How can we be so sure our students are listening to us? 
How can we guarantee they understand what we say?
Do we know how engaged they are?
When we teach groups, although we have a good hunch of what is going on in the classroom, we do not know the answers to these questions for sure…
Students’ attention, focus and engagement depend on so many issues… And we cannot control all of them, let’s face it!
We certainly make a constant effort to have ALL students WITH us ALL THE TIME  and AT THE SAME PACE, so there are things we CAN do to increase ‘comprehension’ and ‘engagement’.


Here are some simple ideas:


  •  If you work with a course book, when referring to a page, assigning or correcting an exercise in the book, write the page on board so students know where you are.
  • When correcting an exercise in the book, write the answers on the board, so students are able to get the right answers and follow you.
  • Even if you are writing on the board, keep your eyes on your students, and ask for their contributions. Eye contact is essential to check if they are ‘with’ you. Once you turn your back to the group for a while, they disconnect (the message seems to be “The teacher is not ‘talking’ to us”)
  • When a student calls you because he/she needs help, give one step back, towards the center of the room (instead of toward the student – our tendency), call everyone’s attention – ‘Students, X has a question, let’s hear him/her’ -, after that, ask students to contribute to an answer, and finally wrap it up, clarifying what is necessary. Transform a doubt / a question / a comment into a ‘group’ issue and not an ‘individual’ one. In this case, you are teaching a group not an individual.
  • When playing an audio extract for a listening comprehension exercise, inform the students of clear rules. I usually  play it three times and do not let faster students say the answers before the end of the third time, so everyone has equal chances / equal learning experiences. You can also call on a student’s name to answer each question to make sure everyone participates.
  • The idea above works for other exercises as well. Make sure every student participates, call their names and have them take turns, if necessary.
  • Be careful how you move around the room. You may be unaware that you are granting more attention to one side of the room than to the other (to a certain group or to a specific person than to others…)


Now tell us, what do you think of these ideas?
Is there anything else you do to promote comprehension and engagement?
Please share! Have a great week!
Tânia De Chiaro
Tânia Regina Peccinini De Chiaro é graduada em Letras pela FFLCH e mestre na área de linguagem e educação pela Faculdade de Educação, ambas da USP. Como diretora da Link English Projects, desenvolve projetos corporativos de capacitação profissional para o atendimento de clientes estrangeiros em inglês e cuida da capacitação de professores. Tânia é autora de Inglês para restaurantes e Inglês para hotelaria pela Disal Editora.