Thursday, April 23, 2009
Ah, articles. I love ‘em! We should all love them because they keep us in business (along with prepositions, of course).
I have lost faith in teaching articles through reading, partly because if someone is reading well and fluently, they are not actually reading the articles (or most prepositions or other non-content words).
I think that listening is the best way to learn/teach articles. I mean, listening to native speakers in movies or shows or even speeches. One activity that is very popular (and successful) is with a piece of video – a very short piece, perhaps a commercial or two.
Before class, first make/get a transcript of the video; then remove all the articles and replace them with spaces or lines or whatever. Next, put some additional spaces before some of the plural nouns or non-count nouns where no article is needed, and then a few additional spaces or lines at random throughout the text. These latter ones are the “decoys” and that’s where most of the fun is.
In class, put the students in groups and invite them to insert A, AN, or THE in the appropriate places or leave the blanks blank. Of course, you have to explain that some of the blanks are just there as decoys. If the students are in groups of three, they can assign roles: one is the writer (of the group’s decisions about answers), one is the speaker (when it is time to share answers with the rest of the class), and one is the “explainer” (who will explain the rationale behind the group’s choices).
When all the groups have finished this activity, play the video and invite the students to check the choices they made for the blanks in the text against what they hear on the video. Then they can consult again. Finally, as a plenary activity, the class can go over the text and get the right answers.
You can also switch the order and play the video first and then have the students try to decide where the articles should go in the transcript.
Also, sometimes it is good to give the same text a week or so later, as a surprise follow-up, just to see if the knowledge “stuck”.
(Originally published by Anthea Tillyer as part of a TESL-L discussion.)