Teach, Learn, & Enjoy Any Subject  Through Question & Answering

Teach, Learn, & Enjoy Any Subject Through Question & Answering

Parts & Pieces H-02.13 & H-02.14a = English Through Citizenship / a Journey Through America: The Game with Civics & (Sheltered) Social Studies Content + Templates to Grow On
As mentioned in last month's blog post, "Attain & Share Knowledge of  Course Content & Subject Matter Through Question & Answer Games—Parts & Pieces J-01.00 through J-01.03 = The Game of Knowledge: Agreeable Aging:"
Somewhere in our Courses of Study & Interest, we came upon the experience of teaching / acquiring knowledge & skills  for just about any subject matter (sometimes Language but more often History, Business,  a [Social] Science, one of the Humanities or Arts, or Vocational Studies) through Questions & (suggested) Answers. 
Syllabus creators, administrators, or instructors would compile general or extensive Lists of hundreds of (usually Short-Answer or Essay) Items that  encompassed the essential information and main ideas or concepts of their Course Content. Students (in groups) would then use these collections for review, reinforcement, and (active) acquisition of Knowledge & Abilities they needed to pass the course, even to thrive—and to make far-reaching, constructive use of the core or essence of its instruction. 
From this experience arose the notion or approach of Questioning & Answering derived from the Subject Matter (Content) of Curriculum. We realized that the very process of posing and responding to queries warmed us up to teaching, learning, and/or (competitive / cooperative) enjoyment. It engaged us in constructive activity, stimulated our curiosity, triggered impulses to (re)search and learn, and converted passive boredom into satisfying, long-lasting productivity.  
Here are a few visuals relating to situations in which Questioning & Answering seem to surpass “straight hearing or reading” (lecture or textual methodologies) in educational, everyday, and/or (competitive) entertaining effectiveness:      Q & A collage of images
But Why Use Question & Answering Instead of Just-Talk?
So what makes Questioning & (Short) Answering procedures—especially for facts or other objective information—more effective pedagogically / practically than “traditional” methodologies for imparting, receiving, or exchanging info through oral lecture, opinion, and/or written text? 
Partially in Question & Answer Form, here are some thoughts about possible benefits that result from verbal functioning, daily living, effective (self-)teaching, and cognitive development through purposely formulated Queries & Responses:
  • The Physicality of Question-Answering. First & foremost, why does posing Questions engage Questioners and grab the attention of potential Responders?  Probably because no matter what the content of a query is, its intonation, word order or syntax, and/or the subsequent pausing often create expectation that listeners / readers will do something in reaction. Can you compare that feeling to the malaise that many recipients of pedagogic lecture, continuous chatter, or lengthy blocks of text fall into soon after they begin to hear or see long-winded verbiage? 
  • “Just Understanding” Not Enough for Learning. Especially when (tired of) studying or trying to absorb information, are you apt to think that you’re “getting it” simply because you (passively) understand what you hear or read?  This may be delusion. Research has shown that most people need to ask themselves questions in order to truly acquire knowledge, build skills, and remember.  And the more contextually relevant this Questioning is, the more likely the Solutions learners find or compose will result in effective comprehension and retention.
  • The “Drama” of the Media. When watching TV Quiz Shows with Questions & Answers (many of which are designated “Trivia”), do you ever find yourself coming up with correct responses to items you don’t even understand or know answers to?  Might that be because words in the query spark familiarity, association, memory, background knowledge, common sense, intuition, and/or linguistic acuity (all possible components in learning processes) that result in appropriate reactions? 
And when you hear Questioning & Answering in the Media (quiz events, interviews, investigations, bilateral disputes, contentious clashes), do you tend to remember those bits of information, data, or reasoning later on?  If so, perhaps it’s because that “knowledge was acquired” under (exciting) circumstances (like heated competition) that evoke emotion.
