Thatís Correct! 7 Great Ways to Check Answers with Your ESL Class
“Number 1 is A; number 2 is C; number 3 is B; number 4 is C; number 5 is A…” You’re probably already yawning and wondering where this is going. Reading out answers to exercises is probably the most effective way to bore your students and send them straight into a snore-induced stupor they won’t easily come out of. That’s right. It’s even more boring than memorizing past participles or repeating phonemes.
But we all have to check answers sometimes, right? It’s a wonderful learning opportunity for ESL students (remember the whole learning from mistakes thing?), but the problem is not the stopping to check answers, it’s the HOW you do it.
So here are some wonderful ways to check answers with your class – strategies that are guaranteed to not induce any yawning or snores of any type.
How to Check Answers with Your Class: 7 Great Ways
Supply the Answers
You can either hand out copies of the answer sheet or write the answers on the board before class. This way you can simply give them five minutes to check their answers and walk around the classroom to attend to any questions or doubts that may arise. This method works great with adults and autonomous learners who easily grasp their mistakes when confronted with the correct answer.
Check through Pair or Group Work
Divide students into pairs of groups of no more than three or four to compare their answers. This type of answer checking encourages speaking as students explain to others what their mistake is and why it’s wrong. This method works best with beginner to intermediate students, or for answers that are easy to explain. For example, a student may easily correct a peer on the correct past participle of “swim”.
The Snake Game
This is a fun game that is perfect for checking answers and works best with long exercises of 20 or more questions. Make a grid on the board like so:
Divide your class into two teams. Team A starts by answering Question number 1. If they answer correctly circle the number 1 in red. Team B continues by answering Question number 5 and also gets a circle (of another color) for a correct answer. Team A now has the option to answer Question 2, 6, or 7. And so each team moves across the grid - the snake can move horizontally, vertically or diagonally – and the team with the longest snake wins!
Supply the Answers – in the Wrong Order
This method works best with gap-filling exercises, for example if students have to fill in the blanks with words or verbs. Write all of the correct answers on the board in random order and as students check their answers, they must find them from the options provided.
Focus on the Hard Questions First
Sometimes you’ll come across a question that was hard for most, if not all, of the students in your class. And this question in particular may take more explaining than the rest. So, why not tackle the hard ones first and get them out of the way? Before checking their answers, ask students to raise their hand if they had a hard time with a question in particular – find out if this was the case with other students in the class. Go through each of the questions they had trouble with and finally check the remaining answers to make sure they got those right as well!
The thing that probably bores students the most is the monotonous drone of the teacher’s voice as he/she gives one answer after another in strict order. Nothing shakes students up more than randomness. So, give the answers in random order. Call on students randomly. Then ask your students who wants to give the next answer. Then supply an answer yourself. That will keep them on their toes! By not letting them know what to expect, your students will be attentive and engaged.
Wait Before Confirming if an Answer is Correct
This is something that can easily be done with higher levels or adults. When a student gives you their answer, don’t confirm right away if it’s right or wrong. Ask them, “Why did you write/how did you come up with that answer?” Students will be forced to go through the process that led them to reach their conclusion. Then, you can ask another student if they agree and if they reached the same conclusion. A terrific exercise!
The method for checking answers will largely depend on the size of the group, the level, and whether they are children or adults.
Choose the one that you think will work best for your particular ESL class. Choose the method that will maximize their learning from mistakes. Checking answers doesn’t have to be a tiresome chore that you have to get done as fast as possible. Instead of seeing it as an unavoidable task, look at it as another learning opportunity within your arsenal of fun activities to do with your ESL class.
How do YOU check your answers with your class? Sound off below!
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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I think that all the ideas are great. What I liked the most is the suggestion made about the groups of students that each activity works best. However, it is important to remember that sometimes you can also try to use "Children" activities with adults or even teenagers. Thank you very much for the ideas provided.
Wonderful, valuable ideas. I told my students that I'd read about some new ways of checking answers and we tried your snake game. Even the daydreamer in the back piped up! Not only do I thank you for this post, but my elementary class asked me to thank you on their behalf, as well.
I really like them. One of my ways to check answers is to check listening questions. I assign one group to be the one who provide the correct answer. This group is in the center of the class. Other groups answer also together. I only check the answer with the center group. Then other groups come to check their answers with the center group. Or the center group divide themselves to go through other groups to give them the correct answer. It was also new and useful.
I like my students to get up and write the answers on the board, but I never ask for volunteers. I simply put a marker on the desks of several students and tell them , "Do number 1, then the next, number 2, etc." I usually have three students at the board at once. When they are finished they pass the marker to another student and we continue until all answers are completed. I give students the opportunity to make corrections before we review them. With the answers on the board as a class we can review all aspects of the answer. This way I can get many students up to the board and moving around, even the reluctant ones.
Very sound advice, thanks! For a 'combo' approach, try writing individual answers on the back of Post-It notes and stick them around the room. Even more fun is the Rizla game where students stick the answers to their forehead and have to hunt them out. These work great when students have been sitting a long time working on an axercise.