future forms: comparitives and superlatives; interlinked learning activities

Japanese Geisha

Donna Lapp from the United States writes:

Roger, I'm from the States, but I'll be teaching an ESL class in Japan this summer on a one-week summer camp for teenagers. I'd like to know if you have any suggestions as to what would be fun and profitable for them to take away from this one-week experience. Thanks.


Roger Woodham replies:

It's important that summer camp language activities are different from what students normally do in class, but at the same time they should build on the language skills and knowledge that they already have. I think it's best therefore to focus on language activities both inside and outside the summer camp classroom which give them the opportunity to practice their language skills in a meaningful way but which also give you some opportunity to teach some new language.

There are many language activity books on the ELT market, particularly the British ELT market, and I suggest you check the catalogues to see what may work well for you. Here are two interlinked language activities for inside the classroom to start you thinking.

The first is a warmer or ice-breaker activity which you could use in the first, second or third lesson on the first day. It lasts for 10 to 15 minutes, practises introductions and future forms and will give you an opportunity to remember some names:

introductions and future forms: first practice phase

Teacher: I'm Donna and I'll be 25 in September.

Student 1: This is Donna and she'll be 25 in September.
I'm Yasuto and I'll be 16 in November.

Student 2: This is Donna and she'll be 25 in September.
This is Yasuto and he'll be 16 in November.
I'm Megumi and I'll be 17 in March.

Student 3: This is Donna and she'll be 25 in September.
This is Yasuto and he'll be 16 in November.
This is Megumi and she'll be 17 in March.
I'm Susumu and I'll be 16 in October.

Continue up to student 6 or student 7 and then stop. Select students at random but choose those who appear to want to participate at this stage. You will need to model 'this is' with student 1, but students selected should be able to make an attempt at all other aspects of the round, though you may need to support them by supplying words or phrases as they proceed.

teaching phase

Choral practice of the months of the year, (in) January, (in) February, etc, if you have encountered any difficulties in this respect.

Point out the different word stress between sixteen and sixty, seventeen and seventy if this has been a problem and practice all the '…teens' and '…tys'.

Write up the future weak forms I'll be / he'll be / she'll be / they'll be on the board for individual, group and class choral practice. Model each of these and get learners to repeat them. Learners always have difficulty with weak forms and for Japanese particularly the pronunciation of 'l' is difficult.

Write up future strong form won't be for intensive pronunciation practice of the vowel sound and add until January / February / March next year. Practise pronunciation of until and next year.

Write up 1 January 2003 and tell them that the rule now is that if their next birthday is after 1 January 2003, they have to use the negative pattern. If it is before 1 January, they should use the first pattern you practiced. Ask them to indicate with a show of hands which group they fall into.

Start second practice phase of future forms activity, selecting different students, some from each camp, supporting as necessary. When activity is finished, consolidate language as necessary.

Proceed now to second activity which should last for 25 to 35 minutes.


stand in line: comparative and superlatives: first practice phase

For this activity all the chairs and tables will need to be pushed to the side so that there is room for students to form groups standing and then stand in lines in the classroom. Depending on the shape of your classroom this activity works best with groups of 6 to 10. So if you have 28 students in your class, you could have four groups of 7 or two groups of 9 and one of 10.

When they are in their groups, tell them that they must now line up in age order so that the youngest is at the front of the line and the oldest is at the end of the line. Tell them that they must all talk to each other in English to find out where they should be in the line. Appoint a group leader for each group whose job it is to ensure that the line is correct. Move freely between the groups to see what language they are using.

teaching phase:

Consolidate with the class the comparative / superlative forms they have been attempting to use. Perhaps introduce one or two new patterns that they are not so familiar with:

  • So, who's the oldest / youngest in this line. ~ I'm the oldest / youngest.
  • Who's the second oldest / second youngest? ~ I'm the second oldest / youngest.
  • When were you born? ~ I was born in July 1986.
  • What about Yoshinari and Yoshitaka? ~ He's older than me.
  • He was born…
  • What about Naoko and Mai? ~ We're the same age. We were both born on…

stand in line: comparatives and superlatives: second phase

Keep the same groups. Explain that each group now has a different line-up task and that the task is explained on a task card which you will give to the leader of each group, but everybody must co-operate by asking and answering questions. They must talk quietly to each other so that the other groups do not know what they are doing. Select new group leaders.The four separate task cards could be as follows or you could use other ideas:

Line up so that the person with the smallest shoe size is at the front and the person with the largest shoe size is at the back.
Question prompts: What size shoes do you take / are you wearing?

Line up so that the lightest person is at the front and the heaviest person is at the back.
Question prompts: How many kilos do you weigh? / How heavy are you?

Line up so that the person who lives nearest to school is at the front and the person who lives furthest from school is at the back.
Question prompts: How far away from / close to school do you live?

Line up so that the person who watches most TV is at the front and the person who watches least TV is at the back
Question prompt: How much TV do you watch? How often do you watch TV?

When everybody is in line, write the four words TV / school / shoes / kilos on the board in different columns and starting with the TV group, ask the other groups to guess what the task was. Proceed similarly with remaining three groups.

teaching phase:

Consolidate with the class some of the language they have been attempting to use. Write up the question prompts which are printed on their cards and ask them to dictate other questions they used and some of the answers they gave. Practise related comparatives / superlatives, e.g. So, who's got the smallest / biggest feet? All boarded questions and answers should be noted down and practised.

You will need to persevere with your Japanese learners, Donna. Japanese are often quite shy of practising language in public, but they should quickly realise how useful it is.




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