  • Words with Friends & Others. Which kinds of conversations (with friends, acquaintances, strangers) do you tend to make the most of or remember best—those in which speakers consecutively tell what they think (they know) via monologue or those that swap information or ideas in Question & Answer / Comment & Response mode?  More likely, it’s the latter, which tend to activate participants’ minds & feelings rather than leave them to withdraw into their own thoughts or opinions. 
And even when chatting or contending online, talkers, typists, or texters are apt to follow a pattern of exchange—asking or stating / answering or commenting back & forth in a chain of discourse. 
Remember that in interactions there are many features of “asking & answering questions” that don’t follow formal syntax rules—like tone of voice, intonation, gestures, facial expressions, punctuation, and more.   
  • Engaging the Youthful & Old(sters). How do instructors, counselors, helpers, and others usually relate to the (very) young or to their elders? Certainly not with soporific pedagogical treatises!  More often, they employ Questions with or without Answers designed to draw people in—to attract and maintain attention, curiosity, and sense of participation.  Again, it must be the impression that something is “expected” of them—usually, a reaction to words—that maintains anticipation and engagement, enhancing  (learning) progress in constructive and/or enjoyable, lively ways. And perhaps it’s also the feeling of achievement derived from “knowing” the right answers!
  • “Best Practices” in Classroom Instruction.  Why do many theorists, researchers, and educators consider the Question & Answering Method of Classroom Instruction superior to (more or less) “traditional” approaches? Online articles such as What is Effective Questioning & Why Should I Use It? Techniques for the Classroom claims that these approaches:
    • encourage students to engage with their work and each other by helping themselves and everyone else to “think out loud.”
    • facilitate learning through active discussion as well as inspiring confidence in participants’ own ideas while teaching them respect for others’ opinions.
    • Improve speaking / listening / reading (and even writing) skills and build critical thinking abilities or ingenuity.
    • help learners to clarify their own understanding as they enable teachers to check if recipients are getting it—and what else they might need.
    • motivate everybody involved to stay curious, pursue or refine answers, and formulate their own questions, which lead to more involvement, activity, and educational success.  
What Are the Main Kinds of Questions & Answers?
So now that we’ve “proven” that Questioning / Answering modes are advantageous in education, daily life, and (pleasantly) competitive  pursuits, what kinds of Questions & Answers might accomplish our aims?  Here are the three (3) main Syntactical Formats that come to mind:
Yes / No Interrogatives or True / False Assertions. Characterized most often by rising intonation (climbing pitch after the last emphasized focus point ), inquiries that elicit responses meaning either “yes” or “no” can be complete sentences. These questions often begin with “helping verbs” like Is(n’t) /  Are(n’t) / Was(n’t); Do(n’t) / Does(n’t) / Did(n’t); Can(’t); Will or Won’t; May / Might / Must; Should(n’t); Have(n’t); etc.  Examples:
  • “Are there any questions?” “Do you have any comments?” “Haven’t we proven our point yet?” “Does this theory make any sense?” (Likely Responses: Yes / Uh huh / Sure / Maybe / or No / Not really /  Probably not. / I don’t think so—as well as “Short Answers” like Yeah, there are. /  Nope, I don’t. / No, you haven’t. / Yes, it does. )
Known also as Polar Interrogatives or Bipolar Queries, most Yes / No Questions can become “Tag-Questions,” in which a questioning fragment with an affirmative or negative auxiliary and a pronoun—or simply a “tag” like “Right?”—is added to a clause.  The addition can have either falling or rising intonation, depending on the speaker’s expectation of a reaction, if any.  Examples:
  • “There aren’t any questions, are there?” “You have a comment, don’t you?” “We haven’t proven our point yet, have we?” “This theory makes sense, right?”  (Likely Responses: Yes / Of course / Probably / Mmmm. . . /  or No / Not really /  Uh uh. / I’m not sure—as well as “Short Answers” like Yup, there are. /  No, we don’t. / No, you haven’t. / Yes, it sure does—or silence. )
And of course, Yes / No Questions don’t have to be full sentences.  Any phrase or single word—or even (short) statement—can be turned into an inquiry through final rising intonation and/or a question mark.  Examples:  
  • “Questions?” “Anything else to add?” “Make sense?”“We’ve made our point?” “You’re using Test-like Questions & Answers in Instruction?” “Quiz shows can be used in the classroom?”  (Responses in words, gestures, or facial expressions are most likely to carry the meaning or connotation of “yes” or “no.”)  
