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Social Interaction

When students can use simple language in routine classroom situations, they can then start to make more spontaneous conversation in response to situations not limited to classroom routines. It could be speaking with the teacher in the playground, or chatting with the teacher and classmates about a sports event or new computer game. This chatting creates a Japanese communicative environment. Questions are vital for promoting interaction and are the first step a teacher can take to facilitate chatting with students.

This section aims to develop questioning techniques in Japanese, from simple to more complex questions. It then offers quizzes for teachers and students to develop natural responses to non- routine, unplanned situations.

  1. Questioning techniques – early stages
  2. Questioning techniques – types of questions
  3. Responding to unplanned situations

1. Questioning techniques – early stages

Use simple questions supported by gesture and mime. To encourage students to answer, do not demand whole sentences – one word answers are natural communication! To develop students’ confidence, be tolerant of errors; you can focus on accuracy at another time. As long as you are communicating, the interaction can continue – the emphasis is on exchange of meaning.

Choose familiar topics


Use katakana words


Use non-verbal feedback signals (Yes/No Sticks)


Use non-verbal feedback signals (Flashcards/Photos)


2. Questioning techniques - types of questions

It is important to use questions appropriate to the students’ language levels. The complexity of the answers required of the students is determined by the types of questions asked.

Yes/No questions

Yes/No questions enable students to respond without having to draw on their own language.

Is that a sandwich?


Student 1:

Choice questions

Choice questions require a specific answer, but students are helped by having the answer contained in the questions.

Is it ham, or cheese?

Student 1:

Student 2:


Where did you go on the weekend?

Student 1:

Student 2:

You may teach students to use Katakana words such as ウィークエンド instead of しゅうまつ.
You can combine wh-questions and choices to reinforce meaning.

Who did you go with?

Family? Friends?

Expanding on the question

You can expand questions into a conversation by responding appropriately to the students’ answers. You can start by asking them to describe an experience.

How was the movie?

Student 1:
It was fun!

You can follow up with further questions and include other students in the conversation.

How about you, Lisa? Did you go to the movie too?


How was it?

It was fun.

3. Responding to unplanned situations

The classroom is a dynamic environment in which teacher and students are constantly interacting with one another. Such an environment provides many opportunities to respond spontaneously to a given situation. Here are two quizzes, one for teachers and one for students, to help in developing language for a variety of unplanned situations.

Teacher talk quiz

What expression would a teacher use to respond appropriately to the following situations?

More than one expression may be appropriate and there are no right or wrong answers. A language class is a unique environment where meaning is constantly being negotiated across the target language and English. Therefore expressions which may not be natural in a Japanese cultural setting may work in a Japanese class.

1. A student comes back after being ill.

  1. おげんきですか。
  2. だいじょうぶですか?
  3. びょうきでしたか?

2. A student arrives late.

  1. おげんきですか。
  2. はやく、すわって
  3. どうしたの?

3. It is hot or stuffy in the classroom

  1. あつい?
  2. まどをあけましょう。
  3. まどをあけてもいいですか。

4. Students have made the classroom untidy

  1. しずかにして
  2. かたづけて
  3. きれいにして

5. You have to leave the class for 5 minutes

  1. じゃ、また。
  2. しずかにまっていて
  3. 5ふん、まって

6. You want to know who has left a book behind

  1. だれのですか?
  2. これはなんですか。
  3. かたづけましょう

7. The whiteboard needs cleaning

  1. ふいて
  2. けして
  3. きれいにして

8. There is not enough light in the classroom

  1. くらいですね。
  2. でんきをつけましょう
  3. でんきをつけてもいいですか。

9. At the end of the day in the middle of the week

  1. さようなら
  2. じゃ、また あした
  3. おげんきで

10. When a student says ありがとう to the teacher for checking their homework.

  1. どういたしまして
  2. はい
  3. いいえ


    1. It is not appropriate for teachers to ask students おげんきですか, as it is usually used between people who do not have regular contact. If you want to ask ‘are you better?’, it’s better to say げんき になりましたか。
    2. This is the most appropriate answer.
    3. It is not inappropriate to ask ‘Have you been sick?’ in an English/Australian context, but it may sound too personal/direct in a Japanese context between Japanese speakers.
    1. It is not appropriate for teachers to ask students おげんきですか, as it is usually used between people who do not have regular contact. / It does not make sense.
    2. This sounds natural and appropriate.
    3. This is used when teacher wants an explanation for being late. When it is used with‘だいじょうぶ ですか?’ it sounds more caring.
    1. This sounds appropriate in the situation.
    2. This sounds natural in the situation.
    3. This sounds inappropriate as teachers usually don’t ask permission of students.
    1. This doesn’t make sense.
    2. かたづけて This sounds appropriate if the teacher wants students to tidy up, put things in order or put things away.
    3. きれいにして This is used when the teacher wants students to clean up the class in general, including picking up rubbish.
    1. This doesn’t make sense.
    2. This is appropriate and is a clear instruction.
    3. まって is used to ask someone to wait or pause for a short period of time, while the speaker stays at the same place. In this situation, teacher leaves the class for 5 minutes, it doesn’t sound appropriate.
    1. This is appropriate
    2. This doesn’t make sense.
    3. This doesn’t make sense.
    1. It is not wrong to say ふいて in this situation, but ふいて implies to wipe with a damp cloth in a Japanese context.
    2. けして refers to rubbing out the writing.
    3. きれいにして has the broader meaning of cleaning the board completely.
    1. This is appropriate
    2. This is appropriate
    3. Teachers usually don’t ask permission of students.
    1. さようなら is often used in school situations, but Japanese speakers hardly use this outside.
    2. This is appropriate
    3. This is inappropriate, as おげんきで is not normally used in a routine situation.
    1. どういたしまして is not commonly used by Japanese as it sounds exaggerated or ironic.
    2. This is a natural way for a teacher to acknowledge thanks
    3. いいえ is commonly used in response to ありがとう between Japanese speakers when the speaker wants to express the feeling of being humble. In this situation, more appropriate for the teacher to say はい to acknowledge the student’s gratitude.

Student talk Quiz

It only takes a few words to respond naturally in Japanese! Below are a number of classroom situations. Fill in the bubbles with the appropriate expressions.

  1. おなかすいた
  2. せんせい、すみません
  3. すごい!
  4. ねむい
  5. いたい!
  6. がんばって!
  7. どうも
  8. はやく!


  1. g.
  2. b.
  3. c.
  4. d.
  5. h.
  6. f.
  7. a.
  8. e.
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