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Ask and answer (Simcock, 1993)

Practice interviews about a text for an interview performance.


  • To learn vocabulary from a reading text by using it
  • To develop fluency


  • Use of new vocabulary in speaking
  • Repetition
  • Student arrangement – pairs
  • Information distribution – shared
  • Language modes – reading and speaking
  • Student focus – meaning
  • Challenge – to speak well in front of the class in the final performance



Students all read the same text individually.

Discuss the reading as a class.

Students work in pairs with a set of questions provided by the teacher. The questions will give a summary of the important events in the story or important points of another kind of text. The questions require the students to respond as if they are a witness or participant in the events, or an expert on the subject.

For example, for a traditional story about a swordfish and a hermit crab having a series of races from Tonga to Rotuma, ending with the swordfish splitting an island in two to gain the advantage:

Ask and Answer

One person asks the questions
One person answers the questions
The person who answers the questions comes from Rotuma

  1. Good morning. What country are you from?
  2. Where is Rotuma?
  3. How far is Rotuma from Tonga?
  4. Why do Rotumans call the huge rock near the beach “Split Island”?
  5. How did the hermit crab win the first race?
  6. Why did the swordfish cut straight through the rock?

Simcock (1993)

Students interview each other. They can refer back to the text during these first interviews.

Students interview each other again without referring back to the text. They repeat the interview until it is time for them to perform in front of a group or the whole class.

Teacher considerations

When choosing a text and writing the questions, be aware that the words that will be practised will be those that:

  • are frequent in the story/text or the questions
  • are used in the important parts of the story/text
  • the teacher draws attention to
  • answer a specific question.

After the first practice, students should be encouraged to answer the questions without looking back at the text.

Students should not write their answers to the questions.


Instead of performing to a group or the class, the interviews could be recorded.

Make it into a combining arrangement by having students read and interview each other about different texts.

Ask students to write their answers to the questions after the ‘Ask and answer’ activity.

Use more than one set of questions on the same text, where the students take a different role for each set of questions.

Extend the speaking by telling students to ask for extra information after the first interview, or to ask their own questions.


This activity “capitalise[s] on the opportunities for incidental vocabulary learning which result from reading and retelling a text”. (Simcock, 1993, p. 1) Students learn new words in context and it helps their learning to be asked to use them in new sentences. They are also helped to learn the words by the repetition they get from rereading the text to find answers and from listening to others use the words in answers.

Joe (1994) found that students learnt the words better when they used them in different ways to how they were used in the text. That is, there is better vocabulary learning when students answer the questions or retell the text without looking back at the text.

Evaluation of the text

Are the students using the words you want them to learn in original sentences (not exact copies from the text)?


  • Joe, A. G. (1994). The effects of text based tasks on incidental vocabulary learning. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Victoria University of Wellington.
  • Simcock, M. (1993). Developing Productive Vocabulary Using the “Ask And Answer” Technique. Guidelines, 15 (2), 1–7.

See also

  • Nation, I. S. P. (1995). Teaching Listening and Speaking. English Language Institute Occasional Publication No. 14 (p. 181).

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