Even other kinds of queries can function as Polar Questions. Here’s a current but undoubtedly confusing example: in the classic TV Quiz Show Jeopardy, contestants are required to state their Answers In the form of Questions beginning with Who? What? or other Question-Words. But if a contender isn’t sure his/her Questioning Answer is correct, his/her voice pitch (intonation) might go up at the end, making the response into a query to be reacted to with “correct” or “wrong.”  Example:
  • Question in Statement Form: This Question & Answer Game is useful in teaching & learning Civics & Sheltered Social Studies.  Answer in Wh-Question Form with Yes / No Question Intonation: “What is the Game of Knowledge: English Through Citizenship? ( Likely Responses: Right. Correct. You got it. or No, I’m sorry. That’s not it. )
Alternative Questions or Multiple-Choice Items with Options to Choose From or Eliminate. Alternative Questions are likely to have rising intonation after each choice and falling pitch at the last option after or.  Listeners or readers are expected to respond with one or more of the choices. Example: 
  • Alternative Questions with Two Choices: In speech or writing, does a question usually elicit (call for) an interrogative or an answer? (Answer: an answer [not an interrogative].)  Is the Modal Verb wouldn’t an auxiliary or an affirmative?  (Answer: It’s an auxiliary [and a negative but not an affirmative].) 
  • Alternative Question with Several Choices: Do your favored approaches include Lecture,  Discussion, Comprehension Quizzes, Group Work, and/or Question & Answer Games? (Answers can be any one or more of the offered possibilities—or other related alternatives.)  
Note that if queries like the above end in rising intonation, logical answers ought to mean or imply “yes” or “no”—in answer to both or all of the “choices.”  Example: 
  • Do your favored approaches include Lecture, Discussion, Comprehension Quizzes, Group Work, and/or Question & Answer Games?  (Logical Response: Yes, they do.  I like all of these.)  
More common than (lengthy) Alternative Questions on Tests or Quizzes are Multiple-Choice Items—in which Wh-Questions, Directives with Verbs like name or give, or sentences with blanks are followed by lists of two or more (numbered / lettered) possibilities to choose from.  Usually, only one of these choices is the “correct answer” and the other(s) is / are (wrong) detractors.  Even so, for pedagogic efficiency a Mastery Check can be structured so that any number of alternatives are acceptable—in which case, test-takers are required to assess the appropriateness of each possibility separately.  Examples: 
How might small details of Subject Matter be labeled or referred to? 1. As [1] Intonation, [2] Trivia, [3] Sheltered. (Correct answer: [2]).        
2. Classified by Grammatical Structure, some kinds of Questions are . . . .    2a. Yes / No or (Bi-)Polar.  2b. Alternative.  2c. Sustained Pitch.  2d.  Indifferent.  2e. Wh- or Informational. (Correct Answers: 2a, 2b, 2e).
Name some common Question Words that appear in Interrogatives.    A. Who(m)?   B. Request   C. What?   D. Which?   E.  Because    F.That  G. Commentary   H. Why?   I. How? (Correct Answers: A, C, D, H, I).    
