Exercises from Companion to the Cambridge Grammar of English
Chaz Pugliese, France
Chaz Pugliese is a teacher and teacher trainer associated with Pilgrims, UK, Chaz works out of Paris, France. Apart from MI, Chaz is interested in task design, creativity and motivation, and spoken grammar. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, and by the way...
No, but guess what?
I was telling her...
Today I feel kinda...
You remind me of...
The aim of exercise 1and 2 is to get the students to work on discourse markers. Discourse markers are useful when the speaker wants to signal a temporary deviation from the main topic. (Section 106 in the Cambridge Grammar of English).
Level: Low intermediate and onwards
- Ask the students to work in pairs. Tell the 1's to start a conversation about a topic of their choice. Ask the 2's to interrupt the 1's with a gentle clap.
- When the 2's clap, the 1's introduce a new subject like so: << By the way... that's a nice blouse >>. The 2's react by saying something like "Oh thank you. I bought it many years ago". The 1's then go back to their original subject <
- Let this run for a few minutes, then invite the pairs to swap roles.
The aim of the exercise is to get the students to work on discourse markers. Discourse markers are useful when the speaker wants to signal a temporary deviation from the main topic. (Section 106 in the Cambridge Grammar of English).
Level : elementary and onwards
- Pair your students off and assign them numbers.
- Invite all the 1's to keep asking the 2's questions, relentlessly. Invite the 2's to answer NO forcefully, no matter what the question is.
- Now ask them to change roles: this time it is the 2's who ask the questions and the 1's answer YES enthusiastically.
- Next the 1's ask the 2's and the 2's reply No, but, guess what? E.g. Are you good at playing golf ? No, but guess what? I just had my first lesson.
- Finally ask the students to swap over. The 2's now ask the questions and the 1's reply 'Yes, … as well. E.g. are you good at golf? Yes, and I'm good at tennis as well.
As highlighted in section 501c, in spoken conversation, the past progressive, amongst other purposes, is often used to recap or summarize what was said. This is the aim of exercise 3 below.
Level: elementary and onwards
- Have the students stand and mingle. Put some party music on and tell your students that when you clap they have to strike a conversation with their nearest neighbor.
- Now explain that when you clap next you want new pairs to form. New partners introduce themselves and report on the conversation they've been having like so: 'I was just telling him/her…' or 'we were talking about… what were you talking about?'
'In many informal contexts, speakers prefer to convey information which is softened in some ways' (p. 202). Vague language is an important feature that softens the speakers' expressions, helps them to avoid sounding assertive, or authoritative. (Section 103). Exercises 4 and 5 aim to raise the students' awareness of the role of vague language, as long as provide them with opportunities for practice.
Level: Elementary and onwards
- Hand out some stickers to your students. Write up on the board 'today I feel kind of ... because ...'. Draw their attention to the schwa.
- Ask them to write the same sentence on their stickers and to fill the gaps.
- When they're done, invite them to pin the stickers on their back.
- Next ask them to stand and mingle, read each other's sticker and use a blank one to reply to one of their choice. So for example, if Laure wrote: 'Today I feel kind of sad because my cat has disappeared'. Some may wish to cheer her up and reply 'Sorry to hear that'. (In one of my classes, one student wrote: It's just a cat'. It took the group a good 15 minutes to diffuse the tension this rather clumsy and cynical remark had triggered.)
Level: Elementary and onwards
- Write the following on the board: a bit, a tad, slightly, not quite, pretty, a little. Ask your students when they would use this language, and give a few examples yourself.
- Have the students stand in a circle
- Throw a soft ball to one of them and say: ' Bernard, you remind me of my brother, Steve. You two wear similar glasses, only he's a bit taller, I think'
- It's now Bernard's turn to toss the ball to someone else in the circle. Like so: 'Anna, you remind me of... You two... only she's slightly more/less...'
Variation: with false beginners, ask them to use their L1 for any word they they don't know. You or someone else from the group then supplies the L2 equivalent.
In section 492, Mc Carthy and Carter say: « echo questions repeat part of the previous speaker's utterance, usually because some part of it has not been fully understood » (p.726) Normally students are taught to check meaning using questions such as 'Could you repeat (that) please?' or 'I didn't catch that', etc. While there is nothing wrong with these, their vagueness implies an additional turn because it is not clear from the questions asked which piece of information is missing. Echo questions are useful because they go straight to the problem. A question like Sorry the WHAT? leaves very few doubts as to what item wasn't clear. Exercise 6 below helps the students be aware of this technique.
Level: Elementary and onwards
- Explain to your students that you will tell them a story and that you will speak a little faster than usual Tell them that when you're done, you will choose someone to repeat the story to the class.
- Write up on the board: Sorry WHAT/WHERE/WHO/WHEN? Sorry the What? Like a WHAT? Make sure they get the intonation right (there should be a slight rise at the end), and then demonstrate it with a student. Tell your students that each time they don't understand, they may interrupt you and ask for clarifications using the echo questions.
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