Checking understanding – practice

In a previous post I listed 7 practical ways of checking understanding. Now it’s the time to put these ideas into practice.

Just to quickly remind you what they were:

  1. CCQs.

  2. Timelines.

  3. Clines.

  4. Personalisation.

  5. Extension.

  6. Translation.

  7. Do you understand?

Below is a list of 10 sentences. The underlined phrases represent the target language whose meaning you have already presented (for ideas on presenting and clarifying meaning of target language read this post). However, now you want to check and make sure that the students have actually grasped the meaning.

Use each of the 7 techniques for checking understanding at least one. Justify why you decided to choose this particular technique and not a different one (as described in the previous post, some lend themselves better than others to certain language issues).

I haven’t posted my suggestions, because I’d like to hear from you in the comments section. I don’t want to influence your choices either. I’m also hoping I can learn a lot myself from your ideas and suggestions. Finally, for each example there’s definitely more than one correct answer, so it should be interesting to see how different teachers approach each language point.

If you don’t have time to do all 10, choose the examples that interest you most, or that are the most tricky.

Good luck! Looking forward to your suggestions and comments!

  1. He’s sleeping under the table. vs. He always sleeps under the table.
  1. I have to put up with lazy students.
  1. I used to live in Poland.
  1. He can take off any accent.
  1. I’ve been drinking since midday.
  1. I hope we’ll have finished this exercise by 2pm.
  1. I’m still not used to the traffic here.
  1. That can’t have been him.
  1. He swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
  2. Should you have any doubts, please do not hesitate to contact me.

10 thoughts on “Checking understanding – practice

  1. I am not a professional, but I wanted to try:

    1. He’s sleeping under the table. vs. He always sleeps under the table.
    CCQs such as: Is he asleep or awake? Where is he now? what action is he doing at this moment?
    2nd sentence- What's the verb/action word? Is this action about this moment or about his routine? Is he sleeping now?
    Maybe a timeline could be useful too, but i would go for concept questions first. Maybe pictures could be good, but then again they would not show exactly the idea of moment and every day situation.

    6. I hope we’ll have finished this exercise by 2pm.
    Timeline would be enlightening. I would not go for clines, personalization could be done only in a production time by themselves.

    <--------past-------present--------future------2 PM---->

    Questions: what is the tense here? When is the action finished? what will happen by 2 pm?

    8. That can’t have been him.
    Concept questions again: was it him? is there any possibility? am I sure? Is this about the present, past or future?
    I would not cline here, but if I was teaching other modals, it would be brilliant to establish the comparison of certainty.

    10. Should you have any doubts, please do not hesitate to contact me.
    According to what you have written, Do you understand? could be convenient here.
    I would use gestures to convey the meaning in the first place. But to check meaning:
    CCQs- Do I have doubts? In case I do, what is good to do?

    Thank you for the lovely posts. I wish I could have good reaction when my students asked these questions, sometimes I do not use the most adequate concept checking method. I know you should plan all this, of course. But sometimes can be hard to know if your student is really going to get the idea across.If they don't, i sometimes have to improvise, this is the moment that my concept questions get a bit dodgy. All the best.

  2. Hi Chico,
    Thanks for spending some time on the exercise.
    I know what you mean – many teachers have problems with concept checking and probably all of us have struggled with it at some point or another. Sometimes it is impossible to be prepared for everything, especially when it comes to incidental language. But with the language you're planning to teach (or if you're doing a reading or a listening) you can probably expect most of the language that might be tricky for your students, and prepare to clarify it and check understanding. Of course, this means your planning will take much longer, but it does pay off in the future. You will become much better at concept checking and soon won't need to prep so much – good CCQs will just come to your head on the spot. I recommend you try to get your hands on: Workman G. 2005. Concept Questions and Timelines. Chadburn Publishing. A good guide to concept checking.
    Some comments on your answers:
    1. Some really good questions here. Can you think how to ask fewer questions (max 3) which will do the trick? Try making them YES or NO, and applicable to both sentences at the same time.
    6. I think the timeline would be a very good solution. Asking about the name of the tense mightn't necessarily be very helpful (they might know the name, but not understand the concept, or vice versa). To get the CCQs right, you might want to break down the meaning of TL into its constituent parts, i.e. It's about the future. The action is finished before 2pm. We don't know exactly when.
    8. Some very good ideas, Chico. I'd perhaps change the order of the CCQs and start with establishing the time. The important meaning we need to convey is that it's a deduction, not an affirmation. Compare the can't have with this sentence: It wasn't him. Can you think of a CCQ that would deal with this meaning?
    Cline would be great, as you said, if you were teaching or have already taught the other modals.
    10. How would you use gestures here? I think the students will probably understand the overall meaning, but we need to check they understand how formal it is or when it's appropriate to use the phrase. A cline with different degrees of formality could work nicely here.

    Let me know what you think. And thanks again for taking your time to do the exercises.


  3. Hello, I would still go on the same way, you asked me to think of more general question where they would apply for both sentences:

    1. He’s sleeping under the table. vs. He always sleeps under the table.
    –Is he awake or asleep?
    –is he under the table now?

    For the sentence in the future perfect, when i am asking about tenses, i give alternatives for ccq- is this present, future or past? for example, and I use gestures as well to show what is past, present and future.

    To be honest, I do not think I can explain grammar well.

    For the tenth sentence, I would make use of gestures if they did not understand its meaning in the first place. For the word doubts- question (synonym), contact- make a gestures with hand like telephone call. I believe meaning is more important than it's appropriacy. Of course, after that it would be good to show the context to the students where such sentence should be used.

    Thank you so much for commenting on my responses here and in my 'Clarifying meaning' article posts.

    Have a lovely life.

  4. Hi Chico,
    Thanks a lot for your reply!
    Re 1: Much better now. Shorter, easier and checks understanding well.
    RE 6: Apart from drawing the timeline you can CCQ: Is it future or present? Is the action finished before 2pm? Do we know exactly when? (just asking the first question doesn't convey the whole meaning – this is what I meant by breaking the meaning into constituent parts and using those to form CCQs)
    RE 10: If they sts really didn't get the meaning, you could say it means: 'contact me'. But the key here is to show the students when it's appropriate to use this phrase as you're probably teaching it in the context of formal letters.
    Thanks for investing time in responding. Good luck!

  5. Great feedback, sir. I did learn some concepts here, e.g.: Sentences like that formal one you posted, in case of questions, can be summed up in a neater sentence or way of saying.

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