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CELTA Course Skills

Teaching Practice: Eliciting

What is Eliciting?

Eliciting is all about drawing the answers out of the students, rather than giving them the correct answers yourself.

Learning to elicit answers is a critical part of teaching EFL and a vital element in passing the CELTA course. Without incorporating eliciting into your lessons, you cannot continue to achieve At Standard (or above) lessons.

Why is Eliciting Important?

Eliciting is one of the most critical skills you will learn and use on your CELTA course.

Failing to elicit means failing to pass your CELTA.

All learners learn best when they are personally involved in the acquisition of new skills and when they exercise their memory in retrieving previously learned information.

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Eliciting on the CELTA Course

People are famous for not hearing or retaining information dictated to them in a classroom setting – in one ear and out the other, as we say. But if learners are invited to be an integral part of the process, the target language is much easier to learn.

Here’s an example:

Not eliciting

Teacher: A banana is a fruit that grows on trees in hot climates. The plural is bananas. It’s a noun.

With eliciting

Teacher: What do we call that long, curved fruit? It’s yellow. Anyone?

Students: Banana?

Teacher: Yes, banana [writes the word on the board]. What part of speech is ‘banana?’

Students: A noun.

Teacher: Yes, good. [writes (n.) on the board]. It’s a regular noun, so the plural is…?

Students: Bananas

Teacher: Yep, bananas. And where do they grow?

Students: Africa? Dominican Republic? Indonesia?

Teacher: Yes, and what do these places have in common?

Students: Oh, bananas grow in hot countries.

The key thing to notice is how the students have told the teacher (and each other!) the answers. All the teacher has done is ask the right questions to draw out what the students already know. That’s eliciting.

Eliciting is a key part of the CELTA course and something you need to use as soon as possible in your lessons. After the first couple of lessons, you’ll be marked down severely if you continue to teach target language (vocab, meaning, activity answers) without first trying to elicit from the class.

What Types of Eliciting Exist?

Elicit vocabulary

Teacher: What is this adjective? (teacher acts out, strutting around smugly)

Students: confident? smug? arrogant?

Try to avoid writing a word on the board and asking the class “what does this mean?” – That isn’t eliciting and can result in lost marks if it becomes a habit in your lessons.

Eliciting grammar

Teacher: What conditional did you use in exercise 1?

Students: 3rd conditional.

Teacher: Is it describing a present or past situation?

Students: Past

Teacher: A real situation in the past?

Students: No, an imaginary situation.

Eliciting parts of speech

Teacher: What part of speech is the word ‘about’ here? (“I’m excited about the party.”)

Students: A preposition?

Teacher: What about “I’m”?

Students: The subject plus the verb ‘to be’

Eliciting answers to activities

Teacher: So why did Sarah not enter the old house?

Students: Because she was scared.

Teacher: Does the reading text say she was scared?

Students: No, but she had a nightmare the night before about bats. So she is probably scared.

Eliciting meaning

Teacher: So if “Dad let them swim” means the children were allowed to swim, what do you think “Dad made them swim” means?

Students: He forced them?

Be careful with eliciting meaning. If you don’t provide clues (such as opposites, or a wider context to refer to) it can leave the class feeling frustrated if no-one knows the answer and you continue to elicit what cannot be elicited.

Pronunciation cannot be elicited!

You cannot ask students “how do we pronounce cough” because you’ll either be met with a chorus of heavily-accented best attempts, or the class will just feel frustrated that you haven’t taught them yet.

Pronunciation needs to be presented by the teacher supported with phonemes and drilling.

Pass The CELTA Tips for Eliciting

Give students enough time to think and form their answers. Remember that English is not their native language and it can take longer than usual to process the question and offer the answers.

Attempt to elicit meanings, grammar, vocab and parts of speech first, but if no answers are offered by the class, you should jump seamlessly into assuming the target language is new to them and teach it. In other words, don’t continue to elicit what no-one knows!

In any class, there is often a dominant student (or two) who is quick to offer answers. This can be useful for moving the lesson along (e.g. identifying parts of speech) but you should not assume the rest of the class also know or understand. Always confirm the answers and, if appropriate, write some reference on the board.