Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Teaching grammar to young learners is no easy task. Is there even any need for it? I'm not going to discuss the whys and wherefores right now, but if you want to read more about whether teaching grammar is necessary for young learners, read this post by Dave Dodgson on his blog Reflections of a Teacher and Learner.
In my school we use course books with young learners and in this case I am using Kids Box 2 by CUP, which is actually quite a nice course, with some fantastic songs, although it does present some vocabulary that may seem out of context (who eats water melon at a birthday party?). This is because the course is tailor-made to suit the Cambridge Young Learners' Exams (see this post of mine.) Yesterday's lesson was supposed to present learners with object pronouns - something that they don't even understand in Spanish. Of course, they use the object pronoun "me" without realising it, but I feared, actually explicitly explaining how to use these pronouns was not going to get us very far. The exercise in the book was a very flimsy affair which would be done wrong by all my students if I hadn't shown them the "grammar" beforehand. So how could I get the students using object pronouns correctly without writing lots of boring example sentences on the board and having them write their own?
This is what I did:
After showing them the forms of the object pronouns on a lovely colourful poster with children pointing to each other and speech bubbles saying things like "Give him the ball" I got out a bag of peanuts. Unsurprisingly, everyone started asking me for peanuts in Spanish, to which I replied that they would have to ask me in English if they wanted something. "Can I have a ......, please?" is the phrase they know for asking for things, but that wasn't going to help us with object pronouns, so I provided them with the not-so-polite "Give me a peanut, please!"
They all began shouting for peanuts using "Give me..." and I gave one to each child that asked for one.
I then wrote ME, YOU, HIM, HER, US, THEM on Post-It notes and stuck them along the edge of my desk, where they could be seen by everyone. I then placed several peanuts by each Post-It. I told them that if they wanted more peanuts they would have to come to the desk and ask for one, but they could only take one if they used the word on the note and used the peanut accordingly. For example, if they took a peanut from the HER pile, they would have to say "I give the peanut to her" and proceed by giving the peanut to a female friend. If they chose US, they would take two peanuts and keep one for themself and give one to a friend. And so on.
They loved the game and wanted to carry on playing when we had run out of peanuts! And they were all using object pronouns correctly! When we came to the exercise in their activity book, they had no problems.
It may have taken much longer than a simple explanation, but all the children were involved and engaged, and I think that they will remember what they learnt. I may even have created a cognitive cue with the peanuts - every time they see a monkey nut, will they be reminded of object pronouns?
You could do this with other personal pronouns, possessive adjectives and pronouns, or to practise teh possessive "s". You could use sweets or stickers or anything else instead of peanuts. One hint - if you do use peanuts, make sure nobody has an allergy to them first!