What are ICQs and CCQs?
ICQs and CCQs are popular abbreviations in modern methodology and they both mean questions. What‘s the difference between them?
ICQs stand for instructions checking questions. Not all learners can understand instructions completely especially if there is more than one action. Asking ‘Do you understand?’ is not an option because some learners will never admit it.
How to make ICQs? Let’s look at the example of the instruction:
Talk to your partner for 3 mins. Discuss the questions and then say what you have in common.
As we see the instruction above contains 4 pieces of information: talk to a partner, a time limit, discuss the questions, find out what you have in common. It’s not so easy to bear in mind everything they need to do. Moreover, when you set a task, sometimes students’ minds start to wander and they concentrate on some irrelevant things such as your new jumper, their lunch, the weather. By using ICQs we not only check if students get our instructions but remind them what they need to do.
- Do you have to answer the questions alone or with your partner? (with a partner)
- How much time do you have? (3 mins)
- Do you have to say what similar or different things you have? (similar)
Avoid asking such ridiculous ICQs as:
What do you have to read? (a text)
What do you need to answer? (questions)
How many gaps do you have to complete? (16)
Things to consider
- Don’t overuse ICQs otherwise, your students stop listening to your instructions and will wait for checking them.
- Don’t check instructions if they are too simple or the activity is typical. For example, the instruction which is given in the thirtieth lesson: match the pictures and the words. Do you think learners don’t know what to do?
- Checking instructions too often can sound unnatural in a one-on-one lesson where the student is more focused.
- The higher the level is, the less ICQs you need.
On CELTA course ICQs were an insult to my intelligence as I could understand the instructions from the first time. But when I tried them with low-level learners, they were really helpful. I use ICQs with individual students as well but usually not more than 2 in one lesson and mainly with new activities.
CCQs stand for concept checking questions. They help to clarify the meaning of lexical items and grammar structures. Sometimes you think that students know the words but they don’t. How to check? Even if you ask ‘Do you know this word?’ and they will nod their heads, that doesn’t necessarily mean they remember it correctly. Ask CCQs.
Vocabulary: If you are head over heels in love, are you in love a lot, or a little bit? (a lot)
(from A CELTA Course by Scott Thornbury)
Grammar: I’m meeting Jane 3.30 on Friday.
- Are we talking about the present or the future? (the future)
- Is it a definite arrangement? (yes)
- So is it in my diary? (yes)
(from Workman Concept questions and timelines)
Not all questions are useful. If you want to check the meaning of the word ‘wardrobe’(=a tall cupboard in which you hang your clothes), the questions such as Is your wardrobe big? What colour is it? won’t be effective.
Things to consider
Some teachers think that CCQs are artificial if they require yes/no answers since you won’t hear them in real life. For example,
Can you buy any meat in the grocery? (no)
Can you buy any rice there? (yes).
It’s better to check comprehension in a more communicative way: Which things do you usually buy in the grocery? (rice, sugar, flour)
Don’t resort to CCQs all the time because you can sound too patronizing. Elicit the meaning of vocabulary using other ways as well: pictures, synonyms, definitions, examples, etc.