One problem for novice to intermediate-low speakers is creating questions. Question structure is hard because it isn’t something you can just memorize…there are a million ways to ask things!
To work specifically on this skill, I play a game that’s essentially “What’s in my bag?” or as the students call it “Le sac”.
My predecessor played this game every day as a warm up and it was a quick game. I found that it’s better and a deeper more frustrating/fun experience to play when we have late-start days every other week. This forces them to get out of their comfort zones and ask other questions or repeat previous questions to get to a more precise meaning.
You’ll need a bag large enough to fit most objects in and students can’t see what the object is.
OR you can use a box with a lid and pass this around the room. I teach high schoolers, so I don’t let them touch it. However, I’ve seen pre-schoolers and elementary students play this and not peak inside.
An item to hide in the bag/box. This can be from home, an item related to your unit of study, something they really should know about, etc. Be creative!
How to Play “Le Sac”
I get ready at the beginning of the day and put all the objects in my bag ahead of time.
I hold up the bag and ask the class “What’s in my bag?”
Students can only ask questions in the target language.
I give them a “core vocabulary” sheet with questions on it at the beginning of the year, but they are free to build upon it. I let them use Wordreference.com with their Chromebooks to look up new words.
You can play this one of two ways yourself:
- Answer their questions with exactly what it is and does. This is how my predecessor did it. It goes much quicker this way.
- Answer their questions with more difficult vocabulary – use synonyms. I start very general and move to more specific as the questions are asked. This is how I play it and it gets them really thinking.
For instance – a passport is used to:
- impede travel
- protect people
- get places
And a passport is made of paper and cardstock. It has a photograph and plastic or tape on it to protect it. There are stamps inside. It’s thin and light. It cost $80. It came from Seattle (for me). It’s blue and gold.
If you want to use wikipedia or wiktionary to look up words, it can be helpful to get a full explanation of a thing: how it’s made, what it’s made of, what it’s used for, etc.
I let students choose an object while I leave the room and wait in the hallway. I then ask the questions. They love to stump me. This works well for modeling the questions themselves for first year students.
Students can find something in their own backpacks and play with partners.