Do you use PQA, or personalized questions and answers, in your classes?
When it goes well, PQA can be such a wonderful tool. For those of you who are new to it, you can find a description of PQA by Susan Gross here. I love PQA because it allows you to interact with and get to know your individual students, while simultaneously providing rich, authentic CI to the whole class. It is also great if you are a teacher who uses thematic units, because it makes any content more relevant by connecting it directly to your students’ lives.
I’ve found, however, that I’m not so great at PQA if I don’t do a little prep work ahead of time. I tend to either a) run out of questions to ask or b) get nervous about the lesson veering off the tracks. (Thanks to Tina and Ben’s insights about untargeted input, I realize that this fear might be something I can let go of! Read more about that here.)
That’s why I started to create PQA mini-scripts. These are simply lists of questions that I might ask my students around a given topic. Even if I never look at the list, I find that my questions flow more easily if I know that I have something to refer to.
Here is a sample of a PQA mini-script that I created for a unit about school. It focuses on asking students questions about what school supplies they have in their backpacks. I will include the French and the English translation, in case you would like to use it in another language class.
Les fournitures scolaires et le verbe avoir (School supplies and the verb “to have”)
(To the first student): Tu aimes lire? Do you like to read?
Tu as un livre dans ton sac à dos? Do you have a book in your backpack?
Quel livre as-tu dans ton sac à dos? What book do you have in your backpack?
Combien de livres as-tu dans ton sac à dos? How many books do you have in your backpack?
Tu aimes lire les livres dans ton sac à dos? Do you like to read the books in your backpack?
Et l’élève à côté de toi, il/elle a un livre dans son sac à dos? Demande-lui. And the student next to you, does he or she have a book in his/her backpack? Ask him/her.
Il/elle a quel livre dans son sac à dos? What book does he/she have in his/her backpack?
(To two or more students) Et vous, vous avez des livres aussi? And you all, do you have books too?
(Optional: Repeat this entire section with one or two more students if the PQA is flowing/if time permits.)
(To the next student): Tu as un stylo dans ton sac à dos? Do you have a pen in your backpack?
Combien de stylos as-tu dans ton sac à dos? How many pens do you have in your backpack?
De quelles couleurs sont les stylos? What colors are the pens?
Tu préfères écrire avec les stylos noirs ou les stylos bleus? Do you prefer to write with black pens or blue pens?
Tu préfères les stylos ou les crayons? Do you prefer pens or pencils?
Tu as un crayon dans ton sac à dos? Do you have a pencil in your backpack?
Et l’élève à côté de toi, il/elle a un crayon? Demande-lui. And the student next to you, does he/she have a pencil? Ask him/her.
(To two or more students) Et vous, vous avez des crayons aussi? And you all, do you have pencils too?
(Optional: Repeat this entire section with one or two more students.)
(To next student): Tu as un feutre dans ton sac à dos? Do you have a felt tip pen/marker in your backpack?
Combien de feutres as-tu dans ton sac à dos? How many markers do you have in your backpack?
De quelle couleur sont les feutres? What colors are the markers?
Tu aimes écrire avec les stylos, les crayons, ou les feutres? Do you like to write with pens, pencils, or markers?
Tu as un feutre pour dessiner ou pour écrire? Do you have a marker for drawing or for writing?
Et l’élève à côté de toi, il/elle a un feutre? Demande-lui. And the student next to you, does he/she have a marker? Ask him/her.
(To two or more students): Et vous, avez-vous des feutres aussi? And you all, do you have markers too?
As you can see, the script is designed to be simple and repetitive, with the hope that students will be able to understand each message and acquire the new vocabulary. My goal would be to spend about 10 minutes on this PQA session, going very slowly so that my Novice students can follow along with everything. I chose just a few school supplies to focus on, but this same basic script would work with almost any vocabulary you might want to go over.
At the end of this PQA session, I might transition to a variety of activities. For instance, I might launch into a story about a student who doesn’t have the school supplies he or she needs for class. Or, I might have my students do a quick-write about what supplies they have with them at school that day. Regardless of what task comes next, I always feel good about the CI that a successful PQA session provides.
I’d love to hear about how you use PQA in your classes! Do you prefer being spontaneous, or do you like to have a script to fall back on?
Would you like to see more mini-scripts like this one? If so, send me a note and I can create or share one about a topic that you would like to talk about with your students. Also, feel free to contact me if you would like to have this mini-script in a Word document. I will be happy to share it with you. : )
Merci et à bientôt!
Nina, at first I liked to have a script like you but then I got used to asking questions and also by watching Tina doing card talk, I felt more confident with spontaneous PQA. I think it comes with practice. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for sharing, Alice! I think you are so right—as with most things, many of these CI practices become easier with time. I’m happy to hear that you are feeling confident with spontaneous PQA!