  • Wh-Questions or Interrogatives Designed to Elicit Information. Unless a speaker wants affirmation that an inquiry is called for, Wh-Questions usually end in falling intonation (descending pitch after the last emphasized focus point). They begin with Question-Words or Phrases such as What? (Time? Size? Number? etc.), Which? (One? Choice? Subject? etc.), Who(se)? Where? When? How? (Much? Many? Long? etc.), Why?  Appropriate or annoying responses can be whole sentences, phrasing, single words, or expressions feigning ignorance or indifference—such as “I have no idea,” “Why are you asking me?” “Who knows or cares?”  “That depends on why you’re asking.”  Examples with Question Words underlined: 
    • In addition to Language, what / which kinds of Subject Matter could instructors teach—and student learn—with Questions & Answers?   Possible Answers: History, Business,  a [Social] Science, one of the Humanities or Arts, Vocational Studies, or just any other Topics of Interest.)
    • Who  has used Question-Answering as a pedagogic technique?   Who (all) was able to benefit from it?  ( Answers will vary.)    
    • Where are you likely to see or hear people asking and answer questions? When?  Possible Answers: In classrooms during sessions, on TV shows when they are broadcast, in interviews on TV or radio, at home while playing board- or word-games, and so on. )
    • Why did classic TV Quiz Shows become so popular in the last Century? ( Possible Answers: Because they contain[ed] [interesting] trivia; because their competitive / prize-winning features made them exciting, and so on. )
    • How or why do “Games of Knowledge” help in teaching / learning the material of Content Courses?   ( Possibilities for Answers are plentiful.) 
Note that Question Words don’t necessarily have to begin clauses. They could appear elsewhere in sentences, as in “We could use these formats with Subject Matter of what kinds?”  [ Y or X] “Games of Knowledge help people learn content how?” [ Y or X] And if a Question-Word or Phrase rises in pitch, its intonation may indicate that a skeptical speaker wants repetition or (further) explanation.
So that about covers grammatical / syntactical formats in which to classify or analyze forms of Questions, Queries, Inquiries, Interrogatives.  For possible relief from verbiage about Questions, following are some related Visuals in a Montage displaying lots of words, anyway. And here are some Questions about its images to respond to:   
  • Some of its sentences or phrases might be categorized as which Kinds of Interrogatives?
  • What other comments or questions might the Visuals & Infographics elicit?  
 What makes a great question? ESL ELT
So what are some already manufactured Teaching / Learning Aids or Tools that contain (variants of) the three (3) main kinds of grammatically-classified Questions & Answers?  Created in response to immigration reform in the 1980s and still available in tangible, tactile print form, the original Game of Knowledge was known as English Through Citizenship: the Game. Here are some of the ways that the Game (still) optimizes the use of objective (factual) Question & Answering in the teaching / learning of Course Content—in this case, the material of H-02.10, H-02.11, & H-02.12 = About the U.S.A. and/or the Journey Through America Student Text + its Journey Through America Instructor’s Manual.
  • To create the Game, the salient Content of relevant texts was / is divided into six (6) Categories of Meaning that “just about cover the Course Material”  text-users and / or game-players were / are to be “responsible for.”  For the (example of) Subject Matter of U.S. Civics & (Sheltered) Social Studies, these Divisions turned out to be:
Symbols, Holidays, & Famous Americans; U.S. Geography; U.S. History; the U.S. Constitution;  the Federal Government;  State & Local Government
  • Significant or relevant objective “Learning Points” (segments of targeted factual information) for the six (6) Categories were then compiled into exactly 48 (long) statements each. 
The precise number 48 was chosen for Game Design reasons: since Question & Answer Cards were to be created onscreen and printed out six-to-a-page, these Key Pieces of Knowledge were segmented and formulated to fill eight pages evenly. Subject Matter  for other Areas of Interest might well be divided into fewer, the same number of, or more topical Categories, with the same or different numbers of Question & Answer Items in each.
And since every three (3) consecutive Question & Answer Cards were to cover related Segments of Content, most statements were collected / composed in groups of three (3), each item of each triad supplying possibly helpful details relevant to the overall Subtopic. 
In Chart (Grid) Form, typical samples for potential Statements of Content follow:
But How Do “Segments of Knowledge” Translate Into Question-Answering?
