Questions in envelopes

Today I got all ready to put questions into envelopes for my intermediates. Got a stack of envelopes, made copies, and was going to have an aide cut up the questions. I got sidetracked in a conversation with a counselor about some of our students, and had just the lists of questions in time for class.

We began by listening to our newest song, with kids writing down familiar words.

I challenged some of my kids to try to signal non-comprehension a minimum of five times today. They started during the song! Oops!

Then we got farther on a story, followed by a review of an interview and a fast write of that interview.

Finally, I had the kids relocate themselves, based on who their map partners in the Arctic Ocean were, and they did some getting-to-know-you conversations. They all had the complete sheets of questions in hand. They were supposed to ask as many questions as they could without looking at the suggested questions. I gave the first partner one minute to ask questions. The second partner got two minutes. They switched partners again, and had another two minutes. Whoops. Then class was suddenly about to be over, and I mentioned that I’d wanted them to be able to draw the questions from the envelope. They all said it would have been too much trouble, taking too much time to figure out which ones they’d asked and which ones they hadn’t. They liked the list of questions that they could just look down at and ask. It turned out that most kids could ask about six questions (and get answers) in the two minutes without cheating, and they could then ask about three more.

Now I’m going to ask them to research a famous Russian (ideally, living today) to be their alter-ego. Maybe they could even write questions on blogs or websites. Or…maybe they could write questions to the immersion kids in the class next door. That might be more interesting for a start, and it would give those kids a chance to write about the easy stuff.

So why is a CI teacher suddenly doing something that seems so old-style? I’d like to think I’m doing it with a CI twist. First of all, the kids have been hearing questions like these for a while. The questions are comprehensible. Secondly, what I find is that when we have Russian visitors, kids don’t ask questions naturally. Furthermore, I want them to start asking more follow-up questions now. This is a life skill that will make them friends and help them influence people! I will be modeling (as always) when we do the class interviews, but it’s really time they started participating in this activity a little more. Since asking questions in Russian is dicey, I want them to be doing it with a little scaffolding.

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