Grammar may be dreaded by some students if they are only asked to fill grammar books. On the other hand, grammar activities encourage learners to speak and write in complete sentences without overtly focusing on grammar. In my paper, there are activities based on conjunctions, adjectives and the past tense, which encourage students to practice grammar in a fun way. While teachers need to know what the focus of the activities is, students should only concentrate on using the right word to communicate and express themselves. For elementary learners, these activities could be modified in various ways so that the classroom becomes a more enabling place. For instance, students could be allowed to use their L1, or write before they speak. Thus, we can take some simple steps to make them confident users of English.
Activity 1: Find the Other Part
Time: 15 minutes
Materials required: Cue cards (handout 1.1)
Begin the class by distributing cue cards which have only part of a sentence. Make sure that each student has one part of the sentence. This is a pair activity so you may have to join in if there are odd number of students in the class.
Divide the class into two groups. Ask one group of students to move around and read out the phrase on their card. The group that is sitting has to identify their partner by selecting the phrase that completes the sentence on their card. They could ask their peers to repeat the part of sentence written on the card to check whether they got the right pair.
Once the pairs have been made, ask one member to read aloud the completed sentence.
Ask students how they identified their partners, highlighting the use of conjunctions.
You could repeat the exercise again. Swap the groups this time making sure that the group that was sitting now moves around to find the missing part of the sentence written on their cue card.
Write all the conjunctions on the board. Ask the students to make sentences using these conjunctions. In case of elementary learners, ask them to write down the sentences before reading them out in class.
Activity 2: Descriptions
Time: 10 minutes
Materials required: Picture cards and adjective cards
Make two sets of materials—one with pictures pasted on a hard board and another with a list of adjectives.
Divide students into two equal groups. Distribute the picture cards in one group and the adjective cards in the other.
Explain to the students that they have a set of cards with pictures and adjectives. They have to pair the pictures with the adjectives that best match them. Give them some time to move around asking each other what adjective/picture they have.
With a more advanced group of learners, you could ask the students to describe their pictures instead of showing them. Encourage the students to use English and to use their L1 only if required. They could take your help in substituting the L1 word, or make a note of the word for later reference. Make sure that you have a variety of pictures of the outdoors, indoors, activities, people or festivals, etc., for the students to work with.
Activity 3: Oh Where?
Time: 30 Minutes
Materials required: Handout
Before the students come into the classroom, place various objects around the room. Place them in visible positions that students can describe using prepositions, such as under the desk, on the wall, behind the table, etc.
Divide the students into pairs and give them handout 3.1 (given at the end). Ask them to describe where each object is kept. Make this a timed activity to make it more exciting.
To make this activity more challenging, you could club it with activity 2. For instance, students could describe the object using adjectives, before giving its location; or you could put similar objects together to make it interesting. Example: The red box is on the table while the black one is behind the door.
Activity 4: Memories (or Dreams)
Time: 20-40 minutes
Skills: Speaking, Writing
Materials required: Picture cards
Select some pictures according to themes that you think might appeal to your students. For instance, childhood, outdoors, vacations, toys, etc. Make sure you have an equal number of pictures for each theme.
Mix up the pictures. Ask the students to pick one picture each and hold it up for the entire class to see. Ask them to make pairs/groups (depending on how many pictures you have—two each for many themes or many pictures for a few themes) according to the picture they have selected. For instance, all those with photos showing a vacation make one pair/group.
Encourage the students to share the reasons for their choice of picture and what memories/feelings it evoked in them. You could ask them to refer to the previous activity where they had used adjectives.
The focus of this activity is on using the past tense and adjectives to talk about experiences. However, there is enough flexibility to allow students to share their dreams/future plans using the present continuous or future time. For instance, a student may pick up a picture of the beach to share his/her wish to visit rather than talk about her experience.
More reticent students could be encouraged to talk when their peers ask questions. Therefore make sure that there is a dialogue between where students share their experiences by talking and asking questions to elicit information such as: when did you go?; what was the highlight of your trip?; what do you remember most about the place; rather than a monologue.
The activity could take between 15-25 minutes of conversation or more, depending on the group size. After the speaking activity, students could be given a short paragraph or an email to write. Again this would depend on the level of the learners and it could either be an in-class activity or assigned as a home task.
Cut out the columns along the lines and distribute them in class. You could make more cards and increase or decrease the level of difficulty according to the language proficiency of the students.
Nupur Samuel is interested in assessment, especially assessment of English language skills, teacher training and English language teaching. She teaches English language at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She also holds workshops for teachers and students and develops teaching-learning materials and tests.