Top 7 Questioning Techniques in the Classroom

As a teacher, you always use questions in the classroom. There are lots of reasons for using them. You could use questions to:

  • engage your students,
  • check for understanding and comprehension,
  • seek opinions,
  • encourage creative and critical thinking,
  • review information,
  • help students see other ways of thinking.

The techniques that you should use in questioning depends on the grade level, subject matter, and lesson objectives. Here are some of the top questioning techniques you should take into consideration to use in the classroom.

1. Pair and Share.

After posing a question to the class, give your students some time to think about the answer on their own. Then, have them turn to their neighbor to discuss the answer. They can exchange their ideas with their partners. Doing so helps students prepare their answer and share it in pairs and then with the rest in the class.

2. Teacher Random Selection.

If you have the same few students answering all of your questions, you can select the student who will answer the question. You may like to write the name of each student on cards. Then, draw a name to determine who will answer the question. Doing so pushes all students to think of the answer and prepare to share their ideas with the whole class.

3. Selecting Particular Students.

Choose brilliant students to sit in front of the class. These students will answer several questions. You could ask the questions and ask them to answer. Then, ask other students to repeat the answers. If one brilliant student is struggling to answer, allow him/her to “phone a friend” asking someone else in the class for help.

4. Asking in Sequence.

Think about having a list of students ordered alphabetically. As you ask questions to the class, try to move from one to another using their order in the alphabetical list. In this case, you may like to follow Bloom’s Taxonomy moving from the most basic type of questions (recall) to more complicated ones (evaluation). By doing so with your questions using this technique, your students will have the time to prepare their answers, too.

5. Selecting the Raised-Hand Students.

Post the question to the whole class asking students who know the answer to raise their hands. Doing so give students to think and prepare the answer. Select one of the raised-hand students to answer. After getting the right answer, praise the student and ask one of those who don’t raise their hands to repeat the right answer.

6. Selecting After Modelling the Answers.

Ask a question and then model the answer by yourself. Then, select one student to say the model answer. Doing so helps students know how to answer questions perfectly and raise their confidence when answering questions. Also, this technique allows shy learners to participate in answering questions.

7. Asking Questions for Homework.

Write some questions on the board asking some students to read them aloud to the class. Then, ask students to prepare the answers for these questions at home. This allows time for students to think of the answers and perhaps they will share ideas to improve the answers. At the beginning of the next period, check that they have done the homework and elicit the answers from as many students as possible giving them your feedback, clarifying and correcting anything.

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When and How to Correct Errors in EFL Classes

As a teacher, you’ll have to correct your students when they make errors and mistakes. Correction is really important and can’t be ignored. A teacher who fails to do so may be thought as unprofessional or lazy.

Error correction is a matter of balance. Students need help in order to learn, teachers should not be too heavy handed when it comes to individual mistakes on the other hand.

This article will help you to decide when and how to correct your students’ errors, what approaches to take, and why the timing is vital.

Interrupt them to correct their errors when:

  • You want them to be accurate concerning new structures.
  • The majority of them is constantly making the same error.
  • The aim is achieving accuracy. In this case, you might correct errors more frequently.

Give delayed correction in the following situation:

  • If the aim of the activity is fluency and communication. In this case you can make a note of the errors and correct them later on.
  • During fluency activities, errors may be totally ignored.

Errors can remain uncorrected in the following situations:

  • In the middle of a group work or role play.
  • when a shy learner is daring to communicate.
  • If a learner is trying to express a complex or personal idea.

Vary your correction amount according to learners’ personalities.

  • Correct shy learners less and encouraging them to communicate.
  • Correct stronger learners more, so they are challenged.

Ways of self-correction and peer correction:

  • Making a gesture, stopping learners, giving a question.
  • Indicating to the nature of the error, by saying e.g., past tense.
  • Stressing the incorrect form.
  • Repeating the sentence with a questioning intonation.
  • Asking other learners for the correct form.
  • Asking one of the learners to write errors and correct them at the end of activity.

Advantages of self-correction and peer correction.

  • You know how much learners know and what they do not know.
  • Learners feel more confident and independent.
  • Learners know where they are.

Disadvantages of self-correction and peer correction.

  • Some learners might feel superior to others.
  • The same two or three learners might answer and dominate the class interactions.
  • The one who is corrected might feel frustrated.

Ways of correcting mistakes on written work.

  • Underlining errors and asking learners to correct them using correction symbols.
  • Providing correct answers for learners correcting specific errors and leaving others.
  • Getting learners to exchange their copies for peer correction.

