Concept checking questions can prove elusive and they are a little challenging to start with. It does take a bit of getting used to and some preparation but with some practice they can be achievable. We use them mainly for language lessons and they are key for grammar – less so for vocabulary but still useful. Scrivener’s helpful definition is: questions that focus on the meaning of a language item. A way to practice forming these questions is when we take a closer look at some grammar points then try to create some effective questions by making the statement into a question that has a simple answer, preferable yes or no. For example, let’s look at the present perfect: He’s been cooking since this morning. We can ask: Is he cooking now? (yes), when did he start cooking? (this morning some time), was he cooking all this time? (yes), will he continue cooking? (Maybe, we don’t know) So by asking these questions we can check that our students understand the logic and concept of using this grammar point.
British Council states that concept checking is checking the understanding of difficult aspects of the target structure in terms of function and meaning. Concept checking is vital, since learners must fully understand the structure before any intensive practice of form and phonology is carried out.
Here are some other examples:
|If Mario sees Sara, he’ll tell her (first conditional)||Will Mario see Sara? (maybe), will he definitely see her? (no), is there a change he will see her? (yes), is it likely that he will see her? ( we don’t know but there is probably a good chance)|
|This phone was made in China (passive)||Which country does the phone come from? (China), do we know who made it? (no), why don’t I say ‘someone made this phone in China’ (because we’re interested in the phone and note the person who made it)|
|Jane has a couple of dogs. (quantifiers)||Does Jane own dogs? (yes), does she have lots? (no), how many dogs does she have? (two), does she have more than two (no), does she have exactly two? (yes)|
Checking the logic (or concept) like this is more effective than asking the class do you understand or is that clear? What happens if we do ask questions like this – the answer could be yes or no but then we are left not really knowing the answer! Students may answer yes because they want to save face or just simply save time. We must also remember the complexities of our grammar terminology and that for example, using the present tense isn’t always just for the present time – we can use it for futures too so concept checking the logic is a valuable exercise.
There are some other ways we can check the logic of the grammar point such as using a time line to establish tenses, a truth line to establish probability (must be / could be etc), images to distinguish between similar objects such as a cup, a mug or a road and a lane; negative checking such as do I say ‘I were’? Or discrimination to check function and register such as do I say ‘hey!’ to my boss? Here are some example grammar points you could try to create concept checking questions for: you should go and visit her more often, I’m going to do my homework after dinner, he’s working part time this month, we might come to the party a bit later on.