Yes, the ESL classroom is leading the way in group and pair work. We have students sit together to create dialogs, solve puzzles, peer edit, and discuss, discuss, discuss. However, as long as students complete exercises in books, teachers must give feedback on them. There are several ways to get the most out of exercise checks.

  1. Have students do a pair check first. This allows students to confirm and/or discuss their answers. The peer might benefit from explaining why she believes she has the right answer as well as the student who gets to process an uncertainty. The teacher can wander the room and do spot checks, while students who have not done the work have a chance to attempt it.  This preliminary step insures that there will be less dead time during the whole-class check. 
  2. After bringing the whole class together, train students to monitor themselves.  Let them know that they can pass if they want to.  This can save time and embarrassment.  Sometimes, a student will hesitate.  Consider telling him that you will come back to him, and give him a few seconds to think.  Be sure that you do!  Also, ask the class to let the nominated student answer the question.  When others shout out the answer to “help,” politely advise them that this is “Maria’s” question, and they must let Maria answer it.  Give Maria six seconds to answer.  Again, she can pass if she wants to.
  1. Try to cover the entire room.  Research shows that teachers tend to call on students in an uneven way. Consider moving in an asterisk so that you move from the student in the upper right corner to the lower left and then from lower right back up to upper left.  Then middle-rear to front followed by left to right.If you are using a computer and projector, another approach might be to write students’ names next to their item while they are working or conferring.  (You could also do this on the board, if you want to expedite the feedback.)  It will efficiently give individuals a chance to prepare their answers.To add variety, you might ask the student who just answered to name the next student to speak.  It can add a bit of sparkle to an otherwise routine task as they often laugh when a friend nominates them.

These are just a few tips for making traditional exercise checks more relevant and efficient.  There are many others.  I hope that you will share yours.