Saturday, January 26, 2013

What's your QPH (questions per hour)?

Did you ever wonder how many questions you ask in the TL throughout the class period?  I should ask a student to track my questions for several classes to see what the range is.  

When the teacher asks a lot of comprehensible questions it requires student participation to answer those questions.  Sometimes I want the students to call out the answers and other times I tell them to raise their hands to give me an idea of who knows the answer.  There are always 2 or 3 students that I can count on to raise their hands, which makes it easy for me to assess their understanding.

But what about the students that don't raise their hand?  What is the best way to assess their understanding throughout the period?  I know there are students that know the answer, but are either too shy to answer or they second guess themselves and choose to let someone else answer.  Many times I'll ask the students, "Who knows what I just said?" or ask them to hold up 1-5 fingers to show me what they understood.  But, sometimes I just want to HEAR what they can do.  I know the experts say you shouldn't force output, but...sometimes I can't resist.   

Yesterday, after circling the beginning sentences of a story that we had started the previous day and then added a few more sentences, I told the whole class to stand up.  I split the class in two and said that one of the sides would stand for an additional five minutes if the other side out-shined or out-played them. 

The object: one student at a time had to say a sentence in Spanish about the story.  After a student on side A answered, I repeated the sentence, pointed to the structure if it was one that was still on the board, and said "excelente" or something similar. Then I turned to the other side and a volunteer from that side said a sentence.

At first, the same students that usually answer in class answered. I expected that and said what I often say in class, "you're making one person do all the work for you" (yes, I said that in English) But something interesting happened after a few rounds. Students that haven't said anything in the first 3 days were raising their hands to say full sentences in the TL.  Some were even using their imaginations to use previously learned vocabulary to come up with logical sentences that went along with the story.  Later that day, I tried to analyze why they answered so easily and what was their motivation.

1- They really didn't want to be on the side that had to stand an additional 5 minutes.  (Students want to stay seated.)
2-They had plenty of "think" time and no pressure because ANYONE on their side was permitted to answer.
3-I have a long wait time so if I know the students know the answer but are waiting me out, I don't become uncomfortable with the wait time and a student eventually answers.  (Looking in their eyes and smiling goes a long way.)
4-They wanted to help their "team" and make their contribution.

Whatever the reason, I was amazed, again, at the powerful effect TPRS has on helping the students to acquire the language.  Overall, they did such a great job that I declared both sides victorious and we gave ourselves a round of applause.

Personal Goal for the Week: Find out my QPH with the help of students to track my questions!!!


  1. I often do something similar as a warm up or cool down for my classes. I will ask the whole class to stand and they will have to answer a question before they can sit. I will often need to reuse the same question to get through everyone so the students who feel unsure get to hear someone else answer it first. I like that it adds some movement to the class too.

    1. How do you encourage the students who are seated to continue paying attention?

  2. I do that type of questioning too, at any time during the class period when I think they would benefit from moving. Movement in the classroom is a good thing - I agree!