Category Archives: PQA

thoughts on PQA

There is a sense of connection in PQA that is hard to achieve with other components of tprs. I have seen that PQA is a time when you get inside the hearts of the kids and talk about what they really like in the target language. PQA is not about us and what we like, it’s totally about them. We interact with them and ask them questions as well as look fascinated. I am still amazed that they let me in and allow me to learn so much about them. It’s a pretty cool thing.



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reverse charades

This last Friday I tried a new PAT game called Reverse Charades. Here’s how it works:

  1. Two large teams
  2. I have my list of words that I have been working on in front of me
  3. One member from each team comes to the front and covers their eyes
  4. I write a word on the board, the teams look at it, and then I quickly erase it
  5. I yell “Go!” and the the two teams act out the word for the members up front. Each member looks at their team in order to guess the word.
  6. The first member up front that guesses the word wins.

It is reverse charades because the team is acting instead of the person up front. Why does this work? Because teens are way more likely to act as a group rather than singled out in front of their peers. Give it a shot!


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The Questionnaire I use

This is the questionnaire that I use at the beginning of the year to get to know my students before we really start to have some fun.This is modified from Anne Matava’s questionnaire.


In order to tell and write interesting stories that involve you, I need some information about each of you.  Please fill out as much of this as applies.  You can make up answers if you want to in order to make it more interesting. Be aware that anything you tell me may show up in a story some day!  Thank you very much.

Name: ____________________________________________________

Nickname: __________________________________________________

Birthday: __________________________________________________

Names and ages of siblings: _____________________________________________


Town you live in: ______________________________________________________

Pets and their names: _____________________________________________________

Your favorite things to do: _________________________________________________


Your job (If you don’t have one make it up): _____________________________________________

Instruments, sports, or games that you play: ______________________________________________


Sports players, artists, or musicians whom you admire:



A celebrity whom you find attractive: _____________________________________________

Your favorite music groups/singers: _______________________________________________


What you like to eat and drink: __________________________________________________


Some things you REALLY don’t like: ______________________________________________


A place or places that you sometimes go and why (example: I visit my grandmother in Colorado):   ___________________________________________________________________________


Chores you have to do around the house: __________________________________________


Your favorite item(s) of clothing: _______________________________________________


Any abilities or talents you have, however unusual: _________________________________


Something you have that is unusual: ______________________________________________

Something you don’t have that you really want: _______________________________________

Any interesting or unusual facts about you: _________________________________________


Name of your best friend(s): ____________________________________________________

Your favorite store: ___________________________________________________________

Something you fear: ___________________________________________________________

Someone you admire: _________________________________________________________

Your favorite movie(s): ______________________________________________________________________________


Would you be willing to act in class:              yes                               no

Would you be willing to draw in front of the class:               yes                               no

Would you be willing to draw something for the class at home:                   yes                   no

Would you be willing to donate a prop to the class for our stories:               yes                   no

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Filed under PQA, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

Joe on tprs

Here is a document that Joe Neilson made on some basic ideas of tprs.

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Filed under PQA, Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

PQA ideas

I have been using a lot of Joe Neilson’s program lately and it has really made my classes take off. One thing that it has enhanced is the PQA in my class. Basically, there is a time where I am “playing” with the vocabulary. This could be any number of activities: TPR, PQA, little spin off stories from the PQA, gestures, chants, pictures, etc.

The PQA has been going great, but sometimes it is hard to gesture, TPR, or PQA certain words like sweat. I mean, in some classes, the word sweat could be a huge success and in other classes it is really awkward. An idea that occured to me is that if we have a picture of a pop culture person sweating and we talk about it, that makes it more meaningful than talking about the students sweating. In other words, I am more likely to have success with a picture than by talking about a student because the students are at an age where they don’t like to talk about how they sweat and if I do, the interest may drop. On the other hand, We can take these vocabulary items that may be hard to talk about and get reps through photos of pop culture.

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Students Taking the First Step

Lately, I have been noticing that some of my quieter students have been putting themselves out there and making suggestions. When I see this, I almost always choose the answer and I do this with a lot of enthusiasm.The reason I get so excited is because they are expressing trust in what we are doing and I want to let them know that it’s okay to trust our class. I want to make sure that our class is a place where students can offer up details without feeling ridiculed. I am always ready to go to bat for a student that has enough courage to suggest a detail. I feel it is my job to do so. If I don’t, who will?

