Optimizing PQA

TL;DR Ask the same question to a bunch of students, fish for details, before moving on to another question have students write what someone else said.

Something I struggle with often is making PQA engaging for everyone.

If you are unfamiliar with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers), it is a communicative activity where you ask multiple people the same question to personalize class content, usually it is to front-load vocabulary OR to gain repetitions of a word or structure. For example, if we are reading a book that mentions a wedding, a Personalize Question might be “Have you ever gone to a wedding?” and then we talk about that for a bit. Maybe I am targeting the word “wedding” or maybe I’m targeting the phrase “Have you gone?”. PQA gives us an opportunity to repeat words/phrases we want students to start to acquire while also learning about students, and making connections between ourselves and our students, give our students an opportunity to find a connection between them and other students.

Students can gain a LOT of language by learning about their peers. A student can share something about their life, and I can use my strategies to make sure everything is comprehensible and available for uptake. I had been noticing recently, though, that students weren’t really paying attention if I wasn’t talking directly to them. Students NEED the input, whether or not I am talking directly to them.

The BIGGEST shift that I have made is adding a little bit of accountability to the activity. I do this by having students write what SOMEONE ELSE says before we move onto another question. So I may ask the question “Have you been to a wedding” to five or six students, but then I ask students to write whether or not someone else had been to a wedding. I take this time to walk around a bit, check in with students individually, and give some quick feedback to what students write. Then I cold call*(I have to see if I’ve written about this before… about how to make cold calling more equitable and less terrifying) students, ask them who they wrote about, and then ask the question in a different form. So I had been asking every student “Have YOU gone to a wedding” now is an opportunity to ask a different form “Has s/he/ Have they gone to a wedding”.

By adding this little bit of accountability, I think students are able to get a bit more out of a PQA session, or at least to me, it has felt a lot more productive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: