Sunday, March 25, 2007

Teaching grammar - YIKKKES!!!!

One of the problem areas I face is how to teach relative clauses. For those of you not in the EFL/ESL these are parts of a sentence which add information to the main clause, e.g. The man who was standing at the corner. Often the explanations given in school books are so technical that they confuse rather than enlighten. Here is a typical example;

"Non-defining relative clauses provide interesting additional information which is not essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence. Correct punctuation is essential in non-defining relative clauses. If the non-defining relative clause occurs in the middle of a sentence, a comma is put before the relative pronoun and at the end of the clause. If the non-defining relative clause occurs at the end of a sentence, a comma is put before the relative pronoun."

Frankly, I might as well be teaching the Theory of Relativity to my students in Latin for all the sense it makes to them. The vast majority do not understand such cumbersome explanations and to tell you the truth I had to sit down for hours the first time I taught this in order to get the ideas straight in my head.

So here is a way to help students practice without such obtuse descriptions.

Lesson Plan

1 Pin a picture on the board, or alternatively choose one from Flickr

2 Describe it in a simple sentence. For example;

The people went to the party

Photo by Nenja

3 Now ask students how we can make the sentence longer.

e.g. add adjectives, adverbs, relative clauses

or get them to give you practical examples.

The bright young couple went quickly to the party which was in the centre.

(This could be a good time to go through the major points of relative clauses giving examples rather than explanation.)

4 Ask students that the have five minutes to write down the longest sentence possible. If you have students whose grammar is weak get them to do this in pairs or groups. The person/pair/group that writes the longest sentence is the winner.

The only rule is that the sentence has to be grammatically correct. Any mistake will be deducted from the final word tally.

The final answer should, hopefully look something like this;

The bright couple who had just graduated from university in London went as quickly as they could to their friend's birthday party which was in an tired, old house near the train station in the centre of the big industrial city that they called home at that period in their lives.


anna_filatova said...

Hey Craig,

Wow! I just loved your fun way of teaching Grammar! Could you provide more tips and tricks on teaching Grammar? I am your fan already.

Wishing you ever increasing inspiration and enthusiam in teaching,

teacher dude said...

Hi Anna,

Thank you very much for the compliments. I'm glad you liked the idea. If you click on "teaching ideas" below you'll find some ideas on teaching tenses and the like.

Unfortunately, the blog is a bit of a mish mash and so I don't have a particular section just for grammar.

Marjorie Turner said...

Creating a solid foundation in grammar won't assist you in making your personal sentences properly but probably allow it to be simpler to enhance your communication abilities both in spoken and written. Marjorie working in an online editing and proofreading company.