Simon Mumford, Turkey
Simon Mumford teaches at the University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey. He enjoys designing language learning activities and edits the Practical Teaching Ideas column in IATEFL Voices. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last word loses
Horse race dictation
Noughts and crosses sentence
Accept or reject
Start and finish
Two way sentences
Translate the sentence
Front and back
Sentence level activities present a wide range of opportunities for play. They mainly consist of variations on two well-known themes, putting jumbled words in order to make a sentence, and revealing sentences one word at a time. Students focus on grammatical structure while playing, and activate their knowledge of English while finding the sentences. They will appeal especially to those who enjoy using logic, seeing patterns and putting things in order.
|While (out) shopping (yesterday) with (my) mother, we (suddenly) noticed (that) our (little) John (had) disappeared, (then) later the police (were) called, (and) they (had) found him!
Write the above sentence on the board. Put the students in groups of four. In turn, each says one word from the sentence round the group until the sentence is finished. The aim of the game is to avoid being the one to say the last word (him), the person who does is out of the next round. All words must be used except words in brackets, which are optional, so students can use strategy to try to avoid being left with the last word. After three rounds, one player will emerge the winner.
You could discuss how the words in brackets change the meaning of the sentence, for example: active-passive (Did the police phone or did someone phone them?) / Past-past perfect (changes the sequence of events) / adding that makes it more formal / adding out and little makes it more colloquial, but adding my makes it less / adding suddenly makes it more dramatic.
Write the words from a sentence in random order on the left hand side of the board:
Tell the students to imagine that the words are horses, which are going to race to the other side of the board. The winner will be the first word in the sentence, the second to finish will be the second word and so on. Ask them to choose a word that they think will be the winner, write it down and compare in groups. If necessary pre-teach words connected with the race, e.g. following, ahead, behind, in the lead, up the field, at the back. Read the commentary, and let the students make notes and write the sentence.
They're off! I has made a strong start, with finally close behind, then home and got following. When is at the back, eleven and o'clock are just ahead. Was and it are in the middle of the field and it has just passed was. Both are ahead of eleven and o'clock. When is coming up fast, passing eleven and o'clock. Look at When go, flying up the field! When has passed finally and is now passing I, and moves into the lead! They're coming to the finish line, what an incredible finish! It's When first, I second, finally third, got beats home to finish fourth, with poor o'clock coming last.
Solution: When I finally got home it was eleven o'clock.
Without showing the students, choose a nine word sentence and write it in a noughts and crosses (3x3) grid.
On the board, draw the empty grid and write the words at random.
paid having eaten dinner painter bill famous the his
Divide the class into two teams, 'noughts' and 'crosses'. Tell the students that the words make a sentence when each is put in the correct square. Each team takes it in turn to choose a word, which is put into the appropriate box with that team's symbol, as in the example below:
The first team to get a line of three can guess the sentence and win. Note: students have to choose the word they think goes in a particular square, so Noughts should say bill next turn to block the line. They are not allowed to say, for example, bottom right.
Take two sentences the same length, for example:
A. The man who lives next door is amazing.
B. We used to go fishing every summer holiday.
Put a line of blanks on the board for each. Do not show any of the words at this point.
A. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ ______ ____ ____
B. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ ______ ____ ____
Put classes into two teams, A and B. At each turn, call out one word from the two sentences at random and ask the team whose turn it is whether they accept or reject the word. If they accept a word, then it is written in its place, regardless of which team's sentence it belongs to. If they accept a word belonging to the other team's sentence, they help the other team, so they need to think carefully about each word. Each team is only allowed to reject three words, which go back into the game to be used again later. The winning team is the one to finish their sentence first.
These jumbled sentences begin and end with the same word. Ask students to identify which it is for each sentence. Check the answers and then let them try to solve the sentences. At the end you could discuss how a word can have different functions, according to its position in a sentence.
- is to go near it dangerous
- minute a am going I in
- already for information has it been your paid
- why so you do didn't?
- as his clever as he is father?
- you they what do know?
