If you’re an English teacher that wants to learn more about eliciting, a popular ESL teaching technique, then keep on reading. Eliciting information from students is a very beneficial use of class time. Find out why, along with some of the best activities and situations in which to do this.
What is Eliciting?
Eliciting is a technique that teachers can use to find out what information the students know, or don’t know. For example, if you’re teaching about the simple past or weather vocabulary, it’s likely that the students have studied these things before unless they are absolute beginners.
In this case, if you elicit some of these grammar concepts or vocabulary, it can help students activate their prior knowledge. This is useful for helping students to grasp onto the new things. Plus, you can avoid focusing too heavily on the things that students already know.
There are a number of things you can elicit besides grammar and vocabulary. You may also want to focus on synonyms, antonyms, forms and rules, general or background knowledge, memories, opinions, feelings or contexts, etc. Get creative because there really is a lot you can do in terms of eliciting information in a TEFL class.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, the meaning of eliciting as it relates to education is as follows:
“To get a student to provide or remember a fact, response, etc. rather than telling them the answer.”
Why Elicit Information? Top 5 Reasons
There are a number of reason why you might want to use things like eliciting questions with your students. Here are some of the most important ones.
#1: Focus on Things Students Don’t Know
It’s sometimes the case that you already have a good idea of what vocabulary your students already know, along with grammar concepts they’re familiar with. However, if you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to use this eliciting ESL technique to gain some important knowledge that can inform the rest of your lesson.
#2: Students Can Retain New Information Better
Almost all of our students, unless they’re total beginners have already seen most of the concepts that we’re teaching them before. This is normal in language learning as you really need to see things a number of times before you actually “know” it.
If we elicit from the students what they already know, this can help with retaining the new information. It’s a nice way to help students hook together their prior knowledge with the new knowledge inside the language learning centres of their brain. Cool, right?
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#3: It’s Student-Centred
I love using student-centred activities and games, as well as ESL teaching techniques in all my classes. After all, the students should be doing the hard work of learning a language, not me!
To this end, eliciting information from our students is one of the most student-centred things we can do! It’s asking them what they already know before jumping into the new stuff.
#4: Context is Everything for Eliciting Information
When teaching a language, context is everything. Students have to know not only how to use a language but when they should as well. A nice way to introduce something new is to elicit some information from our students related to their memories, background knowledge, opinions or feelings about the topic of the day. This is a nice way to set the context so that students know how to use the new things in real life.
I love the ideas found in the Cognitive Load Theory by Sweller. It says that helping students activate what they already know about a topic can be extremely useful if they are to retain new information.
#5: It’s Ideal for Introducing New Information
Whenever we take in new information, we consolidate it with the old information we already have in our brains. Does it match? How does it compare? This teaching technique is ideal for helping our students do this as well.
ESL Eliciting Techniques
There are a number of situations in which you may want to elicit some information from your students. Here are the most common ones.
#1: Eliciting Vocabulary
It’s often the case that students have learned much of the “new” vocabulary that you’re teaching them before. This is especially true with popular units in ESL textbooks like movies, sports, hobbies, family, weather, etc.
There are a number of things you can do including getting students to make a mind map in a small group related to a certain topic. Or, you may give students definitions and see if they can come up with the word. Synonyms or antonyms are another way to elicit vocabulary words. You could also pretend to forget the word you want the students to come up with and describe it to them. For young learners, consider using flashcards or pictures to elicit vocabulary words.
Check out the next section for more details about specific ESL activities you can consider to elicit words from your students. Here are a number of brainstorm game ideas for doing this.
#2: Eliciting Grammar
When teaching grammar, I rarely lecture my students. Instead, I get students to help me fill in the bits and pieces. This is always what I do unless it’s sometimes very tricky that I’m pretty sure my students have never seen before.
To do this, I’ll use timelines, leading questions, dialogue, drawings or modelling. I’ll always be sure to set the context and use lots of CCQ’s (concept checking questions).
A nice way to introduce or review grammar is with a reading passage or listening dialogue. Elicit from the students examples of the certain grammar point you’re teaching.
#3: Prediction for Reading or Listening
One of the best ways to set the context for a reading or listening exercise is to get students to predict what might happen. Show them a picture or the headline of the story and then get them to talk with a partner about what they think they will read or hear.
This is the perfect way to elicit prior knowledge from the students and can lead into a very fruitful lesson. Here are some of the best ideas: Making Predictions ESL Activities.
#4: Eliciting Background Knowledge
Everyone has feelings, background, memories, etc. related to certain situations. Eliciting these things from students before jumping into the heart of a lesson helps connect what you’re teaching to real life.
Top 5 Eliciting ESL Activities
There are a number of things you can do in your class to elicit information, discover background knowledge, etc. Here are some o the best activities to consider trying out with your students.
#1: Word Association
This activity is basically mind-mapping about a certain topic, whatever you’re teaching that day. It’s ideal for helping student activate their prior knowledge and you can elicit lots of vocabulary words that students already know.
Learn more about it here: ESL Word Association Activity.
#2: A to Z Alphabet Game
It’s often the case that students already know lots of vocabulary about certain topics like animals or jobs. If this is the case but that’s the topic for the day in the textbook that you’re using, consider using this warm-up game.
The way it works is that students need to think of an many jobs (or whatever else) as possible, one that begins with each letter of the alphabet. The team with the most number of jobs at the end of the allotted time is the winner. Find out all the details about it: A-Z Alphabet Activity.
#3: Listening for 1 Specific Thing
A nice way to elicit certain grammar or vocabulary from students is to get them to listen to a passage but to focus on one specific thing. For example, words related to a certain topic. Or, examples of the future tense. Find out more about this here: Listening for One Specific Thing.
#4: Dialogue Substitution for Eliciting Information
A common way that many textbooks introduce new grammar or vocabulary is though a dialogue of some kind. But, what to do if you’re pretty sure that your students have studied it before? Remove the key words. Then, it moves from a straight up reading challenge to one that’s more focused on meaning as well.
#5: Picture Prompt
One of the best ways to elicit words from students is to show them some pictures related to the topic of the day. Ask leading questions and you’ll have some eliciting gold right there!
Did you like these Ideas for Eliciting?
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Have your Say about ESL Eliciting
Do you have any tips or tricks for using eliciting in your English classes? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about this important concept. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-06-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API