Category Archives: A word on Grammar

Hey! Hold On! A Simple Activity to Fix Slipping to the Present Tense when Talking about the Past

Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives.  It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is  that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.

You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.

This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo).  Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!

Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.

This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.

  • In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
  • At this point, student A will need to start again.
  • Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
  • Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂  This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
  • Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
  • When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
  • After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.

Ready? Let’s start!

Hey! Hold On!

Introducing Reported Speech Statements,Questions and Orders in a Different Way

This week’s post was not supposed to be a grammar post, it just so happened to turn out like that. Come to think of it, I have been teaching lots of grammar lately so I shouldn’t be surprised if my brain is filled with ideas for grammar teaching.

If I want my classes to be different from the ones I had when I was studying English at school (teacher-centred and book-centred), I cannot introduce all those digital tools I’m so keen on using and then go and spoil it all by asking students to read straight from a photocopy when it comes to grammar. I’m not saying it’s the wrong way to go about it, I’m just saying it’s not the way I teach or the way I’d like to be taught.

Admittedly, grammar is grammar, but can we make it a bit more appealing to our students?

Reported speech is probably one of my favourite grammar points and this is how I have introduced reported speech statements, questions and orders in my classes this week.


INTRODUCING STATEMENTS.

To introduce statements I often use quotes from famous people. The presentation you’ll see below is one I often use as my students, for the most part, are adults. But if you’re teaching teenagers, you can easily change the people in the slides and use celebrities they can relate to.

So the idea is to play the presentation, read the quote and then ask: “What did Marilyn say?” Guide students through the changes in reported speech and then show the second slide where the reported sentence is displayed.


INTRODUCING QUESTIONS.

I’ve been introducing reported speech questions in this way all my teaching career. The reason? Students collaborate from minute one and this is something I treasure.

I tell the students my son Daniel is 4 years old and he’s always asking questions. With all the drama I can muster I tell them that yesterday I got home really tired and wanted to rest a bit but my son Daniel had other plans for me and could not stop asking questions.

I draw on the board a boy and I call him Daniel and a woman and I call her Cristina- my name. I draw a big bubble next to Daniel and I ask students to guess what sort of questions he might have asked me. As they provide the questions I write them inside the speech bubble making sure there is a variety of wh- and yes/no questions and a variety of tenses. Once the questions have been written, I go on telling them that when my husband got home I was lying on the sofa with an ice pack on my forehead and looking dead tired  -remember drama is important- and when he enquired why I was so tired I told him all about my day and how I couldn’t rest because Daniel had asked all those questions.

  • He asked me why I was smiling
  • He wanted to know if he could watch cartoons.

INTRODUCING REQUESTS AND ORDERS.

To introduce request and orders I write inside a circle on the board

First day instructions

and ask students to try to remember some of the instructions I gave them on the very first day in class.  Encourage them to tell you the exact words I used. They will probably say:

  • Use English
  • Put your mobiles on silent mode
  • Don’t be late.
  • Change partners regularly.
  • Don’t forget to bring your workbook

Write them on the board and choose a student who couldn’t attend that first day.

Tell students they now need to inform this student of the instructions I gave this very first day.

  • The teacher told us to use English in class
  • Cristina told us not to forget to bring our workbook

Hope it’s helpful! You might also be interested in this other post

Some nice activities to practise Reported Speech

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Join us!

Some Activities to Teach Gerunds and Infinitives

I always claim that English grammar is easy, especially when compared to the Spanish or French grammar, but it gets a bit messy when it comes to verbs followed by infinitive or gerund.

The easy thing to say is that

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive (promise to go)
  •  some verbs are followed by gerund (can’t stand ironing).

But then we find that,

  • some other verbs are followed by infinitive or gerund with no change of meaning (start to study/start studying)
  • while some others are followed by infinitive and gerund with a change of meaning (stop to smoke/stop smoking)

And to add insult to injury,

  • some verbs are followed by infinitive with to (offer to help)
  • some others by infinitive without to ( make me study)
  • some verbs are followed by gerund, but if there is an object pronoun in between the verb and the gerund, then the gerund becomes infinitive (recommended reading / recommended her to read) …

Amazing, isn’t it?

