INTRODUCTION - By elimination

This introduction technique is most used with students at an elementary level to get over key questions and similar concepts: What, where, when, how, how long, how far. In the last two examples given the concept of "How" is already known and is really being used to intruduce "long" and "far". The same can be done with "kind" and "language" by choosing to introduce these words in phrases "What kind", "what language".

Some verbs used for enquiry but rarely used themseves in the replies are best introduced by elimination , "do", of course, in its various tenses but also, for example, at a more advanced level "happen".

Let us look at an example and then explore the mechanism.

T Do you come here by bus?.
S No, I don't.
T Do you come here by taxi?
S No, I don't.
T Do you come here by train?
S No, I don't.
T HOW do you come here?
S I come here by car.

What is happening is that the series of questions answered in the negative (which eliminate a series of possibilities - hence the name) focus the student's attention on a concept which, in fact, is too abstract for him to express for the moment. The student, if you look at the situation from his point of view, sees what the teacher is getting at through the common theme of the questions, indeed he sometimes has to be temporarily restrained by a gesture from the teacher from anticipating the question and coming up with the answer too soon. Ask three questions. That seems to be the magic number. - two is often not enough and four is usually a case of overkill, encouraging the student to anticipate, and spoil the effect.

Once the introduction has worked, drill the new concept. The teacher should follow up the above introduction with questions something like:

And how do you go to work?
How do you go home?
How does your wife go to the shops?
How does your secretary go to work? etc.

This may seem obvious but it is surprising how often a teacher, having gone through the initial introduction successfully, will start to go through the whole introduction sequence again. Curiously, a student who has reacted quite well the first time may not catch on the second time round and suddenly start asking himself questions about this new word which seemed (and was) perfectly clear a few seconds ago.

When a student has thoroughly understood a word or expression intruduced by elimination technique he will still not have used the word himself and no amount of answering questions on, for example, "What do you do...?" will really drill the verb. The teacher who thinks it does is in fact merely drilling himself.

The final step of this kind of introduction must be a session of students' questions. This can often be initiated from an "I don't know." response and reinforced by replacement. For example the teacher could continue from the series of questions above:

T How does your secretary go to work?
S She goes to work by bus.
T And how do I come here?
S I don't know.
T Ask me.
S How you come ... How you ... How do you come here?
T I come here on foot. And the manager?
S How do ... How does the manager come here?
T He comes here on foot too. How does my wife go to work?
S I don't know. How does she go to work?
T She goes to work by tube. ... home ...
S How does your wife go home?
T She goes home by tube. .... and to the shops on Saturday.
S How does your wife go to the shops on Saturday?



BK12b 2000
reviewed May 2020