- are people many not there
Solutions: 1. It is dangerous to go near it. (Dummy subject-object pronoun) 2. In a minute I am going in. (preposition-adverb) 3. For your information it has already been paid for. (preposition-adverb) 4. So, why didn't you do so? (discourse marker-substitute). 5. Is he as clever as his father is? (both main verbs) 6.Do you know what they do? (auxiliary-main verb) 7. There are not many people there. (existential there- pronoun showing location)
Write two sentences that paraphrase each other, take out about half the words, and put them on the board, e.g.
My _____ told _____ to _____ home early.
'You ________ not ______ home ________,' said ______ mother.
Tell the students the sentences mean the same thing and ask them to work out the missing words. They can find all the clues they need in the sentences.
Solution: By looking at the second sentence it can be seen that in the first sentence the second word is mother. My mother told is followed by me (understood from you in the second sentence- the mother is addressing the person reporting in the first sentence). Come /go is the most logical sixth word. The second sentence has the word not, so find the opposite of early - not come home late is the logical deduction. My mother is telling me, i.e. giving an order, so we understand the second word, second sentence is must. (My mother told me to come home early. / 'You must not come home late,' said my mother.)
Take a strip of paper or card and divide it into sixteen squares, 2x8 as below. Write two sentences, one word in each square. Note the sentence on the top is upside down and right to left. Use a different colour for each, as in the example. Now cut along the vertical lines to make eight pieces and fold each piece into an upside down 'V' shape so the words are facing away from each other when the pieces stand up. Ask students to sit in pairs opposite each other and give them each a set of eight pieces of paper, folded, and mixed up. One student has all the black words facing him, and the other, all the white. They cannot look at the other's sentence or tell each other what their words are. When the pieces are arranged in the right order, both sentences will be correct, so the students' task is to negotiate the order. They have to do this in English, of course: Shall we move this piece here? I think this one goes here, then this one. I don't think that's right. Let's put this one here.
Write a sentence on the board, but instead of writing the words as normal, use other words to represent the way the sentence sounds in informal spoken English, with elision of sounds and reduced syllables, for example:
Histories bet earth a nurse
Ask students to 'translate' it into conventional English. Repeat the sentence several times, slowly at first, then speeding up until you are saying it naturally. Encourage students to guess what the actual sentence is after each repetition. If they find it difficult, tell them to close their eyes and concentrate on the sounds. The answer is: His story's better than hers. Other examples:
Juicy an iceman honour by cup their (Do you see a nice man on a bike up there?)
I her chewer common near (I heard you were coming here.)
Eye knee dim foot raining (I need him for training.)
I nose summon hook an key pit forum (I know someone who can keep it for him.)
Atoll due shears abbey told (I told you she is a bit old.)
Choose an eight word sentence e.g. If I had some money I would fly.
Put the words on four cards, as follows: two consecutive words on each, one on each side of the card; Card 1: If I, Card 2: had some, Card 3: money I, Card 4: would fly.
Give each pair of students a set of cards spread out on the table at random. Students take it in turns to turns cards over, leaving the new word showing, so only four words from the sentence are visible at any time. The first person to guess the sentence wins; alternatively they can work out the sentence together. Ask students to make their own cards for other students to use.
Think of a ten word sentence, e.g.
I have already seen that film several times this year.
Replace six of the words with other words chosen at random, and write it on the board:
I egg went seen my unless several cough special year.
Tell the students their task is to identify the six words that are wrong. Every time they nominate a nonsense word, replace it with the correct one. If the class finds all six, they win. However, if they choose one of the correct words, the teacher wins. Leave enough key words so they can get an idea of the structure, e.g. seen and year are important words in this example. Make it more challenging by using nonsense words that are plausible.
Sentences games can be used to revise and reinforce language learnt and will especially appeal to learners who like using their knowledge of language to predict and order words in sentences. Games add motivation and can exploit different formats, using competition or cooperation in pair, group, team or whole class activities. The level of difficulty can be adjusted by the length and complexity of sentences, and most of the games can be done with just a board and a few minutes preparation, making them a very flexible resource.
Please check the Secondary Teaching course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.