PQA Without Output? Sure!

Image result for self conscious student"
We don’t want our kids to feel self-conscious…which is what speaking often does, especially for beginners.

Great question on CI Liftoff today: how do we do PQA without forcing output? Don’t students have to talk during PQA?

Yes, they do, but only to indicate comprehension. You could have them answer questions in English— which sometimes is a good idea, because that is the fastest way to know exactly how much they understand— but…but…but…it’s kinda cool to stay in the target language, right? Right? Sure!

So how do we do personalised questions and answers— PQA— with minimal output? Easy! But first, let us remind ourselves: science says, people do not need to speak the target language to acquire it. They need only understand the message. So teachers— those new to C.I., and those who have levels 1 and 2— need to ditch the kids-must-talk urge.

So what do we do? Easy. We use ourselves as models in PQA conversations.

Say I want to teach them the essential teen words “I can drive (a car)”. I will write on the board— with translation— puedo manejar un carro.

Then, I will say a few sentences, such as clase, ¿qué quiere decir “puedo manejar”? and “puedo manejar los Ferrari, pero no puedo manejar los Toyota Yaris.” I will do comprehension checks.

Then, I ask eg Granthi— who cannot shut up about cars— ¿puedes manejar? He will answer with or no. Then I ask, what did I just ask you? and he will (hopefully) say can you drive?

Now, we are all set. I am going to ask Granthi first— and then others— ¿puedes manejar?-type questions, restate answers, and talk about myself, like this:

Granthi, ¿puedes manejar bien?

Granthi, yo no puedo manejar bien. Tengo muchas multas (fines). ¿Tienes multas?

¿No? ¿No tienes multas? ¿Eres experto en manejar?

Bueno, eres experto en manejar. Yo no lo soy. ¿Qué manejas— un Mercedes o un Dodge Caravan?
un Mercedes.

Bueno— tú manejas un Mercedes…pero YO manejo un Ferrari.
ya whatever Mr Stolz I saw your Yaris in the parking lot.

¡Granthi! No es mi Yaris. Es el Yaris de mi novia, Angelina Jolie. Ella no maneja el Yaris porque ella maneja mi Ferrari.
ya whatever she’s rich why would she even HAVE a Yaris?

¡Granthi! Ang tiene un Yaris para disfraz (disguise). Es muy famosa. A veces, ella maneja su Yaris.

All we have to do is ask questions, have kids provide answers, and we model “proper”— ie more complex— answers by comparing ourselves (or other students, such as native speakers) with students.

So…do we need output other than yes, no or one-word answers? Nope…and kids will acquire just fine.

Trump in the Closet

So today we started Level 2 with the usual:  weather, date, what did you do last night? etc.  During a bit of PQA I asked one kid if he had a girlfriend.  When he said no, and I asked why, his friend said “because he has lice” and they both giggled.  And…we were off and running.  What follows is a totally improvised, on the spot, story.  THIS is why I love love love T.P.R.S..  As Mike Coxon said, “when I get off-track, I get the most done.”

  • piojos lice (although we could have started with any living thing)
  • quería besar a wanted to kiss
  • estaba solitario was lonely
  • tenía tantos ____ como ___ had as many ___ as ___
  • estaba tan ___ como ___ was/felt as ____ as ___

Señor Stolz and Animalak had lice.  So did Dhaniyal.  Dhaniyal’s lice were few and blue.  Animalak’s lice were red and small. Dhaniyal had as many lice as Animalak. Señor Stolz’s lice were huge and yellow.

Animalak’s lice were lonely.  They wanted to kiss someone.  There was no-one to kiss!  They were very sad.

Sr Stolz:  Louse, are you happy?

Louse: No, I am not happy.

Sr Stolz:  What do you want?

Louse:  I want to kiss a pretty girl!

Sr Stolz: Are there girls in Animalak’s hair?

Louse: No, there are no girls in Animalak’s hair.

Sr Stolz also had lice.  Sr Stolz lived in the closet with Donald Trump.  Sr Stolz did not like Donald Trump, because Donald Trump was racist and an idiot.  Donald Trump had magnificent hair.  Sr Stolz was as lonely as his lice.

Donald Trump:  I’m an idiot.  Do you want to kiss someone?

Sr Stolz:  Yes, I want to kiss Sofia Vergara.

Donald Trump (to louse): I’m an idiot.  Who do you want to kiss?

Louse: I want to kiss a pretty girl.

There were no pretty girls in Sr Stolz’s closet.  Sofia Vergara also was not in Sr Stolz’s closet.  There were only ugly zombie women in Sr Stolz’s closet.

Sr Stolz and his lice left the closet and went to North Korea.  In North Korea there were as many pretty girls as lice.  The lice were very happy.  Sofia Vergara was in North Korea also.  But she did not want to kiss Sr Stolz.  She wanted to kiss Kim Jong Un.  K.J.U. was happy but Sr Stolz was very sad.  Sr Stolz went back to his closet.  Donald Trump was happy!


How Do I Get More 1st & 2nd Person Verb Practice?

