As an EFL teacher in Thailand, the most difficult grammar point for every level of student to understand has been ‘question tags’. In fact, EFL/ESL students the world over find learning question tags confusing and frustrating, which is why I created this free lesson plan to help. Not only does it make learning about question tags easier, it also makes them fun – for both the student and the teacher
Lesson Plan on Question Tags – (Adaptable for every level of ability from pre-intermediate on up)
Time: 50 minutes to 2 hours
Expected Learning Outcome – Students will be able to answer a question that uses a question tag easily, quickly and correctly. Students will also be able to ask questions using question tags.
Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, 12 notecards with 12 verbs written on them, empty bottle
First of all, give yourself a quick refresher course on question tags before you step in the classroom. I’ve found, even with eight years teaching EFL students, sometimes I’m rusty on the rules for question tags, so a quick brush up doesn’t hurt. The main thing to remember is a question tag is nothing more than a quick add-on to a sentence, which is asking for agreement or confirmation, eg: He didn’t eat that, did he? (the ‘did he’ being your question tag).
Ask your students four or five questions with question tags and listen as most of them get the answer wrong. (If you ask “You didn’t go there, did you?” and if they’re agreeing with you, instead of saying “No”, they’ll mistakenly say “Yes”.)
Tell your students that the answers they gave were incorrect, but also explain most EFL students make the same mistakes, so not to worry.
Write down the question tag rules on the board (there are plenty of websites that have them, but I recommend getting your hands on a book called “A Practical English Grammar” by A. J. Thomson and A. V. Martinet. It has everything you ever need to know about English grammar and a wonderful section on question tags.)
Go over all the rules (there’s around six) explaining each one and giving your students example questions to answer. Once they seem to be getting the hang of it (meaning they’re only incorrect 50% of the time), then move onto Step Four.
Step Four (The ‘Question Tag’ Game):
Put students into pairs or groups, depending on size of your class. If under 12 students, pairs, over 12 students, group.
Put notecards you prepared before class in a circle on the floor. The 12 notecards should have 12 random verbs written on them eg: “walk”, “smoke”, “eat” etc.
Place an empty glass bottle in the middle of the notecard circle and ask the first student to spin the bottle. When the bottle stops and it’s pointing to a particular verb, the pair (or group) must create a sentence using that verb, with the correct question tag at the end of it.
If the pair (or group) gets the question tag incorrect, pass that one onto the next pair (or group) in line, so they have a chance to answer two questions (they answer that one, plus spin the bottle for their turn).
I also put in 3 extra notecards that say “free point”, “miss a turn” and “answer 2 questions for 3 points”. My students love landing on these.
Every time a pair or group gets a question tag sentence correct, they get 1 point. At the end of however many rounds you decide to play, the winning group gets a prize. (I usually bring a bag of $1 cookies to class, and my students of all ages still love winning them).
If your class is an hour or longer, stop here, do a quick recap of the rules and make sure your students understand. If you have a two-hour class, move onto Step Five.
Step Five: (for 2 hour classes)
Keep your students in their pairs or groups. Give them an assignment of five verbs per team (different verbs for each team) and ask them to create a short conversation about any subject using those five verbs in question tag sentences (it’s surprising how difficult this is for many students – even advanced level).
I allow my students 20-30 minutes to prepare the conversation, and walk around giving them any help they need. Then each group comes to the front of the class and acts out their ‘question tag’ role plays.
At the end, go over mistakes teams made by writing the question tag sentences on the board, and asking other teams if they can correct them.
Students will be able to ask and answer questions using question tags. Students will still have problems doing this correctly 100% of the time. So, as question tags are used so frequently in English, once I’ve taught a question tag class, I do a five minute segment on question tags at the beginning of the next 4 classes – just making question tag statements so my students get practice in answering them.
“A Practical English Grammar” by A. J. Thomson and A. V. Martinet – published by Oxford University Press