Question Formation in English
Game 1: Find Your Partner
Objective: To practice asking questions and answering
Level: Grades V to VII
Materials: rectangular slips of paper big enough to write a question or an answer
Time needed: 1 hour
Procedure: Step 1. The facilitator prepares many slips each containing either a question or an answer and distributes them randomly to children.
Step 2. Children move around the classroom with their slips and try to find their partners; they have to match the question on their slip with the answer and vice versa.
Step 3. The game comes to an end when all the questions find their answers, i.e. all the children have paired up.
Step 4. Each pair reads out their question and answer, and then asks one more question.
Step 5. The facilitator simultaneously writes the questions and answers on the board and invites the children to deduce the rules of question formation from the data on the board.
Step 6. The children write down the rules that they have deduced.
Game 2: Twenty Questions
Objective: To practice “yes/no” questions in a meaningful situation
Level: V to VIII
Materials: Enough sheets of paper with photographs of well-known personalities printed on them, safety pins for the participants
Time: 1 hour
Procedure Step 1. The facilitator pins the photographs to the backs of the children. The child cannot see the photograph pinned on his/her back but can see the photographs on others’ backs. The task is to guess the name of the personality whose photograph is pinned on your back by asking questions from other children.
Step 2. The children have to move around the classroom asking “yes/no” questions and from whosoever they meet. For example: Am I a man or woman? Am I living or dead ?
Step 3. The facilitator has to write down the “yes/no” questions that the children are asking on the board (as many as possible).
Step 4. After all the participants have guessed their identity, the facilitator will ask everybody to sit down and read the “yes/no” questions written on the board.
Step 5. The facilitator has to ask the children to deduce the rules for “yes/no” questions in English. This discussion can be extended to a comparison of rules for question formation in other languages.
Game 3: Stop That Story
Objective: To practice “wh” questions in a meaningful situation
Level: V to VIII
Materials: Four slips with four different unconnected phrases or words
Procedure Step 1. (For four groups) The facilitator prepares four slips with four phrases for writing a story. The phrases should be unconnected with each other so that it is challenging to put them in a story.
Step 2. The facilitator gives one slip to each group.
Step 3. All four groups have to create a story using all four phrases on their slip.
Step 4. The facilitator gives the following instructions to the groups:
- Each group has to use all the phrases in the story.
- Each group gets five minutes in which to tell the story.
- As one group begins the narration, another group tries to stop the narration by asking “wh” questions. For example: Why was he named Raju?; Where did he go?; What did he do?, etc.
- The group that is narrating the story has to answer the questions and continue the story making sure that they use all the phrases in the narration.
Step 5. Each group gets to tell their story in turns. The facilitator writes down as many questions as possible on the board.
Step 6. After all the groups have narrated their stories, the facilitator asks them to examine the data on the board and deduce the rules for the formation of “wh” questions. The rules are then discussed and refined.
Debrief: The purpose of these games was to help teachers understand how to teach grammar in a non-abrasive and fun manner. Moreover, teachers need to know how to support the development of grammatical awareness. Teachers also need to understand how to develop processes for deducing the rules of grammar.
Game 4: A Survey on Cartoon Viewing
Objective: Assessment of questioning
Level: VI to VIII
Materials: paper, pens
Procedure Step 1. Ensure that students have a background knowledge of a survey and pie charts or bar diagrams.
Step 2. Divide the class into groups of five.
Step 3. Ask each group to write five “yes/no” questions and five “wh” questions to gather the following information:
- How many cartoon films or TV programs do children watch?
- Which is their favourite program?
Step 4. Once the questions are ready, the facilitator goes around and checks whether the questions are correct and asks each child in the group if he/she would like to add any more questions.
Step 5. Once this is done, the facilitator explains how to prepare a four to five-point scale questionnaire using yes, no, always, sometimes, never, etc.
Step 6. The groups collect the information from 20 students, i.e. ask the questions and mark the rating scale.
Step 7. The groups come back to class, and discuss and share their experiences with the whole class.
Step 8. The groups prepare a report with the questions and a summary of the answers. They also draw a pie chart or bar chart to enhance the summary.
Debrief The students and facilitator discuss the different forms of questions used in the survey. The grammar of questions and its relationship with meaning is discussed. Look at the following “yes/no” questions:
- Are you driving down?
- Do you eat a heavy breakfast?
- Have you a pen?
What is the structure of the questions? How are they formed? Let the students make deductions regarding the form and structure of the questions.
Auxiliary + N + V + complement
Do + N + V + object/complement
V + N + object
What is the general structure of a “yes/no” question? What is the structure of a “wh” question? Ask the students to infer from the data they have generated and arrive at a conclusion.
Outcome - The students are able to use “yes/no” and “wh” questions in daily conversations, and for special purposes.
- The students have a fair idea of the rules of question formation.
Nivedita Bedadur works as consultant at the School of Continuing Education and University Resource Centre at Azim Premji University. She designs and conducts courses. She also leads a team of teacher educators in the area of English. Prior to this, she taught English in Kendriya Vidyalayas in India and Nepal. She is currently engaged in designing courses for teacher educators.