Asking questions

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The centuries-old image of classroom interaction is of the teacher asking questions and students answering them. Most teachers nowadays recognise that this is unsatisfactory, but it is especially unsatisfactory for language learning.

In any language, one of the fundamental points of grammar that any student must get to grips with is how to form questions. In English, it is particularly challenging because there are two different ways of doing it, and which one to employ depends on the verb you are using (You can → Can you? You like → Do you like?). As with everything in language learning, conceptual
understanding is not enough: practice is indispensable to mastery. So do we give students enough practice at asking questions?

Some of us try. But it’s difficult for a number of reasons.
Pair work is the commonest way of giving students practice in asking questions, but asking a partner something you already know the answer to (How old are you? Where do you live?) is not very motivating. And besides, how many times will a student want to ask the same question? Yet to become really confident with a piece of language they need to use it a number of times.
OK. So why not encourage them to vary their answers by making them up? But it’s hard to care what someone is saying when you know they’re just pretending.

To ask the same question a number of times and to be genuinely interested in the answer you get, two things are required:
a) you need to be talking to a different person each time.
b) you need to be talking to real people.
DigiPals, Little Bridge’s global community, offers every student the chance to do this. In a safe, fully moderated environment, they can use the questions they have learnt to get real answers from real people.