A Student’s Take on ICQs (Instruction Check Questions)

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

The following are diary entries from a fictional ESL student.

March 1st

I started my new English class today. I was excited to meet my teacher and classmates. I like my teacher a lot. Harry was very friendly and he made us laugh right from the start. I already feel very comfortable with him and the rest of my peers. I really think I’m going to enjoy this class and I hope I can really improve my English.

March 2nd

Today was another fun day. We learned about what to say when going to a doctor’s office. This lesson was so helpful for me since I have a doctor’s appointment next week. The role play we did at the end of the class was really fun. Harry is really clear when he gives instructions. He always models the activities with us and makes sure we understand what we need to do. If I ever teach German to someone I will remember to be as clear as Harry when I give my instructions.

March 3rd

I had another enjoyable class today. I can tell that Harry puts a lot of effort into his lessons and the activities he plans. I’m glad I have such a dedicated teacher. I like how he always asks us questions before we start activities. It seems like he really wants us to make sure we understand what we are supposed to do.

March 4th

I’m not sure, but I think I’m starting to notice a pattern when Harry teaches. I can’t be sure, but I think he asks the same questions before we start each activity. Maybe that’s what teachers are supposed to do. I don’t know since I’m not a teacher, but something about it just felt a bit strange to me. Maybe next week I’ll ask my partner, Susan, as I know she used to be a Japanese teacher before coming to Toronto.

March 7th

Ok, so I’m 100% sure now that Harry asks the same questions every day before we start activities. I asked Susan about it and she said it’s actually a good thing for language teachers to do… but she mentioned that when she taught Japanese she never asked as many questions as Harry does (he asks five questions every time!).

Should I say something to Harry? I still really like him as a teacher, so I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Maybe it’s better for me to just keep my mouth shut.

March 9th

Things got a little ridiculous today. My group-mate Raminder and I actually started lip-syncing Harry’s ICQs (that’s what Susan calls them… but I can’t remember what the letters stand for… maybe it’s Irritating Constant Questions… hehe). Every time Harry would ask his questions, Raminder and I would look at each other and mouth the words, and silently giggle to ourselves. I hope Harry didn’t notice, because I still think he is a good teacher.

March 11th

Harry asked us to give him feedback about his teaching style today. It was nice to know that he cares about what we think. He gave us 3 pieces of paper (1 green, 1 yellow, 1 red). On the green paper I wrote down things that I think he should continue doing. On the yellow paper I wrote down things that I think he should consider doing. And on the red paper I wrote down things that I think he should stop doing. He said it was our choice if we wanted to write our names on the papers or not.

So, while I mentioned a lot of Harry’s strong points on the green paper, I bravely decided to write about his ICQs on the red paper. I also bravely decided to omit my name from my feedback papers.

March 14th

Harry took time today to go over all the feedback we gave him last week. He thanked us for all our comments, and he went over the stuff we wrote on the red papers. He talked about things that he wouldn’t change, but he gave us the reasons why he won’t be changing them (which made sense to us after he explained it).

But he did mention he would change his technique for ICQs… woohoo! I really appreciate Harry’s willingness to listen to us and make changes to his teaching style. He really is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.

March 18th

So, Harry has changed his ICQs, and he is asking fewer questions, but now he is asking ridiculous questions. Today we did a “true or false” activity, and before we started Harry asked, “If the sentence is true, what letter should you write?” and, “If the sentence is false, what letter should you write?”

I mean, come on! Does he think we are idiots?!? I can’t wait until next Friday (feedback day) so that I can tell him about this… anonymously 😉

March 31st

It’s official, I feel terrible. After the last feedback today Harry has completely stopped asking ICQs. I wonder if I hurt his feelings.

Today we did a somewhat complicated activity. In the end it was pretty fun, but it took a while for some of my classmates to get going because they were not sure about the rules of the activity. I think it would have helped us if Harry had asked us some ICQs before we started the activity. I feel like, because of my feedback, my peers are suffering.

Do you use ICQs in your class? If so, what are some examples? Do you think they are valuable or a waste of time? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Hi everyone! I'm Manpal Sahota. In spring 2015 I returned to Toronto after spending nearly 13 years in South Korea, where I worked as a teacher, editor, academic coordinator, and teacher trainer. During my time in Korea I was extremely fortunate to meet many dedicated and enthusiastic teachers. Being able to learn and share with these teachers has elevated my passion for teaching and teacher development. I believe teacher growth is greatly accelerated when you are part of a motivated and supportive group of professionals. This why I'm looking forward to learning and sharing with the TESL Ontario community. I hope you enjoy my blog posts and I welcome your thoughts and feedback!


2 thoughts on “A Student’s Take on ICQs (Instruction Check Questions)”

  1. What a timely post! I think I’m doing a great job of checking with students to ensure they understand what to do, but on Friday I was marking some rubrics and found that the three students who didn’t get a 100% “achieved” assessment failed to do so because they didn’t follow the instructions of the task. We had gone over the instructions and those instructions were even written on the board for those whose reading skills are stronger than their listening skills. Yet some students still didn’t follow the instructions. I had never heard the term ICQ before reading this blog post. I’m going to focus on asking ICQs going forward. So, thanks!

  2. Hi Kelly,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found the post useful. While I do feel ICQs can be a useful technique, I would also suggest to use them as needed. I think sometimes teachers may believe that they should always use ICQs for every activity they do. These days you find a growing number of teachers who believe constantly using ICQs can actually be counter-productive.

    Good luck with trying out ICQs with your students!

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