Thursday, August 2, 2012
By Tamara Jones
EAL Instructor, British School of Brussels
Maybe we all have the same problem: that one grammar point that has us pulling out our hair when it comes time to plan the lesson. For me, it’s the comparative and superlative. The actual teaching of it is not the difficult part, really. They are not hard concepts to understand and many other languages have similar structures. Students get them pretty quickly; they just need practice to be able to use the comparative and superlative effortlessly, lots and lots of practice. That’s where my hair pulling comes in.
Most grammar books provide gap fills and conversation and writing prompts. They are fine. But, let’s face it, comparing a student’s home country with the target language country again and again can get stale. So can describing the children in a family or even the students in the class. This problem is compounded by the fact that comparing and contrasting are key skills, and students encounter them repeatedly as they progress through grammar levels. So, they get to compare the weather in their country with the weather where they are studying multiple times. This repetition led me to search out some more interesting practice activities that help reinforce the comparative and superlative. Here are four of my favorites.
Which Animal Runs Faster?
Shenanigames: Grammar-Focused Interactive ESL/EFL Activities and Games, by James Kealey and Donna Inness (Prolingua) contains some great practice activities, one of which is perfect for practicing both comparative forms of adjectives and adverbs. This photocopiable resource has instructions for how to play the game, but I have adapted it to use in my classes a little differently. The book provides a sheet of little cards (which I don’t bother cutting out) each with a comparison. For example, which animal runs faster, a cheetah or an antelope? I put students into pairs and, after I read out the comparison, students have 1 minute (or more or less) to write a sentence, such as ‘A cheetah is faster than an antelope’. The groups all read their sentences and then I read the answer. Pairs get 1 point for every right answer, meaning the sentence has to be both factually accurate and grammatically correct. Many of the comparisons are really challenging, which adds to the excitement level. Admittedly, some of the comparisons are a bit dated, so I have also added some of my own, like which car is more expensive, the Bugatti Veyron or the Ferrari Enzo? Google it to find out!
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