An ELT Glossary : Concept /Concept check questions / Guided discovery




a) Concept 

The concept behind a language item is its essential meaning - so for example, the concept behind the use of the present perfect (auxiliary verb HAVE + past participle main verb) in sentences like..


He has worked for PMC for three years
I've always liked dogs.
She has grown 3 inches in the last three months.
We've known about it since August.

.. is an event starting in the past and continuing up to the present. The concept behind a lexical item like scrawny is thin (its basic meaning or denotation) and unpleasantly so (an added  evaluative connotation).



b) Concept Check Questions (CCQs)


Concept check questions are questions asked by the teacher, or included in materials, to find out whether the learners have understood the meaning/use of a new grammatical or lexical item which has just been introduced. They are part, therefore, of an inductive approach to language teaching : ie the learners see the examples first and the rules are explained/inferred based on those examples.

For example

1) If the lesson is focusing on the present perfect used to describe events extending from the past to the present, the learners may have been presented with examples such as those above - eg : I've worked for PMC for three years. Concept check questions for this might be eg :

When did she start working for PMC?

Is that past or present?

Does she still work there now?

By asking similar questions for all the sentences, the teacher can establish the concept behind the structure : an event which started in the past but continues up to the present moment.

2) If the new item is might + infinitive and the learners have been looking at examples like : I might go to Paris for the weekend the concept questions could be :

Is he talking about a past, present or future event?

How sure about it is he? a) He's completely certain that he's going   b) He'll probably go   c) It's just a possibility

3) If the item is scrawny, the CCQs could be :

Is she thin or fat?
Does the writer think she looks good or not?

If the teacher has presented the language to the class using a situation s/he has set up, s/he may put these questions on the board and just ask them to the whole class. This was typical of the Presentation - Practice - Production approach to language teaching used in the seventies. It has the disadvantage, however, that it's often only the strongest, most confident students who participate actively and work out/call out the answers. Weak or shy students may just wait to be "given" the answer.


c) Guided Discovery


An alternative approach which is often used nowadays is guided discovery. The language which will be focused on is built into a text (either reading or listening). The students first work on the text to ensure overall comprehension of its content, and then move on to the language focus stage where they see several of the examples of the target language extracted from the text and the concept check questions below them. This may be provided in their textbooks or the teacher may give it to them in a handout. Individually or in pairs they then look at the examples and questions and decide their answers before a full class follow up check. This has the advantage of ensuring that everyone is processing the language actively, and working at a level of cognitive depth which is conducive to aiding understanding and retention.