Classroom Tools 1: Checking Meaning & Eliciting

Classroom Tools 1: Checking Meaning & Eliciting

by Sophia McMillan

(Shane Training Centre, Japan)


Shane Training Centre, Japan

What are Concept Check Questions (CCQs)?


 What are Concept Check Questions? A question to lead learners to understand or demonstrate their understanding of the meaning of a new item (vocab or structure).

 Why Use Them? They involve learners in the process of clarifying meaning and the teacher can check if learners have understood.

 When are They Used? During the clarification stage, before highlighting the form and drilling so learners are clear on the meaning of what they are saying. As well as throughout the lesson.

 How are They Made? Simplify language analysis so learners can understand the language used, then make the main points into questions. For example:

Target Language Main Points Questions

I’ve been to China. I went in the past.

We don’t know when. I’m not there now.

Did I go in the past?

Do we know when I went?

Am I in China now?

CCQs are not the only way to check learners’ understanding of the language or concepts presented.

Ways of Checking Meaning

 Concept Questions: Teacher asks questions about the target structure to both lead learners towards the meaning and check they understand.

E.g. He managed to lift the bag.

Did he lift the bag? Yes Was it easy? No

 Timelines: Teacher shows the meaning (usually of a tense) in a diagram on the board. To check teacher could get learners to make their own timeline/s or match sentences to a time line. As long as the teacher is consistent with their symbols the learners will follow and understand. However, generally speaking, marks on the line represent fixed points of time (usually finished actions) whereas squiggly lines represent ongoing time (unfinished actions). Marks above the line usually represent actions whose time is unknown or unimportant.

 Personalisation: Teacher asks learners to make up their own sentences using the target structure, relating


to their own lives.

 Following instructions: Teacher asks learners to do something to show they understand meaning, e.g. touch the right picture, do an action, put pictures in the right order etc.

 Discrimination: (Usually better at higher levels) Learners explain the difference between two pieces of language, e.g. difference between 1st and 2nd conditional or “When I arrived we ate the cake” and “When I arrived they’d eaten the cake.” (The Anti-Grammar Grammar Book is excellent for activities and ideas related to this.)

 Explanation: Again better at higher levels, learners can explain the meaning of different structures or the meaning of vocabulary.


Eliciting is: what we call drawing language or ideas out of the learners instead of just giving it to them. This is an extremely important teaching skill which teachers need to consider and work on. It can and should be used throughout the lesson.

It is useful as:

 Learners are active, prepared for learning a new word or hearing a new sound & more likely to retain the language.

 Creates a feel-good factor – the learner with the right answer feels good.

 Allows learners to show what they know.

 Allows the teacher to see what learners know.

 A check that meaning has been established.

 The lesson becomes more learner focussed

 prompts learner memory

 makes language more memorable as it comes from the learners themselves

Stages to Good Eliciting

1. Teacher conveys the idea clearly.

2. Learners give their ideas.

3. Teacher gives clear feedback.

REMEMBER: Eliciting is not guessing. If learners do not know the language, MODEL it.

Ways to elicit include:

 Mime/gestures

 Mind maps

 Cline – which shows degrees  Synonyms (assuming they know the synonym)

 Situation/context

 Gap-fill (below their level)

 Pictures

 Opposite/contrast

 Examples of type

 Realia

About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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