Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (3rd Technique: Redirecting a question to a classmate when you don’t know what to say)


Redirect tech 3 image

(This posting includes an attachment teacher’s script which you are welcome to use.)

As mentioned in the previous two previous posting about the first two techniques, whole-class discussions can be an alien concept to some students.  When trying to conduct a discussion with the whole class, it’s not unusual for the teacher to call on a student to answer but the student for some reason is unable to answer in a timely manner.  It could be because he doesn’t know what to say, or how to formulate the answer in English, or isn’t confident in his oral skills.  This can result in some awkward moments as the student is clearly experiencing stress and/or embarrassment, and the teacher doesn’t know whether to give him more time to answer, to ask some leading questions or to just move on to a different student. Meanwhile, the rest of the class might begin to become restless.

This technique is a kind of “escape” for students in that kind of situation.  If, for some reason, they can’t answer within a reasonable amount of time, they can use one of these expressions:

  • That’s a good question. I’d like to think about it first. Perhaps (a classmate’s name) could answer it.
  • I’m not sure, but (classmate’s name), what do you think?
  • I have no idea. How about you, (classmate’s name)?

When students use this technique, it can actually turn into a humorous situation.  Almost any time a student has used one of these expression, it has elicited a lot of friendly laughter by the classmates and teacher.  The classroom tension is immediately released.

To help your students become comfortable with this technique, you can use the handout and attached script, which I’ll explain about below. 

The handout is composed of two pages: HO Whole class Technique 3 Redirecting question

Page 1 is the Students’ handout which introduces the technique “Redirecting a question to a classmate when you don’t know what to say.”  Also, it includes the above mentioned three commonly used expressions for doing this.  This page also describes the two exercises that the class will do together to practice this technique.

Page 2 is the Teacher’s Script.  This has two exercises:

Exercise 1General-Topic Questions.  The teacher reads one of the questions (e.g. “What will you probably eat for dinner tonight?”)  He/She chooses a student to answer.   However, instead of answering the question, that student says one of the expressions to redirect the question to another student, who then answers the question.

Exercise 2: The teacher asks discussion questions about a reading passage.  In this handout, you will notice the questions are about the first unit in  Cultural Differences.  However, these can easily be changed to discuss a different reading passage that you would like your students to discuss whole class.

You can find the first two techniques for “Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions” here: Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (2nd  Technique: Volunteering to Answer) and Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)

If you are curious about Cultural Difference that is in part of the handout above, see this link for a sample.  Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)

David Kehe

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