Framework in action

28th January 2005 at 00:00
MFL consultant Andrea Osborne continues her three-part series identifying good practice at key stage 3 with a look at questioning

Good questions can increase the level of challenge in a lesson and make pupils think more deeply, encouraging them to analyse, speculate and evaluate. How can we do this in the target language? That depends on what we as teachers want from the questioning process.

Below are five desirable outcomes and some examples in French of questions we can ask in target language to move towards them.

1 Stimulate thinking

* "Et si je change le mot 'piscine' pour 'cinema'?"

* "Vous avez une minute pour reflechir et ma premiere question est ..."

2 Promote reasoning

* "Qui peut me donner une raison pour la difference?"

* "Quelle(s) strategie(s) pouvez-vous utiliser ici?"

* "Qui peut continuer cette ideecet argument?"

3 Encourage a sustained response

* "Tu peux venir au tableau faire un exemple pour la classe?"

* "Excellente reponse. Tu peux expliquer ta logique?"

4 Promote active listening. Invite conscripts:

* "John, tu es d'accord?"

* "Meena, tu as un deuxieme exemple?"

* "Qui voudrait resumer cette discussion en cinq points?"

5 Stimulate interaction between students

* "Decide avec ton partenaire. Quelle version est correcte, et pourquoi?"

* "A deux. Combien d'exemples pouvez-vous trouver en trois minutes?"

* "Vous avez des commentaires sur le paragraphe de David?"

Departments differ and so responses from pupils may be in English initially. The move to expecting responses in the foreign language could form a departmental action point, supported by posters giving sentence starters and lavish praise for those who attempt replies in French.

The training video sequence for Questioning in the KS3 MFL Framework (see reference below) contains some helpful footage to get your department started.

If your department has embraced the Framework, a varied diet of questions like those above will help pupils master the objectives better, whether these deal with learning strategies or linguistic concepts.

To take pupils along the right thought-path, your questions may initially need to be carefully planned to follow a sequence of cognitive challenges.

To find out more about staging questions and for some useful teaching ideas see the KS3 Strategy materials listed below. They contain plenty of guidance and inspiration, whatever your level of knowledge about questioning.

Open-ended questions can be surprisingly successful. Even with Year 7 you can take a short text from the coursebook and simply ask pupils "Qu'est-ce que vous avez remarque d'interessant?"

Allow adequate thinking time and students' answers will cover the linguistic aspects, content and style.

Better questions undoubtedly generate greater pupil achievement over time.

After all, questions are the most common way for teacher and pupil to interact.

Let's maximise that interaction for a wider range of purposes and infinite potential for student response.

* Subjects (Module 4): DfES ref 03502002. Download at:

* Foundation Subjects MFL: Optional training materials (Module 4): DfES ref 01552003. Download at:

* Order the training video ref 01562003 or paper versions of the training documents from DfES Publications: Tel: 0845 60 222 60 Email:

Andrea Osborne is a KS3 foundation subjects consultant with Essex County Council Tel: 020 8506 2089

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