Using Yahoo Answers in EFL classes
Yahoo Answers is a site on which people make queries, answer other people’s questions, and vote on which of the answers is the best, with each question and its best answer staying up after that initial period for other people to learn from. It is a great authentic source of informal written English (which is […]
Yahoo Answers is a site on which people make queries, answer other people’s questions, and vote on which of the answers is the best, with each question and its best answer staying up after that initial period for other people to learn from. It is a great authentic source of informal written English (which is similar to spoken English), and one that students can interact with. It is also quite educational, addictive and easy to use (even with quite limited English), so it is fairly likely that at some students will continue to use it in their free time once you have introduced them to it. Below are some ideas of how to get as much language as you can out of it and make its use fun. Many of these activities can also be used with other sites. Please note that some of the content on Yahoo Answers, e.g. in Family and Relationships, might be a bit too “spicy” for some classes.
Students guess which answer other people in the class will vote for
Students guess what percentage of people in the class will vote for each answer
If students have never seen the site before, give them a list of categories with a few fake ones put in (e.g. Spots or Plastic Surgery) and ask them to predict which one aren’t real, then look at the site and check. Alternatively, ask them to list what they think the categories will be then look and check
Before looking at the site, students try to write a question that they are sure will be somewhere on there in almost the same words, then search and check
Students guess which of the answers was voted as the best, then (maybe after searching) read and check
Students predict the proportion of a particular kind of question will be on one section of the site, e.g. subject questions, questions in the Present Continuous, questions including phrasal verbs or questions about cheating boyfriends, then take a random selection and check
Students predict which section of the site each question you have shown them is in, and then search and check
If Yahoo Answers or something similar exists in another language that the students speak (e.g. Yahoo Chie Soudan in Japanese), ask them to predict how the answers might be different on the two sites due to cultural differences etc and then post their questions on both sites to check their predictions. To make sure that there are actually some answers, you’ll need to be a bit careful choosing the questions. This can lead onto discussion of cultural differences, the internet in different countries, or the difficulty of exactly translating something. The same thing can be done just in English by using Yahoo Answers UK, the Australian Yahoo 7 Answers, Yahoo Answers India, Yahoo Answers Singapore etc
Students try to guess which of the different national Yahoo Answers sites above a question comes from and then search and check. This can be good for discussion of “Standard English”, various Englishes etc.
Students try to guess which of the questions or answers isn’t on the site but was actually made up by the teacher, then find others and make up their own to test other groups with. This is very fun if both the genuine examples and the one the teacher made up are quite silly. You can also do it the other way round, with several made up examples and only one true one. This can also be done with true and made up answers to one particular question.
Students bring in the question that they wrote on the site and two that other people wrote and the other students have to guess which one is which
Give students roleplay cards that tell them what kinds of questions to ask or what kinds of person to pretend to be when asking, or just say “Ask a question you really want to know the answer to”.
Give students 10 minutes to search for the longest/ silliest/ shortest/ most surprising question or answer, then compare as a class and vote on the best each time. This is obviously good for superlative adjective practise. It can also be set for homework if students all have internet access at home.
Give students a question that is on the site somewhere but that you have rewritten as completely as you can. The students have to try and find the question and the answers to it as quickly as they can by thinking about how the question might be phrased and searching for it. This is good for sentence transformations (e.g. those in Cambridge FCE), formal and informal English, phrasal verbs etc.
Students try to find as many questions or answers as possible using a particular grammatical structure, vocabulary point (e.g. phrasal verbs about love) or function (e.g. giving advice)
Students try to find as many different things as they can in the category you give them, e.g. different phrasal verbs, different tenses, different relative pronouns, different connecting words, or different collocations with one word or in one topic area.
Students try to think of a question (on that topic/ using that grammar point) that has never come up on Yahoo Answers, then search to double check. The other groups then try to prove them wrong by finding the same or a similar question so that the other teams won’t get any points and so they win the game.
Students keep reading between lessons and see if they can spot when their classmates post a question or answer. You can make this easier by telling them to post in a particular section, on a particular topic, using a particular word or type of language, or between two particular times.
Give students some factual questions from the site and ask them to answer the questions themselves or search the answers on the site as quickly as possible. When any group think they are finished they can ask you to check their answers, but each group only has one chance to have their answers checked and so will sit out the rest of the game if they had any mistakes
Writing challenge activities
Students change one word in an answer and see if other people can spot which word they changed, then continue changing more and more words each time
Students try to write a question that gets banned
Students try to think of a question that doesn’t fit in any of the categories
The student who had the most answers accepted as the best, wrote the most questions that no one could answer, or obtained the most responses to their questions is the winner
Students choose best answers that they think aren’t very good and try to write better answers, then the class votes on whether their answers really are better
Error correction activities
The teacher changes some questions or answers from the site to make the language incorrect. Students try to correct them and then search and check
The teacher changes some of the sentences and leaves some of them in their original correct state, and the students try to spot which ones are wrong and search and check
The teacher chooses some questions or answers from the site that are incorrect (there are many!), then students try to correct them
The teacher takes some correct sentences and makes them wrong and mixes them up with some sentences that are wrong but on the site. The students try to correct them and predict which ones were actually on the site. This can be used to lead into discussion of errors that native speakers often make, errors which are only usually made by non-native speakers, and “errors” that are becoming Standard English or are used in regional or informal English.
Any standard workbook or textbook written language exercises can be livened up by using Yahoo Answers, e.g. gapfills, matching halves of sentences, sentence transformations (see above), or error correction (see above)
Ask students to choose one piece of information, advice etc that was in a textbook listening or speaking, then discuss whether the answer on the site was any good
Ask students to post the same question on different Yahoo Answers sites and then vote on the best answer
The students vote on which of the answers given on the site is the best and vote once on the site, then go back later to see whether that one was actually chosen
Ask students to compare the site to other ways of getting information, e.g. Wikipedia
Ask students to redesign the site
Ask students to design a Yahoo Answers site for kids/ old people/ the blind etc
Students bring in some questions and answers they wrote on the site during the week, and students have to guess the questions that they answered or the answers that the questions got
Students bring in some answers that were written to their questions, and the class have to predict if they were happy with those answers or not, then ask them to check and ask why
Students choose an answer and argue why the one they chose is better than the one their partner chose
Students choose one of the top answerers and argue why the one they chose is better than the one their partner chose