grammar

Lesson idea: ‘used to’ for describing past appearance

I made this activity up in class and it worked well! Really creative, loads of interesting language, and also a good way to practice ‘used to’ for describing past appearance.

Procedure:

  • Students work in pairs
  • Everyone has some scrap paper (or the back of their handout). Tell students they have 1 minute to draw their partner. 1 minute only.
  • So, Student A has drawn student B, right? Now, Student As swap drawings with each other. Student Bs swap too. They have one minute to add loads of random features onto each drawing. Random things like strange tattoos, unicorn horns (!), I don’t know… anything they want. Then they give the sketch back to the original artist.
  • Pause for some laughter
  • So, Student A now has a distorted sketch of their partner, Student B. Tell them that this is what their partner looked like 10 years ago. Back then, Student A and Student B were old schoolmates… They haven’t seen each other in ages!
  • Board part of a dialogue, like this…

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Spoken Grammar: a Guide for English Language Teachers

I got offered free access to this course on Udemy. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while. Finally got around to it and… wow! It’s very impressive.

Course overview

Spoken Grammar is a teacher training course. It provides teachers with techniques and materials for teaching conversational grammar – typically to learners at intermediate level or above. There are about three hours of lectures on the course which highlight a wide range of spoken grammar, and give an insight into how these features could be taught in the classroom.

There are 6 sections on the course:

Section 1 Introduction.
Section 2 Word order and ellipsis: heads and tails; declarative questions; ellipsis.
Section 3 Emphasis: hyperbole; interjections; cleft structure and binominals.
Section 4 Vague language: vague categories; vague placeholders; lexical bundles.
Section 5 Marking spoken discourse: adverbials; discourse markers; using direct speech.
Section 6 Response language: tokens and questions; so and do; synonymous language; dependent clauses.

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Random realia and peculiar props

I think it hit home about five minutes before the lesson:

‘Am I really going to base a 30 minute activity around this bottle of murky water? Surely this can’t work…’

Most of the activities I’ve tried from ‘Teaching Grammar Creatively’ have worked quite well. This one though… I must admit, I had my doubts.

It was supposed to be an activity for practising the present perfect (for completion). There’s a poem in the book about a ‘cosmic cocktail’… something like this:

‘I’ve blended everything nicely,

two galaxies,

several stars,

I’ve added a sprinkle of meteor dust…’

Etc.

Sticking with the theme, I made the cocktail (mocktail) as a prop. It consisted of some cheap coffee, some raisins, bits of cut-up rubber… it looked awful.

Somehow, SOMEHOW most of the students bought into it. They enjoyed guessing the ingredients, reciting the poem, then making their own. It ended up a good review of a past lesson on cooking vocabulary, and was (as the book suggests) a fun, creative task.

So, what’s the strangest/most interesting object you’ve ever used in class? And… did it help?!

Present perfect game

I’m on good form! It’s been a fun weekend of classes.

Today I tried out a new task for practising the present perfect (life experiences). Well, it wasn’t exactly new, just a variation on a few well-known tasks. Still, it worked well – lots of practice and lots of smiles!

Preparation

  • Put a few topics on the board:

Travel, sport, studying English, animals, food

  • Elicit a few verbs (past participle form) related to each topic:

Travel: been, seen, travelled…

Studying English: studied, passed…

Animals: owned, fed…

Etc.

These will help students with ideas.

  • Give students 5 slips of card each. They write one sentence on each card (one for each of the topics). The sentence should be about their life experiences. Rules are…
  1. The sentences must be true (that narrows things down a bit!)
  2. They can’t be too easy to guess
  3. You must keep your sentences a secret

Easy to guess for Thai students: I’ve been to Chiang Mai (most of the students have)

Harder to guess: I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China (quite specific)

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Teaching pronunciation: contractions

Contractions often come up as a pronunciation point in our Elementary level lessons. My students don’t have much trouble with ‘I am’ becoming ‘I’m’, but contractions with ‘you are’, ‘we are’, etc seem a bit harder to produce. I feel that if learners are struggling to produce it that’s one thing, but struggling to notice a contraction might be more problematic with regards listening. Context would help a lot anyway (especially with present continuous given Ving would follow), but I’m (contraction) trying out a few things to get learners noticing contractions more, and noticing whether or not they are actually producing contractions themselves!

This was my attempt the other day. The class have already done quite a bit on contractions, so I thought I’d test where they were. I made a load of cards with sentence on like these:

1709n

Etc. Nothing special. Students read a sentence to their partner and followed the instruction whether to use a contraction or not. Their partner guessed – ‘contraction’ or ‘no contraction’. To my surprise, genuinely as I thought they were pretty good at recognising these, they got a lot wrong!

We did a bit of drilling again, and students looked through the cards and tried to say each phrase in both forms (with/without contraction). Students tested each other again, but this time they chose whether or not to use a contraction themselves. Recognition improved – we eventually narrowed down the problem to the use of ‘You are/You’re’ which the students were really struggling with.

It’s nothing great, just some drilling and noticing. It was useful though. It was nice to hear students even at Elementary level trying to give reasons why they felt something wasn’t a contraction when there was ambiguity…

‘No, you still say two words. ‘You are’. Not one word. It’s more like one word. More like ‘YOUR’ – Y-O-U-R.’

Fair description I thought, especially for the level.

Feature image: imgur.com

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

CELTA tip: guided discovery

I got an A in my CELTA, but I had some teaching experience before the course. I find one of the hardest things about teaching is actually standing up and doing it. I am a really nervous person, and this trait has plagued me for a long time. Without some experience of being in front of people and presenting information I would have really struggled, but this wasn’t much of a concern for the less neurotic people on the course!

Anyhow, teaching experience was not the only contributing factor to my A grade. If I could pinpoint the exact moment that my trainers gave me that mark, I’d say it was Tuesday, Week 4, about 12pm, just after Teaching Practice 7. I’d just finished a class on the present perfect continuous, which makes my CELTA grade all the more special as teaching grammar remains my biggest weakness. (more…)