The next step in compiling materials for Question-Answering Modes of Instruction is to create Questions to elicit Answers that indicate some  grasp of Knowledge & Skills to be attained.  To use Questions & Answers as Instructional Tools—and to assure that learners or game players truly grasp targeted facts, each Piece of Information can be transformed into (at least) three (syntactical) Question Formats—probably Yes / No or Polar; Alternative or Multiple-Choice; and Wh– or Informational.  When these are used in instruction—review, groupwork, quizzes, or even games, it’s the repeated yet varied formulation of the data that helps Game-Players to acquire / remember the content.  
Based on the 18 Segments of Data displayed in the Statement Grid above, here are (variants of) the three (3) Kinds of Questions that might be asked to elicit them.
Beginning with Yes / No Questions, note that because Vocabulary, Data, & Clues or Cues are recycled or re-referenced in the three related Queries, correct responses can be gleaned, (re)collected, or “confirmed” from the wording in other boxes.  Examples of True / False or Right / Wrong variants are included, but you may choose to preserve consistency by staying with just one of their Formats.  Also, note that Queries can vary in difficulty: in each item, there may be only one or several “Elements of Fact,” all or several or many of them Correct or Incorrect.  Their wording can easily lead to review or assemblage of many more facts than are mentioned in Items themselves.  
 Chart, Yes-No, True-False, Polar, Q's+A's Citizenship ESL ELT
So what about Alternative Questions, especially when they are “translated” into Multiple-Choice formatting?  These may be the most “productive” of Interrogatives, because they can be items of various sentence structures, can offer any number of possible Answers, and/or can be designed to elicit curiosity / research relevant to the words of any of their elements. For fun, they can creatively formulated or presented.
Still derived from the material of English Through Citizenship / Journey Through America: the Game, here is the widest variety of items we could think of to serve as examples of Alternative / Multiple-Choice Questions: 
 Multiple Choice Q's Citizenship ESL ELT
The third or last major type of grammatically-determined Queries & Responses is called Wh– Questions because they contain “Question-Words” such as Who(m / se)? What? Which? Where? When? Why? (or How?)—most commonly, in initial slots but sometimes in other sentence positions.  With “regular” (falling) intonation after final emphasized syllables, the aim of these queries is to elicit information (facts or data), usually in response to one of the Question Words. 
Like other types of Inquiries, Wh-Questions can be brief, simple, and straightforward—as in “When’s MLK, Jr. Day?” “Which of the 50 states is biggest?” or “What was the Seven Years’ War?”  Or—they can be elongated with additional words and facts in order to increase their efficacy as Teaching / Learning Tools.  Details like people’s names, numbers or rankings, times or locations, reasons or means, and / or other useful terminology can be added as cues & clues to correct responses—and/or as stimuli for further inquiry.  Yet another productive way to formulate Wh-Questions is with a directive like “Correct this sentence” or “Tell what you know about . . . .” Here are a few examples:
  • When is the federal holiday honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. for his legacy, which includes helping to end segregation and launch an era of Civil Rights? Y ( Possibile Info Triggers: the full name of the famous American nicknamed MLK, Jr., the fact that his birthday is now a national holiday, some results of his work.  The question may inspire curiosity about MLK’s Bio.)
  • How are California, Texas, Alaska, Wyoming, and Rhode Island ranked in terms of land area and population? Y ( Possibile Clues: the names of five U.S. States ranked at the top / bottom of listings according to their sizes and numbers of inhabitants.  The question could lead to research on States’ statistics. )
  • CORRECT THE UNDERLINED ERRORS IN THIS STATEMENT: Between 1954 & 1963, forces allied with Portugal or Germany fought a Seven Years’ War (also called the Cuban & Alaskan War) over their colonies in South America and other public buildings.   ( Probable Answers: 1754 & 1763, England or France, French & Indian War, North America, territory or land.  The statement may lead to inquiry into early wars.)
