Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Circling - The Art of Questioning

When folks ask me about how to incorporate CI into their classrooms, the first skill which I say that they should learn is how to circle, because that is a basic CI skill which can go a long ways. Circling allows for students to interact with the language through a series of questions, while at the same time, to hear multiple comprehensible repetitions of the target vocabulary/structures in a meaningful context.

The basics of circling is to ask a formulaic series of questions about a sentence which will result in a scaffolded, limited student output of the language. One begins with a statement (such as "the dog is happy") and then:
  1. restates the sentence as a question, which will result in a YES answer - "is the dog happy?" and then
  2. asks a question about the sentence which has an OR in it - "is the dog happy or sad?" and then
  3. using the above OR question, asks a question which will result in a NO answer - "is the dog sad?"
You can get a lot of mileage out of circling, and it is a great way to get students to interact with the language. There is one problem though. To quote Carol Gaab, "Circling gets REALLY old, REALLY fast for students." 

To quote Carol Gaab once again, "The brain CRAVES novelty," so even in asking questions, one needs to change it up so that it does not get boring. Her advice is to change it up every 4th or 5th question. Based on an example which I learned from Carol last summer at NTPRS, here is a formula which I use for asking questions:
  • 1st and 2nd sentences - basic circling
  • 3rd sentence - basic circling and W questions (who is happy? the dog is what?)
  • 4th sentence- basic circling in English as a comprehension check
  • 5th sentence - either basic circling or W questions AND Personal Question/Answer (PQAs), where I may incorporate basic circling and W questions based on the PQA (do you have a dog? what is the name of your dog?)
  • 6th sentence - I may skip questioning to give a break or do another set of PQAs
  • 7th sentence - repeat any of the above but use your discretion when questioning - students may be tired of it by this point!
Not that questioning can be reduced to a formula, but this definitely allows for variety and keeps things novel (although you as the teacher are being incredibly deliberate in what you are asking and for what you are wanting as a response). The more one uses circling, the easier it becomes. You will also learn how to vary up the questions themselves too, because circling can be very predictable for students once they catch onto the pattern. In fact, when circling, I have to remind myself to be in the moment, because usually I am already thinking three questions ahead!  

1 comment:

  1. You can even introduce subjunctive while circling in a personalized way.

    "If you had a dog, what would be its name?"

    "If you ate a whole cow, would you be sick?"