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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 2; Issue 6; November 2000

An Old Exercise

Grammar Auction

Pick 12 to 16 typically and importantly flawed sentences from your students' written work.
Turn half of them into good English and produce an "auction sheet" where the corrected sentences are mixed in randomly with the uncorrected ones.

Pair the students in your class and give each pair an "auction sheet"
Explain that you will shortly be auctioning the sentences and that each pair
will have 10,000 roubles they can spent in the auction. They are to work together and decide how much money they dare to wager on each sentence. They should lay no money on sentences they are sure are wrong, plenty money on good sentences and some money on sentences they are not sure about. Give them 6-7 minutes for this.

Now go into auctioneer/huckster mode and start auctioning off the sentences, showing as much enthusiasm for the flawed as for the perfect sentences:

" I have a beautiful sentence on offer here, a real jewel of a sentence:
' I am here since Friday' , a fantastic sentence, short and meaningful.
What am I bid? What am I bid?
The lady in red there: 500 roubles, 500 roubles…. Any advance on 500, …..gentleman at the back there with the blue shirt….1000, 1000, I am bid 1000 roubles and cheap at the price… any more bids?
Going … going….. lady in the middle 1200 roubles…

Going…..going…1300 from the gentleman in the blue shirt

Going, going, Gone!
( hammer falls)

' I am here since Friday' has been brought by the gentleman in the blue shirt for 1300 roubles and it is grammatically wrong . It should be ' I've been here since Friday'.

Now the next item I have here is a long , tasty, excellent sentence……..

Auction each sentence and keep the pace brisk and unteacheriffic.

When the auction is concluded go back and deal with any language points left hanging.
Ask the students to look over their homework from which the sentences were taken.

This exercise was first published in Grammar Games, Rinvolucri, CUP in the mid- eighties and became very popular in UK EFLK schools. It almost achieved the same classical status as exercises like Find some one who….( introduced into EFL by Gertrude Moskowitz in Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Classroom that came out in 1978.)

Why should an exercise that was useful in the mid 80's not be useful today? Fashion is an ass.

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