PQA Revisited

This is from Steven:

Hi Ben,

Below is a write up as to how I do personalized stories using the invisibles questioning sequence.

Hi PLC Warriors,

I wanted to share a twist on the old way of doing PQA type of stories.  It’s my Slavic-ification twist on it. In traditional TPRS, we would PQA target words like the following:

is thirsty
wanted a drink
was satisfied

In my own naïve way, I would spend a whole 30 minutes “PQAing” the three targets up above.  I would ask, “James are you thirsty?” James would say, “No”.  Then I would go around the whole class until there was a “yes” then I would move on to the next target etc… It would flop about 80% of the time. Not compelling at all and I would not have a good narrative going. 

Let’s fast forward a year or two.  When a vacation or big weekend comes or when I have questions for myself like, “What am I going to do with my family this weekend” etc. I come up with a question that I am actually interested in. With the Invisibles system, the input AND the questions have to come from the heart.  At least that is my two cents.

I ask the following questions to students:

“What are you going to do?” or “What did you do over the vacation?”

After getting a few answers in L1, I pick one that is compelling for me.


Jenny says, “I drove my dad’s tractor!”

Then I tell the students: “Okay we are ready to launch into a story. With Jenny’s permission, can we create a story!?”

Jenny says: “Yeah!”

I start with Jenny’s answer about driving the tractor and we create a fictional story.  I do this by going through the Invisibles questioning sequence depending on how much time we have.  Usually it is a mini-story because there are so many good suggestions.

Students provide the answers to questions and here is the twist — Jenny becomes PROFE 2 for the day. Of course, in Slavic fashion, we applaud the student for their bravery and for being put on the spot.  We undermine that negative school attitude of being pointed out and turn it into an amazing experience. Lastly, I read them the text and the artist illustrates the story. 

It is up to the teacher to decide the sequence.  I like to do the great reveal at the beginning of Day Two followed by the reading but it is up to the teacher.

The last story was going so fast, I had to end it with “to be continued…” Students didn’t even know the bell rang.



6 thoughts on “PQA Revisited”

  1. Steven, you are the man! Great idea.
    Being a newbie, could you, please tell me how you manage the pacing so that your artists have time to draw and you say you read the text to them – when do you write it? Like Tina during a retell?

    1. As we are creating the story, I actually repeat the input of descriptions across the room. I say “It is a red dinosaur, right artist?” I also check with the artist while students are summarizing the description or story when there is a natural break. I say that it is commercial art not fine art. I also allow them to work on it until the end. On day, two if they are not finished they read the story then go right back to work on the art work while the rest of the class does some reading activities. Then I can do the great reveal. I let them know when we are going to reveal the art. That way they have a deadline. This slight pressure really speeds things up.

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I just love the idea of turning willing kids into Star for the Day based on any old tidbit of info or anecdote, like “I got my ears pierced!” or, “I lost my tooth!” from my elementary world.
    I am definitely going to try it. I think that done well it sends such a fantastic and reinforcing message of safety, celebration, sharing…
    Thanks for sharing it here! Since I also always felt that Special Person interview were too language intensive for my wee ones, I can see that this would afford fantastic personalization and community building!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Steven. I have 100 min classes and I like to start with 10-15 minutes of connecting with kids. The first few months have been lots of mixing English with Spanish during this time. Again, with the purpose to connect with kids and have some fun getting to know each other. As I reflect on this, I realize I’m doing this not only for students to feel uplifted and important but also for me to build a desire to want to work with them for the remaining 85-90 minutes, as funny as that might sound. It’s really only after I feel like the class is in a playful mood with me do I work up the gumption to WANT TO carry them through a good story.

    Some good conversations during this “warming-up-to-play” time of class have come from the image of slipping on a stairs during a morning snow, dropping a cup of coffee from Starbucks, scoring a 3 pointer at the basketball game, getting a new hair style, and working late last night at Jewel Osco.

    I’m going to have to keep in mind the Invisibles Questioning Sequence next time I try to spin a story with them during this time.

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