A new twist on PQA!

Without a doubt, attending conferences makes me a better teacher. This weekend, I got a few strategies that I’m going to merge together to make one SUPER-LESSON to try out this week. Mira Canion presented about using a “lower” level question, ¿Cómo soy? (“What am I like?”) to be compelling for any level of learner. She modeled this sweeeeet activity that included writing, movement and sharing in partners (AND we only had to share two words which I love because I am the student who HATES to share about myself out loud), a PQA session with one student which led us to another student, and then we made connections between those two students!!!  It was amazing and mind blowing! I use PQA everyday, all the time, but I’ve never thought of starting it with the words that the students used to describe themselves rather than target structures (verbs)!!!!! What a great spin on a strategy that I use daily! Over the course of the weekend, Annabelle and I discussed concept of untargeted/non-targeted input (more or less not having a plan for what your “target verb/vocab structures” are for the day), and and while I am not ready to jump off the deep end into completely untargeted teaching, I love the idea of branching out my PQA into concepts rather than verb structures.  In this way, I can allow the words that the students used to describe themselves be the basis for the PQA! MIND BLOWN!

Similarly, Carol Gaab described the use of an image (in her example a picture of a baseball injury) as the jumping off point for PQA.  She talked about the need for the COMPREHENSIBLE messages that we present to be compelling and engaging at all times.  I use images all the time for PQA, but again, I start with my 2-3 target structures and fit my images to those structures.  What an incredible idea to START with the image and go from there! MIND BLOWN AGAIN! Isn’t it crazy that the simplest change makes it all novel for me, the teacher!  Allowing the image to dictate where the flow of comprehensible conversation goes and what vocabulary is used is a 180 from what I’ve been doing. What an awesome way to change things up in February and re-engage my students with a NEW spin on a strategy I already use!

Sooooo…how am I going to practice what I preach and take a strategy from the weekend to implement on Monday? Well, I’ll tell you. I found a super cute “Soy Milk” milk-carton image (ask your friendly, neighborhood Spanish teacher to explain the joke if you’re not familiar with it) to use with my 6th grade babies. I put this on my Do Now slide (thanks Connie Navarro for the idea of incorporating cultural images on slides!), and I’m going to try SOMEWHAT untargeted conversation with my kids using this image.  I plan to start a conversation related to milk and the verb “soy”  and see what happens. This should be a sufficient challenge because in the class I’m going to try it with, there are a handful of students from dual-language schools mixed in (stay tuned for later posts about dual-language schools because I have tons of observations, theories, and unofficial research that I would love to put out into the world).  After this “soy”/milk conversation,  I’m going to follow up with Mira’s activity of “Who am I?” Also, in talking with Mira about this, she gave me the BRILLIANT idea of allowing the kids to do “give one, get one” (a.k.a. steal your neighbor’s word if you like it) to make their own word banks.  I love this plan especially since my dual kids can help out the rest of the class, and I don’t have to pre-prepare a word break. Thanks Mira!!

I am so lucky to have access to incredible teachers like Mira and Carol, and I can’t wait to try out these strategies with my kids. Stay tuned for future updates on this new PQA twist!!!


4 thoughts on “A new twist on PQA!

  1. I didn’t reply to your comment until now because I hadn’t used all the parts that I said I was going to use above until today! It was awesome! I added in a handful of slides with funny pictures that used opposing adjectives before asking kids to make their own word banks, and that helped a lot!!!


    • Hi Laura, SO SORRY for my late reply!!! I had to dig back into my notes from last year which were on my iPad, so I’m just now getting to that. Here’s the gist of Mira’s activity. Now that I’m re-reading it, I’m inspired all over again! Thanks for putting it back into the front of my mind!!! I’m going to have to do this next week!! 🙂

      Who am I? a la Mira Canion

      Write for 2 minutes answering the question “Who am I?” Mira mentioned the importance of us modeling actual writing – pen on paper (doc cam) – to help students learn to write and sound out words (for lower levels, you could ask them to just make a list of words rather than sentences, you could give a word bank, or I suppose you could even ask them to do the writing in English depending on the intent of the lesson. Mira modeled the activity in English since it was at a conference, so you could just adjust the language usage as needed).

      Then, pick just 2 words from this piece of writing that answer the question “Who am I?” and circle them.
      Stand up, hand up, pair up. Share only these 2 words, and give a thumbs up to the other person if you match one or both words with your partner. Do this a few times with different partners.

      Next step, PQA – by ask one student – what is your one word description of yourself? Then ask a few more PQA questions about this word.

      • What is your word? Teacher
      • Where do you teach?
      • How many classes do you teach?
      • Class questions – Class, what does she teach?
      • Where?
      • Yes/no, either/or
      • Who else circled teacher? Raise your hand
      • What percent of the class put teacher
      • Who put the OPPOSITE of teacher? – learner
      • What are you learning? Snowboarding
      • Who else put snowboarder?
      • Who snowboards?
      • Link the people!
      • When did you realize that you wanted to learn snowboarding……..
      • Who are you similar to?

      Model follow-up questions to show that we’re interested in the kid as a person.

      Hope this helps!! 🙂 Let me know if you have any other follow up questions!


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