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THEROLEOFQUESTIONSANDANSWERS

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THE ROLE OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

    IN TEACHING ENGLISH TEXTS

Abstract

    []and probing questions Provocative 引起争论议论、兴趣等探索性的

    intensify the classroom learningThis makes formerly passive students into full participantswhile the probing aspect allows the instructor to ascertain the 弄清

    students' skill-level and proceed at a pace not beyond their abilityThis article

    introduces my method of college English text teaching by analyzing the present condition of English learning of Medical postgraduatesIn my text teaching class, 1

    put forward a lot of questions concerning the text; different questions at different stages of the text for students to answerincluding pre-reading questions

    time-controlled comprehension questionsquestions about words or sentences and

    text analyzing questions

1

Introduction

    In our universitythe Postgraduate Department sets the required year-long English course8 or 10 hours a week for the postgraduatesand they have to pass the

    College English Test at Band 6the most important national standardized English test for non-majors in China(for their Master's degreeThrough one year's English study

    more than half can, pass the testhowever, most just reached the passing mark60.

    They are fairly good in reading and writingbut their listeningand especially their

    speaking skills are poor

    There are several reasons leading to this weaknessthe students' poor English

    foundationtoo many students in one class, etc. But the most essential reason lies in the teacher's role. Traditional ELT in China is dominated by a teacher-centered

    examination-orientedgrammar and vocabulary-based method. Knowledge of English is transmitted through the teacher who acts asan authoritya knowledge-giver and

    moral example"CortazziJin1996(,The students are simply regarded as silent passive knowledge receiving boxes

    The cognitive psycholinguistic theory believes that a foreign language learner's competence in using the language is actually the combination of the learner'sreceptive skills”,listening and reading(andproductive skills”,speaking and

    writing(,Language acquisition is in fact a process in whichdifferent language skills

    are best assumed to develop simultaneously and to complement each other throughout the process" (Stern, 1983)For language learnersto learn only the intricacies of the device without knowing how to put it to use is rather like learning about the delicate

    mechanisms of a clock without knowing how to tell the timeWiddowson 990a

    95)Somastering a language needs learning with practicegraspingconsolidating

    and using the language as a tool

    To train both the students' receptive skills and their productive skillsas far as my

    text teaching goesI put forward questions about the text to stimulate their thinking

    and give them opportunities to voice their thoughtsand so to improve their oral

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    communication competence.The use of questions is an important part of teaching. Effective questioning is essential for conducting a variety of activities and tasks in the classroom." Montague1987(,Rod Ellis' "study of teachers" questions shows

    questioning is undoubtedly a kind of control under which the teacher can direct the class successfully. Questions are also used to provide the opportunities for students' output and thispushed outputhelps learners to reconstruct their inter-language A

    key issuethereforeishowa teacher's questions cater to such output A teacher

    can ask many different types of questions during classroom instruction. Different. types of questions may serve different functions”Montague1987(,We can utilize

    certain types of questions at appropriate times

Question Procedures

    1. Pre-reading Questions

    Pre-reading questions introduce the textThey pertain not only to the text's

    content or key words but also to the students and their opinions concerning the text. "Your Key to A Better Life" in Book V of College English exemplifies pre-reading questions

    1(Have you ever doubted your ability to do something well?

    2(Did you ever fail? In what aspect?

    3(What do you think about the failure?

    4) Did the failure help you succeed or make you lose heart?

    5) Are you too modestor do you underestimate your ability?

    6) What's your own opinion of yourself?

    Getting students to state their beliefs and opinions is essential for effective discussionsbecause questions that allow several possible correct answers may help foster more willingness and ability to respond. In the course of this partstudents are

    usually excited and interested in the questionsthus their desire to read the text is

    aroused

    2. Time-Controlled Comprehension Questions

    Comprehension questions train students' reading speed and comprehension ability

    i. e. to get the most information in the shortest possible timeThe questions to be

    chosen should not be too difficult to answerand follow the students' preparation of

    the new words but before the text explanation. For examplethe questions in

    paragraph one in "Your Key to A Better Life" include the following

    1(What is the most important psychological discovery of this century according to

    Dr. Maltz?

    2(What does the author mean byself-image”~

    3(From what has the self-image been built up?

    4) From what have the beliefs about ourselves been formed?