There was a recent comment asking “how do I get more reps” (repetitions) on first and second person verb forms?”

This is one of my many weaknesses, but I am getting better.  I read somewhere that in language classrooms, the third person is overused while other forms are under-represented.  I can see why.  Here’s what I recommend based on what I have done.

FIRST, When we begin T.P.R.S., we start with first and second person questions, on the board if we must, and ask our actors.  It’s Sept 2015 and I just finished asking Los Gatos Azules.  I teach fully unsheltered grammar, so I narrate in the past (or whatever) tenses, and I talk to actors (and kids in class) in present tense.  The following questions go on the board:

¿Eres __ ? – Sí, (no, no) soy __ .  (Are you ___? — I am (not) ___.)

¿Quieres tener ____? – Sí, (no, no) quiero tener ____ . (Do you want to have ___?  — I (do not) want to have ___)

¿Te gustan ____? – Sí, (no, no) me gustan ____ (Do you like___?  — I (do not) like ___.)

¿Tienes ____?  –Sí, (no, no) tengo ___. (Do you have ___?  — I (do not) have __.)

¿Vas a ____?  — Sí, (no, no) voy a ____ (Are you going to ____?  — I (am not) going to ___.)

¿Estás en ___? Sí, (no, no) estoy en ____.  (Are you in/at ____?  — I am (not) in/at ___.)

¿Qué necesitas? – Necesito ____.  (What do you need?  — I need ___.)

This is a fair bit for first story so we go slowly.  I will narrate a sentence in the past — e.g. el chico estaba en Watts– and circle that a bit, then I’ll ask the actor one of the present tense questions, like “¿Estás en Watts?” and s/he answers “Sí, estoy en Watts.”  You go s.l.o.w.l.y., you point-and-pause, and you do a LOT of comprehension checks (in unsheltered, comp check focus with verbs is on meaning and tense).  I have two actors right now.  Miguel knows some Spanish from his Salvadorean Dad, and Shyla is just very enthusiastic.  If they can answer, great; if not, they read off board.

This is my beginner PQA chart which I also use for stories.



SECOND, we do P.Q.A.– personalised questions and answers.  For this, wejust ask the class members the same questions we ask our actors.  We can do this mid-story, or after.  We start with our “fast processor” kids and just ask one, say, ¿Te gustan los gatos? and have them answer Sí, me gustan los gatos or maybe No, no me gustan los gatos.  If they aren’t comfy saying the whole sentence, they can answer Y or N, and we rephrase: “Class, Baninder just said me gustan los gatos.  What did he just say?”

For PQA, it’s important to figure out your kids’ output skills and tailor questions to that.

  • You ask everyone y/n questions.  E.g. ¿Te gustan los gatos? (Do you like cats?)– Sí/no.
  • Faster processors can handle one-word answer questions, e.g. ¿Te gustan los gatos o los perros? Do you like cats or dogs?)– Los gatos.
  • the fastest processors you can ask whole-sentence questions e.g. ¿Por qué te gustan los gatos? ¿Son cómicos? (Why do you like cats– because they’re funny?) — Me gustan los gatos porque son cómicos.

I have trained myself to always model answers– with a comp check– before moving ahead and asking the kids.  So if we’re working on, say, trabajo (I work/am working), I’ll say “yo trabajo en la escuela. Yo no trabajo en casa.”  (I work at school.  I don’t work at home).  Then I ask “what did I just say?” to make sure they get it.  Then I ask a fast processor ¿trabajas? (do you work?), get a y/n answer, comp check– “class, what did Johnny just say?”, and ask again, pointing to board.  I model for the FPs and everyone else, and the FPs model for the SPs.  I usually seem to end up with 1-3 kids in a class who immediately pick up how to say something so I just use them.

Third, do P.Q.A. with Movietalk and Picturetalk. Just throw the same questions at the kids– using vocab from your movie or picture– as you did in your story.  If there’s a girl in the movie who is happy, you ask a kid “are you happy?” or ask her and her friend “are you guys happy?”

Fourth, for plural verbforms (“you guys, they, we”), there are two strategies.  First, we have a “double parallel character” e.g. two girls or two guys.  Or have two protagonists doing the same thing.  All our questions to them will be “Do you guys….?” and all their answers “We…” and you will narrate in third person plural.  For example, we narrate “Class, the girls asked for 37 hamburgers” and after we circle that for a bit, we ask the girls “Are you guys asking for 37 hambugers?  Yes, we are asking for 37 hamburgers”). Second, we do P.Q.A. in plural.  So you ask a random fast-processor kid “Johnny, do you and Mike play Call of Duty?” and Johnny says “Yes, we play C.o.D.” or “No, we don’t play C.o.D.”  We then do a bit of circling– “Class, do Mike and Johnny play G.T.A. or C.o.D.?  That’s right, they play…”  

Of course, we must write the verbs on the board or overhead with translation.

I have a restaurant story for which I use two girls as protagonists (and they encounter a series of very handsome but very stupid celebrity servers), so the whole thing is “they” and “we” and “you guys.”

