Number one for English language teachers

Grammar: teaching comparatives in English

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Coursebook lessons on comparative forms often ask students to make random comparisons between things for no obvious reason. Here are some typical real-life contexts when we are genuinely likely to compare.


Coursebook lessons on comparative forms often ask students to make random comparisons between things for no obvious reason (e.g. "An elephant is bigger than a mouse"). If we consider typical real-life contexts when we are genuinely likely to compare we might be able to create some useful practice activities.

Giving advice

  • Ask students to write down a small problem that they have (real or imaginary) e.g. "My feet are cold!" or "My chair's broken!"
  • When students have done this, elicit some things that a friend might say in answer to your example problem.
  • Collect student ideas then point out that you can give advice using a comparison e.g. "Get warmer socks!" or "Find a stronger chair".
  • Ask students to stand up and mingle with others. Students should say their problem to each new partner - who must reply with some good advice.
  • Students should note responses. At the end ask them to read out all the advice - but not the problem. Others can then guess what the original problem was.

Boasting

For some light hearted practice, teach students how to boast.

  • Start by doing an example yourself. Choose one student's desk (a crowded one is more fruitful!) and randomly pick up things from it, boasting as you go e.g. "My book's much longer than yours.", "My pen's more expensive than yours." "My writing is more beautiful than yours." etc. Make this light-hearted and funny rather than serious!
  • Ask students to recall what you said and then elicit some other possible boasting phrases.
  • Put students into pairs and get them boasting to each other. As students gain in confidence this activity could get loud!

You could allow students to argue back (e.g. "No, my phone is much more modern than yours."). NB You might want to ban comparisons with 'better' as students will tend to overuse this.


Advertising

  • Bring in some familiar objects (e.g. a pocket radio, a wallet etc).
  • Distribute one to each small group of students and ask them to design a much better, more modern version of their object, drawing a picture and labelling it with special features.
  • Afterwards point out how you can use comparatives to say why your product is better than before – or better than competitors’ products (e.g. “It’s much more beautiful” “It’s lighter” “It’s cheaper” etc).
  • Now ask groups to prepare a “TV advertisement” for their product. When ready students should perform their short “ad”) in front of other groups.

Saying why you did something

  • Write “Why did you … ? “ on the board. Elicit 10 - 15 endings e.g. “… go to the cinema?” “ … come late to the lesson? “ etc. Don’t let students copy these into their books yet!
  • Now ask students to think of comparisons that would answer each question (e.g. “It was more fun than staying at home” “The bus came later than yesterday”) and write them up.
  • Now erase all the questions and see if students can remember them just by looking at the answers.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Wonderful exercises!

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