Give feedback.

Giving feedback at the end of the class is very important to clarify anything and to correct any error made during the class. Encourage students to ask questions and try to get to the bottom of any queries and confusions.

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9 Techniques for Presenting Grammar

There is a variety of techniques for presenting new grammar items. Below is an overview of nine of those most commonly-used. Note that no one technique will necessarily prove better than another, so the general rule when it comes to presenting grammatical rules is to combine a variety of techniques.

1. Direct Explaining (Explicit Approach).

You can explain a grammar rule directly using the students’ mother tongue. This has the advantage of allowing students to contrast an item of grammar in English with an item of grammar in the students’ own language. For example, the two languages might use past tenses in different ways. On the other hand, some teachers believe that it’s more effective to present and explain the grammar directly by using English at all times. Certainly, in classes where the students already have learnt some English, it’s usually possible to build on what they already know to introduce a new grammar point.

2. Discovering the Grammar (Implicit Approach).

Often, it’s helpful to have students discover the grammar rather than telling them what it is. Do this by choosing a text which contains lots of examples of the target grammar. For example, if the text includes regular verbs in the past simple form (e.g. lived, travelled, moved, etc), ask the students to underline all the verbs in the text. Then ask them to say what they notice about the verbs – which will be that they all end in -ed.

3. Using Pictures or Drawings (Illustrating Grammar Points).

A quick sketch on the board can illustrate a grammar point very quickly. For example, a picture of a person dreaming of a future ambition can be used to introduce “be going to” to talk about future intentions.

4. Drawing Timelines (Teaching Tenses).

Timelines are useful for teaching grammar structures that refer to aspects of time. Timelines are a simple and visual way to clarify the actions and events described in a sentence. They are often used by teachers for presenting the meaning of verb tenses in English.

The basic form of a timeline shows a horizontal line with a point in the middle indicating NOW or the moment of speaking. Before that point is the past and after it is the future. Some teachers also write the words PAST and FUTURE along the line. You can indicate single actions with an X and periods of time with an arrow. Continuous actions are often indicated with a wavy line.

5. Asking Concept Questions (Checking Understanding).

Write a sentence on the board containing the grammar structure. For example, this sentence uses the past simple: He left university in 2008. Next, ask the students concept questions which check their understanding of when the action happened. So, the teacher/student conversation would sound like this:

  • T: Is he at university now?
  • SS: No.
  • T: Was the action in the past?
  • SS: Yes.

Note that concept questions should usually be designed to elicit the answer Yes or No from the students because the aim is only to check their understanding.

6. Using Tables (Showing the Form).

Tables are very useful for showing the form of the grammar on the board. For example, these tables show the affirmative and negative forms of a verb in the present simple tense. You can refer to the different features of the tense when introducing it, and the students can copy the table for future reference.

  • I/You/We/They live in England
  • He/She/It lives
  • I/You/We/They don’t live in England.
  • He/She/It doesn’t live in England.

7. Using Objects (Presenting the Meaning).

Sometimes using objects can work as quickly as anything to present the meaning. For example, if you want to present the comparative form (… is bigger than …), the simplest way is to find two objects and contrast them. Alternatively, ask two students to stand up and compare their height to produce a sentence like: Hany is taller than Tom. Write the sentence on the board and underline the comparative form so the students notice the construction. Similarly, if you teach prepositions (in, on, next to, etc), using a selection of objects in different positions from each other is a very effective starting point.

8. Contrasting Structures (Showing the Difference in Meaning).

With higher-level grammar, it’s useful to ask students to contrast two grammar structures which are similar in certain ways, but which have an important difference in meaning. For example, these two sentences contrast two different meanings of the present perfect tense.

  1. He has been to London.
  2. He has gone to London.

A teacher could ask the students to compare these sentences and say what the difference in meaning is.

(Answer: A means: He went to London and returned back whereas B means: He went to London and he is still there).

9. Choosing the Correct Sentence (Correcting Common Grammatical Mistakes).

This is similar to the previous technique because you give students two sentences, but one sentence has a mistake related to grammar. You write them on the board and get students to say which they think has the mistake and why. For example:

  1. I’ve lived here since three years.
  2. I’ve lived here for three years.

Students discuss the sentences in pairs. Sentence A. is wrong because we use “since” to refer to a fixed point in time (e.g. March, 1989, etc.) whereas we use “for” to describe duration of time.

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