Dave’s weekly tips and tricks for teachers!

Concept Checking Questions

As a teacher, there are a couple of things we should never say or do to our students. For example, pointing at them and laughing when they make a mistake is often frowned upon and will most likely result in an upset student, poor classroom atmosphere, and a newly unemployed teacher. But this, in my opinion, isn’t the worst thing a teacher can say or do in the classroom. In my opinion, the worst thing a teacher can do happens regularly throughout the English language teaching industry and often goes unnoticed. It involves three simple words and is of absolutely no use to teacher or student – the question ‘Do you understand?’

In response to this question, nine times out of ten students will reply with a nodding of their heads, leading the inexperienced TESOL teacher to believe that they all ‘get it’. In actual fact, most students are reluctant to admit in front of a class that they do not understand something and so other methods must be used to check students’ understanding.

One useful method of doing this is through the use of Concept Checking Questions (CCQs). CCQs can be used to highlight the meaning of the target language item, be it vocabulary or a structure. They can be used to point students in the right direction when they are unsure and help teachers recognise whether or not their presentations have been effective.

To work out the CCQs for a particular piece of language, you first need to work out the concept for yourself. For example:

I managed to open the window

When breaking down this sentence into simple statements we can see that:

  1. I opened the window
  2. It was difficult.

So to create our CCQs, we simply turn these sentences into questions:

  1. Did I open the window? (Yes)
  2. Was it easy? (No)
  3. But did I succeed? (Yes)

Seems simple enough, right? But there are a few other things to remember:

  • CCQs should be easy to understand – you’re not checking their comprehension of the questions themselves
  • They should not contain the word or structure being taught – how can you check understanding of something they don’t know by using the exact language they don’t know?

DaveDave Fox is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer who has worked in Australia, the UK, and Europe

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