How many times have you said ‘Do you understand?’ to a class for them to nod back and say ‘Yes’ Then they settle down to the task set but all of a sudden there is a mumble from around the classroom. The learners are asking each other what to do because they do not understand!
We have to move away from asking our EAL learners ‘Do you understand?’ towards concept checking questions that truly check understanding.
Concept questions were a big part of my training as an English Language Teacher and I still use them today in the mainstream school I work in. Concept checking questions allow me to truly check if my learners have understood the task I have set them.
An example of how I have used concept questions might be this:
My EAL learners have been investigating dairy writing and how to write a diary entry using diary writing features. We have investigated, as a class, past tense verbs, time connectives, and adjectives to describe thoughts and feelings. We have also looked at the structure of a diary entry and separating it into 3 paragraphs for morning, afternoon and evening. They have planned their diary entry and they are now going to write their first draft. Rather than say ‘I want you to now write a diary entry, do you understand?’ I would use a range of concept questions to check their understanding of the task and these would include:
- What type of connectives do you need to include?
- Do you write in the past, present of future tense?
- What types of words do you need to use to describe your thoughts and feelings?
- How many paragraphs should you write?
- What should you include in your first paragraph?
Concept questions should be a fundamental part of our teaching practice for EAL learners. They act as an assessment of learning tool as well as enabling us to check understanding. As well as ensuring our EAL learners can complete tasks to the best of their ability.