An introduction to Fun with grammar
Fun with grammar is a collection of downloadable and photocopiable teacher resources in the form of worksheets, cards or board games, together with teacher’s notes on how to carry out the activities. Each activity is designed to practise a grammar point – for example, the present perfect or comparative adjectives – in an engaging and fun way. They are mostly oral activities but may also involve some writing.
Why is fun important?
Grammar activities in books can sometimes involve a series of decontextualized, unrelated sentences with activities such as gap-fill, multiple choice or selecting the correct form. These activities help students to improve accuracy through analyzing grammar and selecting correct forms but don’t usually bring a lot of fun to the classroom. The Fun with grammar activities work in a different but complementary way. The activities are contextualized and provide practice through repetition: absorption rather than analysis. They also appeal to the affective rather than the intellectual side of language learning, aiming to engage students’ emotions in the learning process as well as their brains. The activities make use of affect in different light-hearted ways: through personalization, through imagination and through games or game-like activities. They involve activities such as discussion and role-play, visualization, questionnaires or card and board games. I believe that affect is vital in language learning, giving emotional colour to an exercise, which is a valuable memory aid: if you have invested something of yourself while learning, you are more likely to remember it.
How and when to use the activities
The activities can be used for free practice at the end of a teaching sequence or for review of grammar items. In either case, it is important to ensure that students are familiar with both the grammatical structure and the lexis involved before the start of the activity.
Some of the activities require the students to move around the classroom in a mingling activity, some are designed for small groups, some for teams and some for pair work, while others use a variety of groupings. A classroom layout that will facilitate flexible groupings of students is to arrange the desks in a U-shape. Pairs can then work with the person next to them, groups of four can be arranged by one pair taking their chairs to the inside of the U to sit opposite another pair and the large space inside the U is ideal for mingling activities. If this is not possible in your classroom, the traditional arrangement of front-facing desks can also lend itself to pair and group work, with students at adjacent desks working together, while for groups of four, one pair can turn their chairs around to face another pair behind them. Mingling may present more of a problem in some classrooms, but it is possible to adapt the mingling activities, so that half the students remain seated while the other half move around to interact with them.
Your role in these activities is, first of all, that of an instruction-giver, then as monitor and resource. Activities are best set up by demonstration rather than verbal explanation. Give the cards or worksheets out and demonstrate how to conduct the activity by taking the part of a student and acting out the first couple of exchanges with another student or group of students. Keep your instructions brief and simple: one step, one sentence. While the activity is in progress, move from group to group, listening and dealing with any problems and noting errors for future feedback. It is a good idea to go round with an overhead projector transparency or paper (if you have a document reader), writing down errors. You can then put these up after the activity is finished and ask students to self-correct.
I hope that you and your students find these activities enjoyable and useful. Have fun!