Well, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s get down to some serious studying.


  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time: 60 minutes

THE GRAMMAR.

Download the document here


      THE PRACTICE:

Exercise 1. The Quiz


 


Exercise 2: The Rewriting Exercise


 


3.  Speaking and/or Writing: Storytelling Competition


  • Go to wheeldecide.com. Ask students to tell you verbs followed by gerund first, and then verbs followed by the “to” infinitive. Feed the wheel with these verbs.
  • Explain that in this activity they will need to seat in a circle in groups of 4.
  • Explain that you will write on the board the beginning of a story and then, in their groups, they will need to continue it.
  • Write on the board the beginning of a story. You can use this Short Story Generator.
  • Spin the wheel.
  • To make sure students will use the verb in the correct way, ask them to tell you whether the verb displayed in the wheel is followed by infinitive or gerund.
  • The oldest person in the group will start telling the story using the target verb in the wheel.
  • Give the student one minute to continue the story and then spin the wheel again for the next student.
  • If a student cannot come up with an idea to continue the story, he’s eliminated.
  • Continue until there is only one student left. This student will be the winner if he manages to give the story in his group a suitable ending.

Here’s the wheel I have used with my students.

Join us on Facebook

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.

Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.

So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and  say they do, you elicit some examples and  give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.

Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.

This is how I suggest you do this quiz

  1. Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
  2. Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
  3. For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
  4. Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
  5. Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
  6. Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Follow us

 

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

Ready to start the quiz? Here we go! Which of these sentences is correct?

I am interested in participate in a seminar

I am interested in participating in a seminar

Which of these sentences is correct? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises

There are a lot of meals that they are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals that are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals they are easy to cook

Another very frequent mistake. Which is correct?

From my point of view is very difficult to be the boss.

From my point of view, it is very difficult to be the boss.

Let’s try spelling now! Which is correct?

possible

posible

accommodationaccomodation
helpfulhelpfull

Ready for the next grammar mistake? Which is correct?

I don’t mind sharing it with other family

I don’t mind sharing it with another family

Think hard! Which is correct? Choose and then read the grammar and do the exercises

I would like to know how much does it cost

I would like to know how much it costs

Let’s see vocabulary now. Which is correct?

My mother is a great cook

My mother is a great cooker

Concentrate! Which is correct?

I prefer stay in a hotel

I prefer to stay in a hotel

And now, what do you say?

I couldn’t find the information on your website

I couldn’t find the information in your website

Let’s go for spelling again. Which one is correct?

comfortable

confortable

definitelydefinetely

Which is correct?

business

bussines

What’s the plural of “life”

lifes

lives

Let’s focus on articles now. Which is correct?

I strongly believe that the fast food is not healthy

I strongly believe that fast food is not healthy

Which is correct?

The dates of the seminar are not enough clear

The dates of the seminar are not clear enough

What do you say?

I am completely agree wih you

I completely agree with you

Think hard! What do you say?

Fast food is becoming very popular

Fast food it is becoming very popular

What’s the opposite of the adjective “polite”?

Impolite

Unpolite

Which is correct?

Everybody loves you

Everybody love you

What’s the correct spelling?

greatful

grateful

And now?

successful

sucessful

Which is correct?

neccesary

necessary

What do you say? At or in?

They arrived in London yesterday

They arrived at London yesterday

Which is correct in this context? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip

At the end we decided to cancel the trip

Which preposition collocates with “depend”?

It depends on her

It depends from her

It depends of her

What do you say? Choose the correct answer and then read the grammar and do the exercises

The mountains were covered with snow

The mountains were covered by snow

www.cristinacabal.com

Blog de Cristina

Follow us on facebook and twitter @blogdecristina

You might be interested in doing these other quizzes