, most of my students wanted the 100%. The only other stipulation is that every question had to be different. Not so easy is it??? The handout is general and can be used for any topic at any level. All the teacher has to do is give students a topic to write about.
The reason why this activity went from "just an idea" to "GREAT idea" I only discovered when I started grading my students work. The questions they were generating were interesting and authentic to the conversation they might have in real life. The were personalized, too. So, the student who is more of a risk-taker was writing really thoughtful, interesting questions, and the student who is emerging is finally breaking away from the script, but doing so successfully. The assignment is actually fun to grade because it gives you such great insight into each student's proficiency level. The plan is to now take these questions and use them in an interpersonal practice in which my students ask each other these questions, maybe even report on the answers they get afterwards.
After doing this with my students I think I want to include it in my lessons more often. I don't have any proof on this, but my thinking is that if my students are constantly having to think about how to ask questions, when they need to ask a question in a pressured situation they will be able to ask the questions they WANT TO ASK not just what the canned questions are. I want them thinking creatively about Spanish even when asking questions. And, like training an athlete, the practice we put our students under should always be a bit of a stretch for them or they are not learning. Lots of research backs that principle up.
Here's the handout if you want to give it a try and see the results your students show you:
Questions Crunch Handout
Happy Coaching, friends! Let me know how it goes for you!