Teaching Grammar: Assuming Another Identity To Practice Forms

groucho-glasses1.jpgThis recyclable activity can be used with a variety of levels to practice some grammatical form or forms in a fun way. I’ll use the example of “going to” for future intentions or plans here, but keep in mind that it can be adapted for any number of structures – used to, revision of several past tenses, conditionals…take your pick. This works best with eight students and is ideal with an even number, but is possible with four or more.

I start by asking students to write three sentences in their notebooks about their future plans – in this case I specify that they should use “going to” and I give an example or two. I then give them an index card or strip of paper on which they should write their name; they can’t write their three sentences on this paper. I give them a minute or two to memorize their three sentences, circulating to check for accuracy and help with vocabulary if necessary.

When we are ready, everyone stands up with their name cards; they form two lines, facing a partner. They can now tell their partner their future plans (their three sentences). This should take less than two minutes. When they are done, I ask them to exchange name cards; this is their new identity. Can they remember the future plans that go with their new identity (the other person’s sentences)? No? Okay, they can check one more time – but limit them to one minute. No writing.

Next, the students in one line move over one partner. They now say “I’m (name on the card) and I’m going to…” and, that’s right, they have to remember the sentences of this new partner, because when they finish speaking, they have to swich cards/identities again and retell the sentences to the next partner. This can be a lot to remember and I usually let my students know that if they forget the sentences, that’s fine…but they should make something up.

The point is to practice the form without dwelling on it (students are trying harder to remember the sentences than they are thinking about the grammar rules), so it really doesn’t matter if they haven’t remembered the actual plans correctly. If you have creative students, hopefully they will come up with funny substitutes for the ones they’ve forgotten. When the time is up (you decide when) you can check with a few students to see if the plans were passed on correctly.