Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Today my students were having a very hard time with wh- questions. They always have a hard time with wh- questions, but the worksheet I had prepared for them didn't seem to be helping. I realized after the first couple of classes that I needed to have more exercises for all the question words they'd been practicing, and also that I needed to make the who questions clearer. They always get confused about how to ask such questions as Who called Michael? and Who did Jennifer call? when the original statement was Jennifer called Michael.

In fact Michael and Jennifer ended up having quite an adventure today. The original scenario I had given the students in my worksheet was that Jennifer called Michael. But when I wanted them to ask who Jennifer called, they tended to ask who MICHAEL called. I tried telling them that Michael didn't call anybody – he was called – but that only confused things further.

In my last class I drew a little picture on the board, trying to make it clearer. I changed the sentence to Jennifer kissed Michael. This rapidly confused things even more, because not only was my picture very, very unclear (who was doing what to whom?), anybody can kiss anybody, so it still wasn't clear to them who was the subject and who was the object.

So I drew another picture. This picture had stick-figure Jennifer standing over the prone stick-figure body of Michael, holding a dripping knife. (I even had red chalk, which helped.) Then I wrote under the stick figures,


I thought that would make the subject-object distinction clearer, and it did. It was perfectly obvious which was the stabber and which the stabbee, and this time the students wrote the two questions exactly right.

I overheard a couple of the girls talking about it.

""It's a suspense story," one of them said, shuddering as she stared at the gruesome stick-figures. "Jennifer called Michael, then she kissed him, and then she stabbed him."

"Yes, but ... WHY?" asked the other.

I did not tell them why, but I can tell you. It was because it was the end of the day and I had become tired of thinking up new names for my stick figures.


Lia said...

So . . . are you Jennifer?

Keera Ann Fox said...

That would be self-incriminating. But one must wonder how Badaunt knows so much about Jennifer and Michael.

Don said...

That all just made me laugh out loud, it did. :)

Don said...

I'm enjoying the rest. I am going to forward this blog to my cousin, who is working in Nara. She works with teachers of English, sort of managing a group of them, I'm not clear on the details. I've no doubt she'd enjoy your stories. She's from California, like me, in case you're wondering what sort of trouble this will get you into, and has only been there a few months.

Tabor said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and just wanted you to know that I had added you to my blogroll to help remind me to visit more often!

(How weird...my word verification for this entry was undig.)