Friday, 19 September 2008

Teaching With Minimal Resources

Salam and hi,

For those of you who are teaching large classes and little time to prepare, here are some tips on teaching grammar using minimal resources and preparations.

DIY Grammar: 10 tips for teaching grammar with minimal resources

Each of the following ideas can be used in class with minimal or no preparation. They are ideal activities to review or extend grammar structures and require no special materials. Many of the ideas can be used with different grammar points, suggestions for the grammar follow each activity.

Personalised gap fill
Write six to eight sentences on the board which contain the target structure with gaps for the students to fill in. Write the words they must use at the top of the board. Use students’ names and details about them in your sentences. Students copy down the sentences, fill in the gaps with the words and then decide if they are true or false.
e.g. Susana’s parents ______ in Madrid.
GOOD FOR: tenses, adjectives or adverbs, comparatives, modal verbs

Error correction
Similar to 1 above, but write sentences with incorrect grammar. Again, use your students’ names, or perhaps your own. Ss must first correct the grammar, and then make the sentences true if the facts are incorrect.
GOOD FOR: tenses, adjectives or adverbs, articles, comparatives, modal verbs

Find the other half
Tell students they need two small pieces of paper. Ask students to write a two line dialogue using the target structure. They can take something from the course book if they like, or invent it themselves. They must write one part of the dialogue on one bit of paper and the other part of the dialogue on the other. Circulate and check a few to make sure that they are correct. Collect all the papers and redistribute them. Ss must find the other half of their dialogue. You can do this with longer sentences too.
GOOD FOR: almost any grammar (for dialogues, this in fact is more about coherence), longer structures like conditionals for sentences

What we did today
Ask students to work in groups of three. They must write a summary of the grammar that they have learnt for a student who is absent. They can include examples from the book or the teacher, or their own. If the students are a very low level, they could do this in their own language.
GOOD FOR: any grammar point – in fact anything at all that arose in the particular class!
Write a few general knowledge questions including the grammar. You could make all the questions based on the same theme (history, music etc) or a mixture. Divide the class into teams and give them the quiz, either on a piece of paper or written on the board. Students then make similar quizzes for each other.
GOOD FOR: passive voice, comparative and superlative, past tense, there is/are, question forms
Find someone who
Divide the class into As and Bs. Ask all the Bs to write down a true sentence about themselves using the target grammar (you could provide a sentence stem for them to complete – see example below). Collect all of these. Mix them up and distribute them to the As. Review how to make a question using the grammar. Tell the As they must find the B who wrote the sentence and sit down next to them. This is particularly good for large classes with screwed down furniture.
B writes: After class I am going to go to the cinema.
A goes around the class asking: What are you going to do after class?
GOOD FOR: question forms, different tenses

DIY Jumbled sentence
Ask students to choose a nice long sentence from one of their grammar exercises in the coursebook or workbook. Tell them to take a piece of paper and rip it up into as many pieces as there are words in the sentence. They then write one word on each piece of paper. Tell them to mix up the pieces of paper on their desk. They then move over one place so that they are sitting in another student’s chair in front of a new jumbled sentence. Tell them they have a time limit (30 seconds or 1 minute) to put the pieces of paper in the correct order and make the sentence. When they finish, they can check with the student who made the sentence if they are correct.
Variation: To make it extra difficult, ask each student when making the sentence to add another piece of paper with an extra word that doesn’t fit into the sentence. The other student has to reorder the sentence and spot the “intruder” word.
GOOD FOR: structures with several elements (e.g. going to, perfect continuous tenses, conditionals), questions and negatives, adjective and adverb placement in sentences.

It’s your turn
Choose 3 students (volunteers) to sit at the front of the class. The rest of the students think of questions to ask the three (these can be based on the theme of the lesson). One student asks a question to the 3 volunteers. The first volunteer starts the answer to the question by saying on word. Then the second volunteer adds the next word, the third the next and then back to the first volunteer to add the next word in the sentence/answer. This continues until they finish the sentence. The teacher (or another student) can record the answer to look at later. Note: It is important that the volunteers only say one word per turn. At low levels they may wish to help each other, at higher levels the fun is when you make the next volunteer add more (i.e. by using link words like and, but, however etc).
GOOD FOR: word order, linking devices, verb agreements.

All the words
Ask the students to write down three English words (these can be their favourite words, words they recently learnt, words they think are useful, words from today’s lesson etc). Now ask the students to put their pens down and to stand up. They should then walk around the room (if this is not possible ask them to work in small seated groups) and exchange their words. They must not say any other words than their three + the ones they hear from other students (i.e. The first person they speak to tells them three words, they now have 6. The second person tells them 6 they now have12 etc). After a few minutes ask the students to sit down and write down all the words they have ‘collected’. On the board add a few ‘grammatical’ words such as and, the, a, he, she, have, has, do, does, am, are, is, etc. Tell the students they must now write as many sentences as they can but only using the words they have written down + the words on the board.
GOOD FOR: word order and sentence structure. Can be adapted to be good for any area of grammar by focussing the choice of words in the initial stage.

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