We are a group of ESL-ers in Cleveland Ohio who are trying to teach refugees and immigrants basic survival English.

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We will try to put articles of interest to those of you who share your talents and time with the newly arrived in our cities.

Some of our students learning.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Checking Together


It’s a good idea to let the students check their answers together before feeding back to the the teacher because it gives them the chance to erase any glaring errors before the teacher sees and thus avoid looking stupid in front of the class.


If a student hasn’t a clue about some of the answers it’s reassuring to find out that their partner hasn’t the foggiest either. The students realize they are not alone. They can also copy their partners answers (if their partner has some that they don’t) but their partner might not be right!


Peer teaching is considered a good thing in the world of ESL. Peers are equals. So in this case a students peers are a student’s fellow classmates. Working together and checking work together is a form of peer teaching. This means that instead of the know-it-all (and/or) mother tongue teacher always teaching them, the students can teach each other (by explaining grammar points, correcting pronunciation, explaining new words and phrases etc). The beauty of it is that the students are all equal to each other and are in the same boat, linguistically speaking.



1. When the students have finished doing an activity on their own, put them in pairs or small groups and tell them to check their answers together.


2. Tell the students that if the answers are the same, they are probably correct but if they are different they need to explain/justify their choice of answer to their partner - in English! They can change their answers if they like.


Brainstorming can be used as a warmer (a five minute activity at the start of the lesson) just to get them in the mood and to start them thinking about the topic.

If students have already activated their vocabulary related to the topic they will not be searching for words so much when they start the speaking activities. This should enable them to be more fluent.  It also helps you to know how many words they may have already heard or know about the topic.


Brainstorming can be used as a filler (a five minute activity at the end of the lesson) to see how many words they remember from the lesson. It is always important to review as much as possible.


Brainstorming can be used as retention exercise - ‘Write down all the words you can remember about X (which we studied last week/month).


1. Ask the students to think of all the words they know connected with the topic.

2. Tell the students to write them on a piece of paper.

3. Give them a couple of minutes to do so.

4. Put them in pairs or small groups to compare their vocabulary and transfer words they hadn’t thought of from their partner’s list to their own.

5. Feedback - Let each group give a few words they have thought of.

6. Or you could do it all on the board in the first place - just ask the class to give you words to write on the board. (Or give board pens to one or more students and get them to do the writing!)


Make sure you give them enough time, especially for beginners.  Monitor the conversations and as soon as they drift into stories, call them back together.