  • TELL WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT COLUMBUS DAY: (Research into this topic may produce answers to questions about why the second Monday in October was made a “holiday,” who it was intended to honor and in what ways, what its original date (day & year) was, what the history of that event was, how the “celebration” has changed in recent years, what its political implications were or are, and/or more.) 
In the following Grid of Wh-Questions Equaling (=) Requests for Info, each box contains samples of Items designed to elicit (detailed) relevant data for one or more targeted “(Sets of) Learning Points.” Because correct responses to any one of these may be prompted by words or info in the other(s), it may or may not be advisable to use one or more versions in the same review session, for assessment, and / or in games. 
So How Can So Many Question Types Be Actually Represented in Lessons or Worksheets or Quizzes or Games?
The two tangible Games of Knowledge that already exist in physical form are H-02.13 English Through Citizenship /  Journey Through America: the Game and J-01.00 to J-01.03: Game of Knowledge: Agreeable Aging (Gerontology). In six (6) Categories of Meaning each, both of these Games display their Questions on Query Cards, with correct Answers printed on their backs (reverse sides).  
Although the Agreeable Aging Game exists in both printed (black & white) and online / onscreen (brightly colorized) form, the English Through Citizenship / Journey Through America Game consists of a boxed set containing a colorful 17” x 22” fold-out Game Board, a simple alternative page to play on, six (6) decks of 48 collated color-coded / numbered Question & Answer Cards each (printed back-to-back in black), game pieces, and Instructions.  But because we also want to be able to preserve and deliver these materials virtually (to be downloaded & printed), we’ve experimented with entering the content of the first six (6) Cards in Category A (Symbols, Holidays, & People) onto a page template. Our results are visible below: six sample Card Faces in order followed by a “mirror image” of Card Backs.  Notice that on these examples:
  • There are three (3) Questions on each Card Face. One is to respond to with Yes or No;  the next offers three (3) lettered possibilities to choose from; and the third is approximately the same Wh-Question that appears in the second.  For simplicity, there’s uniformity in query formats. 
  • To avoid “giving away” answers when participants read (aloud) Cards, the three Question Forms for each “Learning Point” appear on three separate Cards.  For example, the first has a polar format on Card 1 and a Multiple-Choice design on Card 3; it’s formulated as a Wh-Question on Card 2.  The second is Multiple-Choice on Card 1, Yes / No on Card 2, and Wh– on Card 3.  The third is numbered 3 on Card 1, 2 on Card 2, and 1 on Card 3.  
  • Answers appear in order on the reverse sides of each Card. 
Designed to “teach” objective information (facts only) from accompanying texts or other material, these Question & Answer Card templates can be endlessly edited, adapted, and/or expanded to meet the needs and preferences of any Content-Teaching / Learning situation. Here is one example of edited/revised, downloadable cards based on the original game. 
The journey from the original printed/hard copy of the cards, to the downloadable, updated, edited and revised cards - like the above samples - is documented in 
What Are Some Other Ways to Classify & Optimize Use of Questions & Answers?
Yet even with all the (above) syntactical / grammatical possibilities for utilizing Question & Answer formats in teaching / learning, reviewing, anchoring information, competing / cooperating, enjoying, and/or benefiting; there remain other instructional capabilities of these formats.  For instance, we can explore the (dis)advantages of “Closed” vs.  “Open” interrogatives, of “Rhetorical,” “Probing,” “Leading,” “Funnel,” “Critical Thinking,” “Fix-the-World,” and other types Questioning, and much more. 
Based on the responses they elicit—or their meanings, aims, or purposes, Question-Answering can be analyzed, edited, updated and applied to already existing material, as we did for a part of English Through Citizenship / Journey: the Game. We have documented our efforts, successes, and—most of all our results for a product that is being revised, updated and digitized for computer/online access, in H-02.14a = E.T.C. 3 Kinds Of Q&A, for Symbols, Holidays, & People, A Template. A description of our efforts, successes, and—most of all our remaining and evolving improved Questions & Answers. 
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For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.


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