question words

Here is a very straightforward way of exploiting a video from the Internet. It works best with short news stories like the one used as an example. Keeping the KIS spirit, it does not require any preparation from the teacher, other than finding and playing the video.

Tell the students that the are going to watch a short video. As they watch, each student must write down three questions for the video to test understanding. One question should be about something being said towards the beginning, another question should be written down about something from the middle and a third question about something being said towards the end. They must start their questions with a question word (who, where, when, why, what, which, how). These are some possible questions for the video below:

  • How old is he?
  • What’s his name?
  • Where is he from?
  • When did he start to play the piano?
  • How many classical pieces has he written?
  • Where can he hear melodies?
  • When did he start composing?
  • What does his teacher say about him?
  • How does his father feel?
  • What is his dream?
  • Who are his biggest fans?
  • What are the birds names?

For very low level classes, tell the students that they can write questions for what they see on the screen (What instrument is he playing, what is he wearing, how many people do we see in the video, etc.).

The beauty of this type of video exploitation is that the same video can be used for all language levels really. The lower the level, the more this becomes a speaking activity that keeps the students talking about what they see using the vocabulary they know. The higher the level, the more this becomes a listening activity. There are very crystal clear words and expressions that the students will identify in this video and there are some others that require a deeper level of competency. The difficulty of listening activities lies more on the task itself than on the language.

This type of video exploitation also keeps the students work on grammar and question making. Two for the price of one.

You may tell your students to get into groups (for ideas on grouping students you may want to check my post on grouping students), give each student three strips of paper and, once they watch the video and write their questions, they can place them on their desks for everyone in the group to see, discard the questions that are the same, and try to peer edit the possible errors they may spot). Walk around and check possible errors yourself. Then play the video a second time for the students to write answers for the questions.

And here is Shane Thomas’ website, if you want to listen to his inspiring music. What a talented young guy he is!!

what’s the best way to…?

Ideal stuff for the first time you meet a group of students or if you have to cover someone else’s lesson. Write down these items on the board or display them on the screen.  Give the students three or four minutes to think of possible full questions for what they see. It is not essential that they write them down but they can, if they feel more comfortable doing so. Some possible full sentences might be:

– Tell me the best three things about…yourself/myself/our teacher/England/our town/the Internet

– Have you ever… been to an English-speaking country/found a sizeable amount of money in the street/cheated in an exam?

– Who was your worst… teacher/boss/enemy/mistake?

– What’s the best way to… learn English/cook chicken/travel to Madrid/find good deals on the Internet?

– What are your top three… skills/songs of all time/favorite movies/priorities in life?

Can you suggest any other interesting questions?

Then have the students mill around and strike up conversations. Involve yourself and stay tuned. Take good note of interesting words and possible mistakes so that, at a later stage, you can feed in some new language or highlight good use of it. Have a general discussion and elicit from the students the questions they could think of.

An interesting –and fun- variation is to have a look at how Google autocomplete prompts the last strings of words. Can the students guess what Google will come up with?


You may also decide to narrow down these items to a given topic (more adequate for higher language levels). On the topic of “health”…

– Tell me the best three things about doing sport.

– Have you ever been on a diet?

– Who was your worst doctor?

– What’s the best way to lose weight?

– When was the last time you saw a doctor?

– What’s the most amazing medical breakthrough?

– What are your top three pieces of advice for a healthy lifestyle?

Can you autocomplete questions for the topics of work, family or traveling, for instance? Would that work for your group of students?