    I do such exercisesbecausesupervisedtime-controlled and checked by the

    teacherthe students read attentivelyand under this pressurework faster and better

    3. Questions about Words or Sentences during the Text Explanation

    Questions about words or sentences should train students' ability to compose sentences by using the newly-learned words or phrasesanalyzing the grammatical

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structure of some complex sentences and paraphrasing or translating the difficult ones.

    Here are some examples

    1(Can you make a sentence with the phrase.

    2(Please analyze the grammatical structure in this long sentenceWho would like

    to volunteer?

    3(Who can paraphrase this sentence?

    4) Who can translate this sentence into Chinese?

    (Why is the word or phrase italicized? 5

    6) Why does the author use quotation marks for this word? 4. Text Analyzing Questions

    Text Analyzing Questions help students understand the text more deeply and really

    grasp something new

    1(What's the main idea of this paragraph?

    2(What are the transitional words in the paragraph? 3(What's the function of this short paragraph here? 4(Can you guess what the author will talk about in the next or the following

    paragraph?

    (How does the article end? or In what way does the article end? 5

    6(What's the theme of this article?

    7(What's the author's writing style?

    (What's the intention or purpose of the author? 8

    9(Do you agree with the author? If notwhy?

    10(What have you learned from the article?

    Through the discussion of this partthe students usually have a better and deeper understanding of the arrangement of ideasthe structurethe logical relationship and the theme of the articleetcThuswe avoidonly seeing the trees but not the forest"Just as a student said;“We have learned not only the usage of language but the content or thought the language tries to convey.On the other handtext analysis

    shows the students how to writethus improves their writing ability

Results

    Through one year's English learningguided by the questions throughout my text teaching processthe students made great progress in English learning in the following aspects

    1. Students' interest in English learning has been arousedtheir passive learning has changed into active learningthey hold meetings to discuss how to learn English wellthey take part in English corners or foreign experts medicine symposiumsthey

    also organize English partiesetc

    2. Students' English thinking habit has been trainedmost of them can prepare answers faster than beforeactually thinking in Englishnot Chinese.

    3. Students' speaking has been improvedmost can express themselves better than beforesome can even speak very well

    4. Students' ability of reading comprehension has improvedmost have become

    efficient readersreading China Daily or 21st Century every day

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    5. Students' writing ability has also been enhancedmost of them can express

    themselves clearly and organize the passage logically.

    Questions are designed depending on the text: they are changed according to the content of the article. But bare in mind the following

    1) Pre-reading questions and text analyzing questions are often discussed in groups and should be checked

    (Asking a questionpausingcalling on a student by name to respond is usually 2

    preferred for stimulating the whole class to think about the question before a certain student is asked.

    3(If the question is a little difficultyou should give some hints to avoid the

    students' embarrassment

    4) If the student's answer is wrongdon't say so quickly lest the student's

    self-esteem be knocked. Just clearly provide the correct answer.

    5) Note down how often the students volunteer. Encourage them to answer more questions actively.

    6) Students should ask questions about anything they don't understand.

    7) Emphasize using target language in class and forming an "English only" atmosphere.

    8) The homework is mainly reading and writing to compensate for the limited work in class.

Conclusion

    In conclusionto put forward questions for the students to answer is helpful for their English learning in four aspects: First, questions can stimulate students to think

    and their thinking ability can be developed. Secondby answering questionsstudents

    can have opportunities to practice speaking and their communicative competence can be improvedThirdby answering questionsstudents can strengthen their productive

    or output skills and their receptive knowledge can be consolidated. Lastquestions are

    used to train students' ability of reading comprehension and by using questions

    students' language communicative competence of analyzingconcluding and

    reasoning is sure to be cultivated.

References

    Ellis, R. 1994The Study of Second Language AcquisitionOxfordOxford

    University Press

    MontagueEarl J1987Fundamentals of Secondary Classroom Instruction. Merrill

    Publishing Company

    Wen Qiufang. 1999;“Spoken English Teaching and the Training of Thinking

    Ability'Foreign Language Teaching Abroad. Hua Dong Normal University

    Press

    Widdowson, H. G. 1990Aspects of Language TeachingOxfordOxford University

    Press

    Zhai Xiangjun. 1998College EnglishHook VShanghai Foreign Language

    Education Press

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Zhang Zhenbang1992New English Grammar CourseShanghai Foreign Language

Education Press

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