Asking QUESTIONS when reading a story?

 Hearing a story is a very personal experience. The relationship between the words and pictures is different for each child. For us, as teachers or parents, the most important thing is not to break the magic the story creates for each child by questioning too much and too soon. Given time, children often tell you what they feel about a story. If you have a sympathetic atmosphere in your classroom, children will often enlarge on a story relating it to their own experiences. So be patient! From my experience in sharing stories, I learned a lot about how individual children think and feel. They often disclosed amazing details about their home life and in some cases went as far as to share secrets with me.

 So don't use stories as an opportunity to ask questions in order to practice language skills. Stories are for fun, for firing the imagination and feeding the emotions. They help children to make sense of their own life and find some meaning in it. Please don't think of REALstoryBOOKs as direct teaching tools.

 What questions shall I ask? What are good questions?

A good question can include:

        an invitation to help the child think. For example before you turn a page you can ask children to guess what is next. A simple word for beginners like And then? or What next? with a pause is sufficient to get a response.  If, in their excitement, they answer in their own language, re-cast it in simple English for them. Don't ask them to repeat it in English, just say it once or twice yourself in English. When you re-read the story in the next lesson, the same child may answer in English; children are quick to pick-up language.

        an opportunity to help the child  focus attention.

-         to encourage a closer look at the picture

Look at the  ... What's he doing?  I can't see .., can you?

Where is the   ...? I can't find the ...Can you? What does he look like? Is he sad?

-         to  encourage more careful listening to the language

Then what did he say?  Can you tell me what he said? Did he say he was ..?

         an opportunity to give an opinion and reply with more than a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

Do you think ..? How does he ..?

 If you really want to know how children feel about a story, ask them to make their own illustration for one episode in the story or their own ending to the story. Young native speakers put more details into their pictures than they write; children learning a foreign language will do the same. And again don't question them too much about their pictures. They will tell you as much as they can or want about them. If they tell you in their own language, rephrase some of it in English. Later use the same English phrases to tell the rest of the class about the picture. Like this the child who drew the picture has had the opportunity to hear the same language at least twice. Mount the pictures onto paper, then write the spoken text under the picture and display it on the classroom wall. If you are not allowed to display material in the classroom, stick it into a book, which children can read in the class book corner.

 This leads on to making class stories and eventually children writing their own stories. Remember that, to begin with, the pictures will tell more of the story that the text. However, as fluency increases so does the length of the text.


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