Asking Informational Questions – How to Teach it

Asking Informational Questions
Asking Informational Questions

Are you looking for an exciting way to help your elementary English learners ask informational questions? Teaching elementary ESL students how to ask informational questions using verbs and verb phrases is an important element for increasing English fluency. Not only does it help English learners form complete sentences, but it also encourages their creativity as they begin to come up with more sophisticated questions.

I love teaching ELLs how to ask informational questions using verbs and verb phrases. It includes all 4 domains, (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).  I try to be informative and engaging, during these lessons to provide my students with the language skills they need to become successful communicators.  I would like to share some tips on teaching this important language function.

Informational Questions

First, it’s important to establish what an informational question is. These are questions that ask for facts or details, such as:

  • What is the capital of France?
  • When was the first moon landing?
  • What do we use cotton for?

Practicing these types of questions can help students develop their reading comprehension skills as well as practice their grammar and vocabulary.

Verbs and Verb Phrases

Verbs are action words that tell us what is happening in a sentence.  Verb phrases are two or more verbs combined. Therefore, when teaching your students how to ask informational questions, focus on the verbs and verb phrases that they need to use.

To Start

A great way to get started is by introducing them to common question words:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How many?
  • How much?

Then build on that foundation by showing them examples of complete sentences using those words.

  • What color is the sky?
  • Where did you go?
  • When did you arrive?

After The Basics – Verb and Verb Phrases

Once English learners understand the basics of asking questions with basic question words, begin adding in more complex verbs and verb phrases like “describe”, “explain”, and “compare”.   Make sure ELs understand that these types of questions should always be asked using verbs or verb phrases, rather than just general nouns or adjectives.

Asking Informational Questions

Then, focus on helping your students build a rich vocabulary by introducing more descriptive words related to verbs and verb phrases such as: running, jumping, climbing, laughing, singing, eating, etc. Through this practice, you’ll give them a chance to learn new language and apply it when forming their own sentences related to informational questions. For example: “How did she climb up the hill?”.

Multiple Answers

It’s also important for your students to understand that there can be multiple answers to the same question depending on context. In this case, it is helpful for them to know that phrasing like “What was his favorite activity?” could mean different things depending on what type of activities are being discussed – physical activities (running), recreational activities (playing board games) or even educational activities (studying).

Activities and Practice For Asking Informational Questions

Other activities you can do include having your ESL students play question-and-answer games like 20 Questions or Jeopardy!

Give your students specific topics on which to practice forming questions using verbs and verb phrases. You could even create a game out of it by giving points for each correct answer they come up with. I like my students to practice with task cards. Teaching your ESL students how to ask informational questions using verbs and verb phrases can not only be an enjoyable activity but also a great way for them to learn English while having fun!

Visuals and Science – Asking Informational Questions

Finally, try using visuals when teaching this concept. Showing images related to topics such as geography or science can be helpful in encouraging students to think creatively about phrasing their questions. You can also turn this concept into a game by having teams compete against each other in coming up with interesting yet informative questions related to specific topics.

Science experiments are great activities to use to develop language skills around asking questions.  From hypothesizing to questions around changing variables, your students will be practicing verbs and verb phrases. 

By teaching informational questions using verbs and verb phrases you will be giving your kids access to linguistic knowledge.  This will deepen ELs’ understanding of various topics while developing practical speaking skills they can use in everyday life situations as well!  Engage your students while creating a fun learning environment and develop key language skills in your English learners!

Happy Teaching!
Let’s Teach! Lori
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