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Teaching techniques

watch video about teaching techniques
© British Council

In the video in the previous step, you watched a teacher, checking that her primary learners understood the language in a story. She used a variety of techniques, which are outlined below, along with other methods.

  1. Asking questions
    Asking targeted questions can help learners to pinpoint meaning. It’s often a good idea to start with closed questions, which offer a choice, before moving onto more open questions. For example, if you want to check the meaning of ‘I lived in Delhi’ you could ask:
    * Am I talking about the past, the present or the future? (the past) closed question * Do I live in Delhi now? (no) closed question * Tell me about a place where you lived before open question Remember that asking ‘What does this word mean?’ can be tricky for lower level learners. Think about how you would answer before asking this! Also, if you ask ‘Do you understand?’ it is easy for learners to answer ‘Yes!’, but you won’t really know unless you check properly. Some learners are reluctant to say when they don’t understand something.

  2. Asking learners to demonstrate
    Examples: ‘How do you look when you feel interested?’, ‘Point to something which is heavy’, ‘Show me what you do when you yawn’. Of course, this doesn’t work for everything. You could ask individuals or the whole class to demonstrate.

  3. Testing knowledge
    Giving learners an exercise to complete is one way of seeing how much they understand. There are lots of options: examples include a matching activity, wordsearch, crossword, writing words for definitions/writing definitions for words. Multiple choice activities probably need to be followed by another way of checking too, as learners may have just guessed! Learners need to be reassured that if they don’t know the answers, it’s OK!

  4. Using images
    Displaying an image and asking questions can be a good way to check understanding. For example, you could show a picture of a man in prison and ask ‘What has he done?’, to check the present perfect structure. Or simply show a picture of a word you want to check, like ‘ski resort’. You could ask younger learners to draw the item you want to check.

  5. Using translation
    You could ask learners for a translation, or give a translation and ask for the English word. Of course, not all words or phrases directly translate between languages, so this technique can be problematic. It can be useful for abstract concepts.

If you check understanding and discover that learners don’t understand, perhaps you need to think of another way to present meaning, or you need to review something you covered in a previous lesson.

  • Which techniques do you use to check understanding?
© British Council
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