Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Writing Essential Questions for Foreign Language Teachers ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Writing Essential Questions for Foreign Language Teachers
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: marilu-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 09 Oct 2002 02:54 PDT
Expires: 08 Nov 2002 01:54 PST
Question ID: 74365
Can you provide examples of essential questions that apply to lessons
in teaching foreign languages?

Request for Question Clarification by hailstorm-ga on 09 Oct 2002 06:54 PDT
Hi marilu,

By "essential question", are you referring to questions to provide
essential knowledge to beginning students? Questions to provide the
most thought provoking discussion amongst students? Or are you
thinking of something else?

Clarification of Question by marilu-ga on 09 Oct 2002 19:42 PDT
We have been asked by our school administrators to come up with an
"essential question" each time we write a lesson plan in the foreign
language department.  After reading about essential questions, we
began to feel that the questions would have to be very broad, since
sometimes our goal is to teach a grammatical concept (as in
conjugating verbs that end in -ar for example)or to converse on a
particular topic.  We find the idea of writing these questions
challenging and can find no examples anywhere!
Subject: Re: Writing Essential Questions for Foreign Language Teachers
Answered By: bcguide-ga on 13 Oct 2002 06:58 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Essential questions are part of curriculum development that has been
popping up more under the standards based curriculum of the No Child
left behind era.

Take a look at 
II. Framing Essential Questions

Although this doesn't pertain to teaching language, it does present
the concept. Essential questions are meant to make students use and
develop their thinking skills. Gathering facts and memorizing does not
produce a skill that is transferable to the world outside of the

Of course, questions that will take a lifetime to answer will not work
well with a lesson. You need questions that apply to the lesson that
you are teaching. Questions that will make the students think about
WHY instesd of just trying to remember WHAT.

Two good examples are the BBC Spanish language site

and their French site:

The concepts are the same and the rules still need to be remembered,
but the logic of the language is entered into the learning experience.
is a lesson plan based on food. Let's stretch it out into a unit plan.

The information would be the types of food that people in Spain,
Mexico, South America, or any specific Spanish speaking country eat.
"What foods are traditionally eaten in Mexico?" could be your
essential question. There are secondary questions for each lesson in
the unit... Why corn based tortillas and not the wheat breads we are
used to? Why spicy? Why those foods? Answering these questions
involves thinking about the history and climate and culture of the
country. It also involves vocabulary and grammar. The students are
learning the language in a context that brings the words to life.

Don't get bogged down in the theory. Essential questions are the way
you organize your own thoughts - you want to pass this ability on to
the kids along with the words and grammar. That way they will see the
language as something living and useful - not just another subject
that they have to pass to move up a grade.

Search terms used: education language essential questions

I hope this helps you to get a handle on it. Have fun with it. If you
do, so will your students. Wish I could sit in!

marilu-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks so much!  This is exactly what I was looking for...just needed
a clear explanation and some examples.  Appreciate your help!

Subject: Re: Writing Essential Questions for Foreign Language Teachers
From: aceresearcher-ga on 10 Oct 2002 19:08 PDT
It sounds to me like your school administrators have been reading
somebody's latest "buzzword" book on cutting-edge theories in
education. Well, that's fine, but if they are going to expect you
teachers to write these "essential questions", then they need to give
you some examples and some guidance as to what it is they are
expecting. The fact that they appear not to have done so makes me
suspect that it is because they really don't understand themselves
what they are asking you to produce.

I recommend that, as a group, you teachers go back to said
administrators and explain to them that you need a little more
explanation and guidance in order to meet their request. If they say
they have nothing to give you, then perhaps the boldest (or the most
tactful) one among you can point out to them that if they are not able
to explain it themselves, they cannot expect you to know what they

I feel for you (rolling eyes). Good Luck.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy