An essential part of the course -don’t skip this!

The question practice is especially important for Fluency Course 1 and 2, and from speaking to teachers I can see that some people are not quite understanding how it works and how they can do it effectively.

The Q&A activity (we do it at the start of class) is an anchor for the class. It allows students to interact with each other positively, work on their speaking, listening, and general English skills, and differentiates us from other places they learn English. Jukus and their regular school almost certainly don’t do this kind of repeated speaking practice.

But I imagine many teachers might think the activity is boring. Doing the same questions 12-16 times or more (we do 3-4 rounds of speaking practice per class, up to four classes in a month using the same quesitons, and also do the same content in Quizlet and the workbook) does seem boring.

For students, however, it is more like doing martial arts kata or practicing punching a bag.

It’s the same movement over and over again, but by practicing we can master it, and by practicing in different ways we can make it seem less boring.

Introducing the questions

We always follow the same procedure to introduce the questions each month.

In the first class, we read the questions in the back of the textbook. The teacher reads the English aloud and students repeat and check the Japanese. Then we hand out the QA sheets (you can download these from the Teacher pages on the course site) and the teacher reads the questions and answers aloud, and students repeat the English. Then we usually do one session of pair work.

In the second class, we read and repeat from the QA sheets again, then do 2-3 sessions in pairs (changing partner each time and using some of the variations below).

In the third class we go straight into pair practice, doing 3-4 sessions and possibly asking the teacher or teaching assistant.

In the fourth class we do 3-4 sessions, using some of the variations below.

Basic variations for speaking practice

Here are some variations I use in class to make the speaking practice seem a bit different even though we are doing the same content over and over again:

  1. Vary the order
    This is a very easy one to do. The first time, have students go from 1 to 20. The second time, from 20 to 1. Also vary between having both students ask all the questions (student A asks question 1, then student B asks question 1) to alternating (student A asks question 1, then student B asks question 2).
  2. Ask randomly
    Students ask questions in random order. Their partner has to listen more carefully in order to identify the question. Much harder if students don’t use their paper to answer.
  3. Ask the teacher/teaching assistant
    Before or after working in pairs, have students ask questions to the teacher or teaching assistant (if available). This allows them to model how to answer and also gives students a chance to learn a bit about their teacher.
  4. Work in groups of three
    Instead of pairs, students work in groups of three. One student asks a question, the next student answers then asks the third student ‘how about you?’, then the third student answers. Rotate after each question.

Intermediate variations

  1. Answer without looking at the paper
    This is quite hard but excellent practice for more able students. I usually encourage students to try this but leave it up to them as to whether they actually do it. Usually something we’ll do in the third or fourth class.
  2. Ask follow up questions
    This is something I start practicing with students in May or June, once they are a bit more familiar with the activities. The student who asks the question will listen to their partner’s answer and try to ask a follow up question if they can think of one. The best way to introduce this is to model it before starting the activity for a number of weeks.
  3. Provide extra information
    Similar to the variation above, but the student answering provides extra information beyond the answer to the question. For example, if asked ‘Who makes your breakfast?’, as student may answer ‘My mother makes my breakfast. I eat rice for breakfast’.

Advanced variations

  1. Ask questions back
    In this variation, the student answering the question will answer (possibly providing extra information), then ask a similar or related question back to the student who asked. Again, this can be modelled in front of the class numerous times to give students ideas on how to use it.
  2. Students rewrite the questions
    This is something we do in the 3rd or 4th class each month, particularly with FC2. Students take a few minutes to rewrite the questions, changing the subject etc. This can be pretty fun. We normally get the students to ask their modified questions to the teacher in front of the class too.
  3. Change the question
    This is the same as the variation above, but students do it on the spot instead of rewriting their QA sheets.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to run the QA part of the class. Don’t neglect this activity, it is one of the more unique and useful parts of The Fluency Course.

How about you? Do you have any questions? What do you do with the QA material? Any other variations?

2 Responses

  1. We started with a 1-5 in class one, then 1-10 in the second class, 1-15 in the third, 1-20 at unit 4, and then from the fifth class we capped it at 20 questions so we did 6-25, then 11-30 etc. So every week, 5 questions are new and 15 are review. The benefit was that in the first few classes students were still getting used to the material so I didn’t have to overload them with 20 questions; and now it’s basically maintaining the same pace. I’m going to try the author’s way for book B though.

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