Interesting Questions (an Activity)

Earlier this year I hosted a Question and Answer session for the first time in my life. It was a session for teachers of the language school I was visiting in several capacities/roles: as a lesson observer, lesson plan reader, oral and written feedback giver, and a teaching seminar facilitator. The session I am talking about in this post took place immediately after two professional development sessions offered by the school senior teacher (on Developing Speaking Skills in Class) and myself (on Developing Writing Skills in Class).

The day before I was finalizing my notes and slides for the seminar and was wondering what kind of (potential) challenges need to be anticipated for the Q&A slot of the day. One of the anticipated challenges I had was that the audience would not be asking any questions at all (for a number of reasons, e.g. not being interested in what I can share, and/or not willing to participate in general, feeling shy, not having confidence to ask something in front of everyone, etc.).

I decided to prepare a simple activity to warm everyone up and hopefully to get us started in a less formal/more relaxed way. In fact, this activity was not needed as I was asked lots of questions. Perhaps a topic for another post (or a different kind of audience!) So, I’d like to share the activity with you. I think it can be adapted for a classroom use with language learners of different levels. By the way, if you know its original author, please drop me a line in the comment section.

Time: 10-20 minutes

Preparation: have small cards with one word on each (e.g. name, country, food, drink, movie, school, subject, etc.), ideally for each participant/student in the room, and a couple extras.

Guess the month when the pic was taken

In class: each participant/student takes one card with the word on it. The teacher/facilitator either explains the task explicitly, or announces that there is going to be a game and models the activity.

Explanation/instruction: you ask me a question using the word on the card, and I will only answer it if the question is interesting/creative. (I think it is important to offer an example here)

Zhenya’s example: NAME.

Participants/students ask you their questions. If they ask something like ‘what’s your name?’, ignore the question (add a comment, e.g. ‘You know my name, don’t you?’) It ‘s important to remind everyone that it is a game though, not to make people feel bad.

Ask why the question was not answered, elicit that it was not interesting, had an obvious answer, etc.

Invite everyone to think of more interesting/creative questions with the word ‘name’. Some examples I came up with:

  • How do you feel about your own name? 
  • Who gave you this name?
  • What’s the most difficult name to pronounce (in English, in your L1)?
  • What’s the most pleasantly sounding name to you, and why?

There are more ideas of course, e.g. ESL Discussions blog

Give time to prepare their questions. If necessary (especially with language learners), help with new vocabulary and/or allow access to dictionaries. A possible step can be peer checking the questions for accuracy.

The next stage can vary depending on the number of people in the room: can be a mingling activity where participants/students ask their questions to each other and make a note of the most creative/funniest one (or the most interesting/inventive answer, etc.) It can also be a small group work (3-5 people in the group) and then sharing some surprises with the whole class.

For the purpose of the Q&A session I was thinking to wrap it up by inviting the audience to ask some of their questions to me (facilitator), as a way to get to know me a bit more and make a ‘bridge’ of more general questions to those with more professional focus.

Bonus links:

Museum Hack offers non-ELT ice-breaking questions that may be fresh and interesting to try in class or on a course with teachers.

This post on my blog about the Conversation Method and asking (non-)personal questions.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
This entry was posted in Trainer Reflections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Interesting Questions (an Activity)

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks for including our list of ice breakers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Question Mark Project, 2/3 | Wednesday Seminars

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