Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Grammar Fitness

Here's a classroom activity that I like to use because it contains all the elements of English - reading, writing, listening, speaking and spelling. Let me begin by saying that this activity is really called "Dictation Race". However, students spend so much energy running up to the board and back to their partners that I have taken to calling it "Grammar Fitness". I have used this with 9-14 year olds and also with ages up to 30+. All ages participate and enjoy the activity immensely.  It works well with classes up to about 20. Above that, unless you have a huge classroom, it becomes unmanageable. Here's how it works.

1. Divide your class into pairs and move all desks (if you can) to the sides of the room so there is 'running room' in the middle.

2. Place a short reading exercise on the board. Here is one I use:
On Sunday, Frank gets up at 10:00 o’clock. Then he reads his newspaper in the kitchen. He has breakfast at 11.30 and then he telephones his mother in Canada.

In the afternoon, at 1.00, Frank plays tennis with his sister and after that, they eat dinner in a restaurant. At 6.00, Frank swims for one hour and then he goes by bike to his brother’s house. They talk and listen to music.

Frank watches television in the evening and drinks a glass of red wine. He goes to bed at 11.30.

3. One student from each pair is the designated reader while the other is designated writer. I give each pair one sheet of lined paper.

4. I like to give each pair a team name. It helps to increase competitiveness.

5. The designated reader goes up to the board, reads part of the script and then goes back and tells his/her partner what s/he read. The reader must be as accurate as possible, ensuring s/he remembers capitals, punctuation, new paragraphs, and single/plural agreements.

6. The reader can go up to the board as many times as needed until s/he has dictated the full script to his/her partner. (Students will often start back and forget what the read, adding to the fun).

7. The activity is supposed to be a race but I don't bother too much with the time. I declare the winner as the team with the fewest mistakes. However, I do set a time limit. The activity can take up to half an hour depending on the comprehension level of your class so be sure to allow the time.

8. The reader is not allowed to shout from the board, nor use the native language – only English.

If you have an odd number of students, you can either assign the odd one to a team as 'assistant writer (one of the weaker teams) or designate the student as language monitor…listening to ensure the native language is not used.

Everyone has a good time with this activity. To ensure each student has both an opportunity to read and speak and to listen and write, I do the same activity the following lesson, keeping the same teams but changing who runs and who writes.

For more sample scripts, Email me!

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