Guided Discovery

The three most widely known approaches to teaching language (grammar, vocab or functions) are:

Language through a text

Language through a situation


In all of these lessons there is a stage which is concerned with MPF. This is sometimes also referred to as the ‘presentation’ stage. Whether we call it the presentation, or the clarification, or the teach stage, there are two main ways we can go about it.

In the examples given of teaching the past simple (via a text, situation etc), this stage was fairly teacher-centred. When checking meaning the teacher is asking CCQs to the class. When highlighting form, perhaps the teacher uses the board, elicits the form from students and writes it up. And sometimes this is the most appropriate and efficient way of doing things. It allows us more control of the class and it is easier because we’ve got everybody at the same point in the lesson. However, the downside is, that as was noted earlier, it’s more teacher-centred. If we never vary this, we may lose students’ attention and we may miss opportunities to make learning more active and meaningful. So, we also have the choice of using guided discovery.

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 20.15.30Guided discovery, is, as the name suggests, a way of guiding students to a better understanding by giving them tasks that help them discover for themselves, rather than going through us, the teacher. So, for example, instead of asking CCQs to the whole class, we could put students in small groups to discuss the CCQs themselves.

Can you think of any more ways we could use guided discovery for meaning, form and pronunciation?

Compare your ideas with some examples below.


Students match sentences to timelines.

Students discuss concept checking questions in groups.

Students underline the correct answer to complete a grammar rule.


Students use example sentences to complete gaps in the form.

Students rearrange sentences according to the form.


Students mark sentence stress on example sentences then compare with answers.

Students identify weak forms in example sentences.


Reasons to incorporate guided discovery

* It makes lessons more active and engaging with much higher levels of student interaction

* Students are much more likely to remember things they have had to work to discover for themselves

* It uses peer teaching which has a strong effect on the memory and encourages communication

Challenges when using guided discovery

* It is more difficult for the teacher in terms of classroom management as a lot more monitoring and responsiveness is needed

* The teacher often has to design the guided discovery task for themselves, which takes time and experience

* Guided discovery sometimes takes longer than more teacher-centred presentations