When these students take a step and trust our class, it really makes the class a lot closer. I have observed that I am not the only one who notices this step. The students notice, too, and accept them into the club of creative people facing the same direction.

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Questionnaires and Backward Planning

Starting last week I took a new direction with Backward Planning. I decided to pair them with the questionnaires that the students filled out at the beginning of the year. The results have been wonderful. Of course they will pay more attention when the class is completely about them. I already knew this, but some how missed the connection when I was first thinking about it.

At first we were making the stories about  stories about fictional characters. For example, There is a boy. His name is ____ and the students would make up some name. The students had a fun time coming up with names and I would get some of the most ridiculously funny names like Hillbilly Joe Bob IV. This is really funny, but in my opinion misplaced. My students helped me to realize that it is better if our students are the star of the show and more funny if they meet characters named Hillbilly Joe Bob IV.

The questionnaires that Anne Lambert developed are tremendous for PQA. The nice thing is that they open the window to so many story/ PQA possibilities.  Here are some things that Anne does:

Anne spends the first several weeks laying a foundation of CI to prepare them for the stories that they will tell and read later. Later, the foundation that was laid will help her students to know most of the words in the stories that they will tell and provide a way for her to introduce new vocabulary without overwhelming the students.

After the foundation is laid, she initiates the next phase where she begins her backward planning. She first chooses a text that she wants to read in her class. Then, she bases her story scripts completely off of the fluency structures [ex. goes to, laughs, takes, etc.] in the reading that they will do during as well as later in the week. The result is that the students understand the reading with 90 – 95% comprehension and their confidence is increased.

What I have started to do is to pair my Backward Planning Template with the Questionnaires. I have basically been doing the same thing without the scripts and putting the backward planning into the questionnaires. This has allowed me to start reading earlier with the hope that we will read more in class and be exposed to more novels. Since the novels have a lot of repetition, the students will continually be exposed to the same words while slowly gaining new vocabulary. Also, this provides reading for the students and we know that reading will allow them acquire the vocabulary at a quicker pace than any other form of teaching.

Here has been the plan:

1. I look at my backward planning words for the day.

2. I look at my questionnaires to see if there is something that will spark a story.

  • A good story has a good problem.
  • Example: If a girl says on her questionnaire that she likes to talk, then a good problem would be that one day she wakes up and lost her voice.
  • Also I choose a student that has not been personalized very much
  • The student is maybe some one who has fallen through the cracks, but also has the potential to be positive.
  • These students will become the star of the story and will be mixed with the students who want to act, which will add an extra positive vibe to the story.

3. I choose a Questionnaire that looks like it has a good problem and put it on top of the stack of Questionnaires.

4. I go into class with my Backward Planning list, Questionnaire, and a good problem with a few details.

You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just write a script?” Well, if I write a script, it takes way more time. Also this frees me to ask questions as we create different stories in the classes, rather than being tied to a script. In each class, all of the stories have similar problems, but different outcomes and details.

If I have a script, I am not as free to go with a completely different story. For example, if the problem is that a student can’t talk in one class a girl looses her voice because she is sick, while in another class the girl can’t talk because her wisdom teeth were pulled out.  Both have the same fluency structures [ex. she can’t talk] with different outcomes.

Also, it is more believable because I am able to go with the current climate and situation of my students that day, which is something that can’t be planned. And we all know how our students can change from day to day. Who can predict how our students will feel? For example, I didn’t know that one of my students was going to have her wisdom teeth pulled, but I was able to identify that and make it the centerpiece of the story.

I was free because I went into the story with a few details and a good problem. The backward planning helps to keep me focused so that I can make the reading we do later 90 – 95% comprehensible and also give the students the repetition that they need. Without the backward planning template, I may go way off and it will be CI, but my students won’t understand the reading we do later. I don’t have time for that and it also decreases the confidence of the students when they read. Let’s be honest, students need all the motivation they can get with reading these days.

It has been working better so far and I am curious to see where it goes. I am glad that it continues to evolve and that it is getting better than worse.


Filed under PQA, Storytelling tips