French Example of PQA

Example of Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA):  structure = avoir peur de (to be afraid of, lit. to have fear of)

The teacher writes “j’ai peur de (I have fear of)” on the board.  As the teacher says, “j’ai peur de,” s/he walks to the board and points to each word as it is pronounced.  The teacher draws a spider and writes the word, “araignée” next to it.  Again, the students hear “j’ai peur” and see the teacher point to the words.  Then the teacher says, “j’ai peur des araignées.”  As the teacher says the “s” sound of “des” s/he writes an “s” at the end of “de” and an “s” at the end of “araignée.”  S/he also draws at least one more spider.  The teacher says the entire phrase again, pointing as s/he says each word.

Under the original structure, the teacher writes, “as-tu peur de? (do you have fear of?).”  Choosing a student, the teacher says slowly, “Ashley, as-tu peur des araignées?” as s/he points to the words while saying them.  Before giving a chance for an answer, the teacher walks close to Ashley, leans in slight and looks her in the eye, then says again slowly, “Ashley, as-tu peur des araignées?”  This repetition gives Ashley some time to process what she has just been asked.

Ashley responds, “Oui.”  The teacher walks to the board and writes, “Ashley a peur des araignées,” and says to the class, “Classe, Ashley a peur des araignées.”

The teacher walks back to Ashley and establishes eye contact again, picks up a Math book from Ashley’s desk, and says slowly, “Ashley, as-tu peur des mathématiques?”  If Ashley’s eyes reveal that she doesn’t understand what the teacher has just asked her, the teacher needs to walk back to the board and point to the words, “as-tu peur des” and then write “mathématiques.”  Since this is a cognate, Ashley’s eyes will most likely show her comprehension without writing the meaning next to it.  However, the teacher should be prepared to write the meaning just in case.  Some words that are obvious cognates to most of us aren’t to everyone.

Ashley responds with, “Non.”  The teacher walks back to the board and inserts an n’ before the “a” in the previous sentence and pas after the “a” to read, “Ashley n’a pas peur des mathématiques.”  The teacher reads it while pointing to each word including the new additions/corrections.

The teacher turns to the class and asks, “Classe, est-ce qu’Ashley a peur des araignées ou est-ce qu’elle a peur des mathématiques?”  The conversation continues with other students, always coming back often to Ashley and the other students and comparing and contrasting their answers.

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Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA)

After the basic meaning of a structure is established, a time of personalized questions and answers initiates the students into how the structure is used in real-life conversations.  (See an example of PQA.)

These types of questions are important for three reasons.  First, they establish a rapport with the teacher by connecting the student and teacher for a moment in an actual mini-conversation.  In a typical PQA time, the teacher will converse with three or four students this way, and over the course of a few weeks, the teacher gets the opportunity to connect with every student in their class like this.  As the year progresses, this rapport will pay off in improved classroom discipline and a more positive environment.

PQA also provides vital repetitions of the target structures and tunes the students’ ears to hear the slight changes that take place when that structure is used in both questions and answers (such as word order or change of endings on verbs).  Since the same basic questions are asked to three or four different students and then are compared with the responses other students gave, the students can focus more on the structures than on the details of a story.

When the teacher is asking different students the questions, each student’s circle of friends will be more highly engaged because of their interest in their friend.  The most interesting subject to a student is themselves, but the second most interesting is their friends.  If the teacher keeps moving among three to four students with constant comparison questions, three to four times more students will be engaged in the activity.

The most important reason for starting the lesson with PQA, however, is information.  PQA is not an isolated activity in the day’s lesson.  The best use of it is to make it the springboard for the story the class will create that day.  During PQA the TPRS® teacher is constantly listening for details and comments that s/he can weave together into an interesting story in the second part of the lesson.  Which student’s responses will give the best spark to a story?  Once the teacher has found an interesting or odd detail it’s an easy transition into a story.

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