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 the student comprehends the language and has no problems with what they’ve just learned.
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
We ask the concept-checking questions after we have taught the material.
Here are some ways we can ask concept-checking questions, with examples for each.
- Is it a pet? Yes or no?
- Can it swim?
- Do I want you to work in pairs or small groups?
50/50 chance questions.
- Is it a pet or a wild animal?
- Is it happy or sad?
- Is he fat or thin?
These are the basic 5W1H questions: who, what, where, when, why, how.
- Where does the animal come from?
- What does it like to do?
- How many zebras can you see?
- Where can we visit the animal?
- Who looks after the animal?
Discrimination-based questions, to check function and register.
- Can these animals only do tricks? What else can it do?
- Do you only cook in it?
Questions regarding their experience, their culture, or shared experiences.
- Have you ever seen a parrot before?
- Is there a living room in this building?
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.
7 Tips for Implementing CCQs in the Classroom
What can we do to ensure the 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 target word is the answer to these questions, there is no way to know if the students actually understand its meaning or if they are just repeating the new keyword.
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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 variety 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, or 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.
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
Let’s say we are using the first conditional.
We use the first conditional if we talk about something possible or likely in the future.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Scaffolding Techniques in Teaching
- Eliciting Techniques in Teaching
- Using Guiding Questions in Teaching
- Interesting English Novels for Intermediate Learners
- Free Online Worksheets for Beginner Level Students
- Free Online Worksheets for Adults
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.