December 8, 2016

My 8 Best Tips for Teaching Question Formulation


Being able to formulate questions is an important language skill that is also emphasized in the Speaking and Listening section of the Common Core Standards. Yet, many of our language delayed students lack the grammatical skills to ask basic questions using correct word order. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I hear things like, “We can play a game today?”, “What we doing today?”, “I doing a good job?” Questions that begin with auxiliaries (e.g., is/are, can, do/does/did, will, would/could) seem to be particularly challenging.

This post showcases my favorite ways to work on question formulation with students.
  1. Games: Games are always a great way to get student buy-in. Some good choices are “Guess Who? ”, “HedBanz”, and “Mystery Garden”, all of which involve having students ask questions to guess a mystery item.
  2.  Wh-Cards: Most of us own Wh-question cards that we use to work on answering Wh-questions. You can also use these to work on question formulation by showing your students the card with the answer and prompting them, “Ask me a Who/What/Where/When/Why question about ___.” For example, you could give them a card with “Milk” on it and prompting them, “Ask me a Who question about milk.” Correct responses would include “Who gives milk?” “Who likes to drink milk?” etc.
  3.   Sentence Questions: Have students formulate questions about specific sentence elements. Read a sentence including Who/What/Where/When/Why elements (e.g., On Saturday, Suzy went to the store to buy some milk) and have students ask specific questions about the elements. You could prompt them in multiple ways: "Ask me a Who question about this sentence" or "How can I ask find out who went to the store?"
  4. Magic 8 Ball: This is my favorite way to work on these pesky Yes/No questions that involve auxiliary reversal. You are probably familiar with the classic Magic 8 Ball toy. You ask a Yes/No question, shake the ball, and the answer will magically pop up. Kids absolutely LOVE this thing! It is also a great tool for working on articulation carryover.
  5.  20 Questions: Think up a random item (these Picture Cards by Language Builder work great for this). Students then have to guess the item by asking yes/no questions (e.g., Is it an animal? Is it red?) until they guess the item. You can also purchase this activity in a board game format: 20 Questions for Kids.
  6. Interview: Have students interview each other (or you!) to find out more about each other. You can pretend to be news reporters.
  7. Conversation Starters: Similar to the above suggestion, you can use pre-made conversation starters to have students ask each other a variety of questions. My Conversation Starters UNO works great for this purpose!
  8. Have Students be the Teacher: Kids love it when the roles are reversed. For this activity you could read a story and then have students come up with comprehension questions that you have to answer for students to see if the teacher was paying attention.
    I hope these tips are somewhat helpful. Working on question formulation isn't exactly exiting, but now you should some ideas of how to bring variety into teaching this skill.

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