How to ask questions to encourage more fluency in class?

How to ask the right questions to provoke more speaking&discussion in class?

You might have heard that to be good at (Business) English teaching, you don’t have to know all the specifics of our students’ business, you have to ask the right questions. to a certain point, sounds quite fair to me, but which questions are right?

I love asking these questions because they let me tap into the real feelings and attitudes of my students, instead of just getting the standard expected answers we often get.

here is my top-list, and I’ll be happy if you add more.

“Is it good or bad?” (or “is it good news?”)

Works best when discussing some news, be it politics or the coming changes in the company. The student would typically share what has actually happened or is about to happen, but it’s usually a goldmine to turn their attention to the implications and outcomes for themselves, the company, the country, etc.

Why is it a good question? the student will often have to stop and think in order to assess the change properly, then he/ she will have to formulate their opinion, which will bring a lot of highly useful and emotional vocabualry into the class. And as we all know, emotional content tends to be better remembered.

“is it the way it’s done in your company?” (or “how is it different in your company?”/ “would it work in your company?/ in our country”)

Why is it a good question?It’s an opportunity to personalise what’s being discussed and still to keep the discussion focused on the topic, and an opportunity to go through a topic for the second time – from a different angle. it also helps to get the students’ own perspective of a problem or issue, which is always interesting and can be used as a foundation for further work

What advice would you offer? (or “what would you recommend?”)

Why is it a good question? It lets our professional students (and that’s mostly who we teach BE to) be asked a natural question, the question that treats them as experts and encourages them to turn to their professional expertise and experience. works well with different case studies.

note: this question can be asked only when more or less realistic situation is being discussed (e.g. a candidate choosing the most appopriate job, with a number of detailed job descriptions provided; a company facing a crisis, when the background and the current situation details are given)

“Can you prioritise… (e.g. the actions to be taken, the ways of solving a problem, etc) / or“what is the best….., and why?”

Why is it a good question? Different kinds of ranking usually activates the memory. Moreover, it makes our students evaluate all the options on offer, explain why something goes to a higher or a lower end and sometimes even refer to their own experience and insights, which (again!) brings more speaking opportunities into class!


About Svetlana Urisman

I am an ADOS and an English teacher (and materials writer) in a language school in Moscow. I have been an ADOS and a teacher trainer for a couple of years and a teacher for about 10 years. I am keen to share some ideas and materials I've developed in order to take them further and not to lose them. You are welcome to use any materials represented in this blog, and I will be happy to get your feedback afterwards if you take them to your classroom! ;-)
This entry was posted in Business English, lists, teaching higher levels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to ask questions to encourage more fluency in class?

  1. Zhenya says:

    Hi Svetlana,
    Thank you for sharing the ideas: really useful, easy to apply, work for (almost) any proficiency level of students. I would add something like this: ‘Do you know anyone who would agree/disagree with this idea or opinion?’ Sometimes thinking about the opposite point of view encourages more discussion, and of course, brings more fluency.
    Have a good summer!

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