Fifth, reading is essential.  If you follow storyasking with embedded readings (a reading which uses the same vocab as your asked story to tell a different story, and which comes in three (or more) progressively more complex versions), make sure one version of the reading has plural verbforms.  Also do P.Q.A. during (or after) the reading process in both singular and plural verbforms.  If the embdded reading says “John went to the theatre at 6;30 A.M.,” you then ask a kid “do you go to the theatre at 6:30 AM?” and s/he says “Yes, I go…” or “no, I don’t go…” Or you ask a pair of kids “do you guys go to the theatre at 6:30 AM?” and they say “Yes, we go” or “No, we don’t go…”

Sixth, I loooves me some text messages like this one….you can build this in 2 min on any computer, using this free website, then print or project…

A few things to remember:

a) this takes time.  We cannot expect kids to pick this all up in one go.  A skilled T.P.R.S. practitioner will recycle this stuff in every story, and with time the kids will pick it up, first just understanding, and later spontaneously saying things.  My 2s I am expecting will be fully online with plural verbs (we, you guys, they) after about 2 months.

b) we must write what we want on board when introducing first and second person verbs

c) we must do comprehension checks.

Say you ask a girl ¿Te gustan los chico estúpidos? and she says No, no me gustan los chicos estúpidos.  When you ask “Class, what she just say?”, they will often answer with “She doesn’t like dumb guys.”  This is wrong– she said “I don’t like dumb guys.”  We have to stay on top of this because this is a classic easy way for kids to “acquire”  the wrong thing.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of right now for upping our first-and-second person input.

What does conversation in a Level 1 & 2 split class look like?

Week 8 of fully unsheltered grammar, Level 1&2 Spanish.  What does PQA (personalised questions and answers) look like? 

I’m posting this to show that– as long as you keep the language 100% comprehensible– you can easily operate with two levels at once.  You can see that the 2s and I are providing input for the 1s and there is no real output pressure.  I check for understanding, I provide a chance for y/n and/or one-word answers, and I let the kids say as much or as little as they want.

Also note what we are doing re: grammar.  The beginners can easily operate in 3 verb tenses.  Traditionally you would see pretérito (passé composé) in level 2 and imperfecto (imparfait) in level 3. Now, a lot of the beginners won’t be able to say everything, but after awhile it will kick in. As Susan Gross points out, if the input has everything we need from Day 1, and it’s comprehensible, kids will pick it up when they have heard it a ton and are ready for it.

The main rule: if it is said or read,nit must be 100% comprehensible.  I also do a lot of gesturing for verbs, nouns and past tense.  Here is what we did for a bit today.

Me: Fahim, ¿qué hiciste anoche?

Fahim (level 2): Fui al gimnasio con Danny.

Me: Class, what did he just say?

Class: I went to the gym with Danny.

Me: ¿Te gustó? ¿Fue divertido?

Fahim: Sí, fue muy divertido. Me gustó mucho.

Me: Clase, ¿adónde fueron Fahim y Danny anoche– al gimnasio, o al cine?

Class: al gimnasio

Me: Sí, clase, los chicos fueron al gimnasio.

Me: Clase, a Fahim y Danny, ¿les gustó o no les gustó el gimnasio?

Class: Les gustó.

Me: Sí, les gustó el gimnasio.  Class, what does that mean?

Class: He likes the gym.

Me: Whoa! Les gustó means “they liked.”  So when I ask ¿les gustó el gimnasio? what am I asking?

Class: Did they like the gym.

Me to Marya (level 1): Marya, ¿fuiste al gimnasio anoche?

Marya: No.

Me: ¿Te gusta ir al gimnasio, o te gusta ir al cine?

Marya: al cine

Me: ¿Tenías mucha tarea anoche?


Me: Class, what did I just ask Marya?

Class: Did you have a lot of homework last night?

Me to Ace (level 2): ¿Qué hiciste anoche tú?

Ace: tenía mucha tarea en inglés, y ví la televisión.

Me: ¿Ves mucha televisión, o ves poca televisión?

Ace: Poca televisión.

Me: ¿Por qué no ves mucha televisión?

Ace: No me gusta mucho la televisión. Es aburrido.

Me: ¿Qué prefieres: ver la televisión o textear con tus amigos?

Ace: Prefiero textear con tus amigos. (“I prefer to text with your friends”– an error)

Me (adding a bunch of emphasis): ¿ prefieres textear con MIS amigos? (I point at Ace then at me)

Ace (laughs): yo prefiero textear con MIS amigos.

Me to class: Class, what did Ace just say?

Class: I prefer texting with my friends.

Me to Manisha (level 1): Manisha, ¿prefieres textear con tus amigas, o hacer la tarea?

Manisha: textear

Me: Hacer la tarea– ¿es interesante o aburrido? 

Manisha: Es aburrido.

Me: Textear con tus amigas: ¿cómo es? ¿Es divertido o es aburrido textear?

Manisha: Divertido.