It’s easy enough to see that by asking students comprehension questions, we’ll get a handle on what they know. What’s less obvious is that carefully phrased questions can have many other benefits. Questions that successfully prompt students to talk can:
— cause students to take responsibility for their own learning, and in the process create greater motivation;
–allow the teacher to discover language areas that need further work and possible deficiencies in the initial teaching;
– -develop the sense of a social, collaborative classroom–that is, collaboration both between students and teachers, and between students and students. After all, language is innately social: communication is all about outreach to others–which is why the primary goal of ESL students is typically to improve their speaking.
–Enhance memory of what was taught. After all, language is to be practiced in order to become available to both short and long-term recall. Without active learner practice, language teaching is merely a display of teacher knowledge.
But questioning is not the only elicitation technique that can achieve these benefits. Other techniques include strategic pausing, which allows any and all students to jump in without undue anxiety about the answer; the use of visuals, like drawing, pointing to a picture, or calling attention to an object; and having students take the lead–the teacher role– in an activity (for example, student “B” can answer a question posed by student “A”); and pantomiming an action to be described by students. Think about these possibilities and take the short poll shown here.