Fun With ESL Grammar: The Grammar Auction

08auction_ca06001.jpgPurpose: to revise or practice grammar structures of your choice in a way which ideally encourages communication, friendly competition and strategizing.

Instructions: Before class, generate ten sentences – most or all of which contain one grammar mistake. It’s best if these are clear cut mistakes and not ones that are kind of open to debate or multiple correct answers. Print out one copy per two students.

Be careful when giving instructions because if your students don’t get it at the beginning, the activity will lose much of its competitive component and become much more about grammar only. I like to start by making sure they know what an auction is by demonstrating “I’m selling a Van Gogh painting – who bids $1000 – $1200? Sold to the lady in black!” The idea is that each team $1500 (or some amount) and can buy sentences, not paintings.

First, they have to read the sentences and discuss – in English – if each is correct or wrong.


Version A: If it is wrong they have to correct it. They then try to buy any sentences to which they know the correct answer – maybe it was correct to start with or maybe they fixed it. They do this in the typical auction fashion with you selling the sentence (get a volunteer to write down who buys what for how much). Wait until the end to discuss correct or wrong – if a group buys an incorrect sentence, they lose that money.

Version B: Students try to buy only correct sentences. This is only good if about half of the sentences are already correct or if your students are likely to think more are correct than actually is the case. I don’t like this option as it’s easier to explain why a sentence is wrong than why it is right. But same concept – if they buy a correct sentence, they win the money. If it’s wrong, they lose it.

Version C : Students write how much they want to bet on each being correct (after they’ve had the chance to correct the sentences). There is a minimum on each and at the end, students take turns giving the correct sentent; they add up their winnings at the end. This isn’t quite as exciting because they aren’t really competing with each other but it is often much faster. Do press them to write an amount so that there is that additional competition and it is not just about grammar but about strategy too.