Certain teaching strategies to check students' understanding

One of the ways of checking understanding

One of the ways of checking understanding


  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

“Do you understand?”— asked the teacher after the clarification of the new grammar. Everybody nodded and said “Yes”. Is it possible to say that the teacher has checked students’ understanding of that new grammar? Of course, not. Some of the students didn’t want to lose face in front of the class. Some of the students thought that they had understood it, but had they?

When we teach grammar, vocabulary or functional language, one of the ways to check whether learners really got it is to ask them concept-checking questions or CCQs for short. Let’s look at the three areas of the language (grammar, vocabulary, functions) and practice writing CCQs.

Learn more about giving proper instructions!

Checking understanding of the new vocabulary

The teacher wants to teach one specific meaning of the phrasal verb “take off”— to leave suddenly without letting anyone know about it. It is used in informal contexts.

The teacher needs an appropriate context. It could be something like that:

“I couldn’t reach Sarah on the phone, so I decided to go for a walk. When she saw me in the street, she took off. It happened all of a sudden and I hardly noticed her. I haven’t heard about her since then — she just disappeared.” (Upper-intermediate)

Examples of some possible CCQs are:

  • Did Sarah start leaving when she saw me? (Yes)
  • Did she leave quickly? (Yes)
  • Did I expect that she would leave? (No)
  • Can we use it to talk about someone who we don’t know well? (No)

To create effective CCQs we:

  • find a definition of the target word or expression in a good dictionary;
  • write three or four sentences that carry the essential meaning;
  • turn them into questions.

Checking understanding of the new grammar

The teacher wants to teach the Present Perfect which describes a past action or experience. The time when it happened is not specified.

An appropriate context is needed. It could be as follows:

“My sister really likes visiting European capitals. She’s been to London, Paris and Rome. She’s going to Lisbon soon.” (Elementary)

Examples of some possible CCQs are:

  • Did she go to London, Paris and Rome? (Yes)
  • Do we know when? (No)
  • Is she there now? (No)

Using a timeline really helps in this case as students can understand the meaning much more easily.

So to create effective CCQs for checking understanding of grammar we need: 

  • to write three or four statements that carry the essential meaning of the structure;
  • turn them into questions.

Get to know more about using timelines!

Checking understanding of the new functional exponent

The teacher wants to teach the phrase “What’s it like?” This phrase is used to ask someone to describe or give an opinion about a person or thing. The following dialogue could be used as a context.

Have you ever been to Dublin?

No, I haven’t. What’s it like?

It’s a cosmopolitan city. It has a lot of modern architecture. I recommend you to visit it one day. (Pre-intermediate)

Examples of some possible CCQs are:

  • Do I know about the city? (No)
  • Do you know about the city? (Yes)
  • Am I asking you to describe it? (Yes)

The same as with grammar and vocabulary, we need to:

  • write three or four statements that carry the essential meaning of the expression;
  • turn them into questions.

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To really know if students understand the material, teachers need to use various methods. Just asking if they get it won’t help because some students might be too shy to admit they are lost or they might think they have got it when they actually don't. One way that works well is using concept-checking questions (CCQs) that cover different language areas like grammar, vocabulary, and functional language. By using  CCQs, teachers can make sure they are getting a proper read on students' understanding and adjust their teaching accordingly.

It's ok to ask your students questions like “Do you understand?"

CCQs are only good for checking the grammar concepts.

Article authors & editors
  • Helen Taranenko

    Helen Taranenko


    CELTA, CELT-P/S Course trainer, International speaking examiner



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