Concept Checking Questions (CCQs): Definition and Examples

Rather than students saying that they understand something, we want students
to show that they truly understand it by asking them concept-checking questions.

What are concept checking questions (CCQs)?

Concept Checking Questions, also known as CCQs, check students’ understanding of complex aspects of the English language, such as vocabulary and grammar structure.

The teacher asks multiple questions to ensure that the student comprehends the language and does not have any problems with what they’ve just learned.

What is the main purpose of CCQs?

Asking students questions such as “is this ok?” or “do you understand?” is an ineffective way to check student understanding.

Many students would rather not lose face and say they don’t understand in front of all their classmates.

Learners must understand the task before moving to the next stage. To make sure they fully understand, we can use CCQs.

CCQs can be used throughout the lesson to check that students can understand and produce the new language.

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How do I ask concept checking questions?

There are many ways to ask concept checking questions. We can keep it simple, mainly by using yes/no questions, chance questions, and closed questions.

Types of Concept Checking Questions

Here are some ways we can ask concept checking questions, with examples for each.

Yes/no questions.

For example, is it a pet? Yes or no?

50/50 chance questions.

For example, is it a pet or a wild animal?

Information-based questions.

For example, where can you find this animal?

Discrimination-based questions, to check function and register

For example, can these animals only do tricks? What else can it do?

Questions regarding their experience, their culture, or shared experiences.

For example, have you ever seen a parrot before? Is there a parrot in this building?

7 Tips for Implementing CCQs in the Classroom

What can we do to ensure effective use of concept checking questions? Make sure you read the following tips to guide your set of concept checking questions.

1. Plan the CCQs ahead of the lesson

Teachers can predict what areas the students might have trouble with before the lesson. They might like to prepare CCQs for the new target language.

Teachers can plan creative concept checking questions around these trouble areas.

2. Don’t use the target language as the answer

Say you wanted to concept check the new word “bedroom” by saying “where do you go to sleep at night?” and “Where do you get dressed?”

The students may expect the answer to be the bedroom, without understanding why.

As the answer to these questions is the target word, there is no way to know if the students actually understand its meaning or if they are just repeating the new keyword.

3. Don’t use unfamiliar vocabulary

The CCQs shouldn’t make the topic more confusing but more explanatory. The students should be able to understand the concept checking question.

You can direct concept checking questions to a few students, especially the best students who are capable of answering the question.

4. Use the props around you

You can use other things in the classroom to get your point across, such as pictures, realia, and the whiteboard

5. Ask many questions

Ask as many students as possible and use a variation of questions. This will strengthen their understanding.

6. Don’t use the target grammar in the question

Don’t use the target grammar structure as the question as this will not explain the grammar point but just add confusion.

Instead, you can ask questions like, “Is this the past, the present, the future?” Or “is this happening now?”

7. They should cover every aspect of the meaning of the word

The teacher should cover every kind of meaning of the word so the student doesn’t confuse it with other words.

For example, let’s say the new target word is “fridge.” The teacher could ask questions like, “is it warm or cold? Can you keep food in it?”

However, the students may still confuse it with a freezer, so you’d want to distinguish between the two.

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Concept Checking Questions for Grammar

Concept checking questions for grammar are an excellent way to clarify a new grammatical structure.

Timelines are not a sufficient substitute, although we can use concept checking questions to create the timeline.

Examples of Concept Checking Questions for Grammar

Example 1

Let’s say we are using the first conditional.

If we talk about something possible or likely in the future, we use the first conditional.

Sentence: If we plant more trees, more animals will have a home.

To ensure they understand this tense, we could ask the following questions:

“Did we plant the trees?” No.
“Is it possible to plant more trees?” Yes.
“Is it possible to save the animals?” Yes.
“More animals will have a home. Is this the past, present, or future?”

Example 2

Another example, let’s say we are talking about the past progressive.

This is used to talk about an interrupted action in the past.

Sentence: I was walking home when it started to rain.

We can’t say, “were you walking home before it started to rain?” Using the target language in the question will not help the students understand.

Instead, we can ask:
“Did you start walking home before it started to rain?” Yes.
“Did you stop walking when it started to rain?” Maybe.

Example 3

We want to teach the term “used to.”

Sentence: “I used to play tennis.”

“Did I play tennis?” Yes.
“Did I play tennis more than once?” Yes.
“Did I play it regularly? Often?” Maybe.
“Do I play tennis now?” No.

Conclusion

Sometimes concept checking questions are challenging to construct, but with some time and focus, the teacher can construct some practical concept-checking questions to help get the point across.

Even if the students seem to understand from their exercises, it’s good to use the concept
checking questions as a final check and review.

Useful Links

Please see this resource for more helpful examples.

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I am a 24-year old online ESL teacher and hopeless dreamer from rural Ireland. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK and Europe. This blog aims to help educate you on the existing possibilities of becoming an online teacher. Please show some love and support by sharing this article with others. Thank you!

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