The advantages of the eliciting as a teaching strategy

Eliciting Who? Everything You Needed to Know About One of The Most Important Teaching Strategies

Eliciting Who? Everything You Needed to Know About One of The Most Important Teaching Strategies


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  • Methodology

Before we start discussing something extremely important, let us show you one photo.

Here it is:

Now try to answer these questions:

  1. What is the man going to do?
  2. What could have happened before?

If you take your time and make some guesses on the questions above, it means that we have just used an eliciting technique. Today we will discuss what it is and why we need to use it during our lessons.

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What is eliciting?

Eliciting (also known as elicitation) refers to a variety of teaching strategies that allow teachers to collect knowledge from students rather than just providing it. 

It is commonly used to recall some information regarding the vocabulary or grammar that students may already know fully or partly (for example, you, your friend, or your family member could have watched the movie from the picture above and were able to give an exact answer to the questions) or to brainstorm the topic that you are going to work on (in our case, it could have been a lesson about movies or mysteries and so on and so forth). 

Eliciting helps to make your lesson student-centered and gives your students a sense of the importance of their opinions, ideas, and backgrounds.

Advantages of Eliciting

Apart from giving your students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge or ideas, there are even more advantages of the method

First of all, self-discovery is proven to be much more effective than lecturing and gives much more lasting results. So, if you want your students to actually remember something, it is a good idea to ask them to recollect what they already know about the topic.

In this way, links between the topics, words, or grammar rules are built naturally and what is even more important by the students themselves. 

Secondly, your students for sure know much more things together than individually, so someone else’s idea can help them to remember some forgotten piece of information. By creating such a stimulating and lively atmosphere, you can actually get pretty impressive results. 

Finally, eliciting is also extremely useful for diagnosing the students’ background knowledge, so you can see where it is possible to move on further and where you should stop to clarify something that is missed. 

Using Authentic Materials for Teaching Listening and Reading

Pros and cons

Eliciting techniques

The advantage of the method also includes different techniques which allow teachers to use the method pretty often and never make their students bored with it.

One of the most common ways to elicit information is by using pictures. It works especially well with words that have the exact visual representation like animals, vegetables, or clothes

On the other hand, you need to avoid abstract or ambiguous pictures to use this technique effectively. 

Another great way to do eliciting is by performing some kind of action. Of course, not everything can be presented with an action. Moreover, if you work online, sometimes you find yourself limited in space, however, in this case, videos with actions can be used instead. 

The most important part though is making sure your students interpret your actions in the right way, so don’t forget about concept-checking questions later. 

Disclaimers are the same here: your actions must be exact and understandable.

Finally, using description as an eliciting technique goes almost for everything. 

You can come up with context, synonyms, antonyms – anything to give your students a key that makes it perfect even for words with abstract meaning, idioms, or some grammar topics.

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Find out

When to use eliciting

As we can see, eliciting is great for various reasons, but when and how exactly should we use it? Let’s see.

Eliciting vocabulary

First and foremost, as we have already mentioned, elicitation may be used if you want your students to come up with a word without your initial help. 

One of the most common methods is to give your students a set of words and definitions and ask them to match the words and definitions without any pre-teaching. 

Successful elicitation here depends on clear and understandable definitions which perfectly correspond to the vocabulary that you are eliciting.

Another good way to elicit the vocabulary is to ask for synonyms or antonyms. This one turns out to be effective if you are sure that your students are able to guess the synonyms. Otherwise, you get a guessing game or silence.

Pictures, flashcards, or Pictionary games are good options for eliciting if you work with visual learners. In this case, you need to prepare and organize all visual materials in advance. Also, you need to make sure that it is easy to guess what word stands behind this picture.

Eliciting grammar

Grammar can also become much more engaging with the help of eliciting. The most common way to elicit grammar rules is by using close-ended questions. However, there are some alternative ways of elicitation.

One of them requires using situational dialogues or even pictures. For instance, to elicit Present Continuous you may ask “What is he doing?”, show the picture above and see if the students can come up with the tense you want them to. Make sure to give them enough time to think. 

Another interesting and very competitive way to elicit grammar is playing a treasure hunt where students are supposed to find as many examples of irregular verbs, for example, as they can. You can make it more difficult by giving them limited time or asking the students to work in groups. 

You can also prepare a set of questions that for sure lead your students to some specific structures or tenses (like daily routine, the most exciting holiday in their lives, plans for the weekends, etc) and let them try to discuss these topics.

Teaching grammar through critical thinking

Eliciting target language from reading tasks

While talking about eliciting target language or some topics from the reading tasks, worth mentioning is eliciting by using headlines. You can ask your students to share their ideas on what they are going to read about.

The ideas are likely to be different, however, students are usually able to guess a general topic and recall some vocabulary or grammar which is useful to talk about routine, holidays, or plans.

Another good option is using pictures before the text which may also give enough information on the topic of the future reading task. 

If you want to elicit some target language using the content of the text, you can nominate the students to describe the situation they have read about from a different perspective or highlight only one exact point.

Eliciting current knowledge

This kind of eliciting is useful when your lesson is topic-based and you want to check the current knowledge of your students or their general fluency in the topic. 

Here comes brainstorming in groups and then sharing ideas open-class, giving associations using the pictures, asking for the reaction after watching a video, and so on. Everything basically depends on your creativity.

Using tasks in language teaching

Teaching methods

Difficulties you may face while eliciting

As good as the technique is, we have to admit that there are some possible difficulties you may face while eliciting.

First and foremost, you need to make your students used to the practice and try to do it regularly with them. There are a lot of educational approaches and even national traditions where students are not supposed to talk a lot, interrupt the teacher, or be too vocal. 

That is why some students may feel lost and confused when you suddenly start making them share their guesses and ideas. 

Try to be consistent with using this approach and encourage the students who feel awkward not to be shy and share any thoughts they have.

Still, a bad idea would be to try to elicit everything. The technique is good but overusing leads to an endless guessing game which may turn out to be either amusing or just pointless, so it’s better to keep the balance. 

Finally, even good eliciting is not productive sometimes. So, if it is your case, it is better to give up and give your students an answer. 

Let’s face it: sometimes it just doesn’t work the way we want it to, and if you feel that students don’t get it, help them and move on.

To sum up

Eliciting is undoubtedly a very positive contribution to any lesson plan. It gives the students the freedom they need and the teachers – the information they require to reach as much progress as possible. 

Various techniques of implementing the method make eliciting even greater. However, it is important to keep balance and keep the process under control by not letting it dominate too much or become an aim itself. 


1. There are …

2. Eliciting with pictures is good for…

3. Eliciting shouldn’t be…

4. Eliciting is good because …

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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