Sentence Deconstruction

Level Aims Grammar Time Materials
junior high school to Adult To have students discover grammar rules for themselves. any unlimited A sentence, and white or black board for ALT use only.

This is a competition either for the entire school at once, or for just one grade. Construct a sentence for the students to deconstruct a few words at a time. Ask for a white or blackboard for your exclusive use, or pick up a portable white board from 'Kanseki', or similar 'Homecentre'. Instruct your JTEs that they are needed to inform the students of both the competition, and the rules, but are not to help the students play. For example, consider the following sentence:

Mary walked down the stairs and across the yard when suddenly she looked up and saw her tiny son in his blue jeans crawling along the kitchen window- ledge; she was just in time to catch him when he fell.

Have the teachers explain to the students that they are going to reduce this sentence to one word. In any one turn they may remove 1-3 consecutive words. They may not add words, and they may not change the order of words or their endings. Have the students (singly or in small groups) come to you and suggest which words may be removed without rendering the sentence faulty. For each correct suggestion, reward them with some small token; a lottery ticket or a few stamps.

The success of this exercise relies on the teacher making no judgment about the correctness of a deletion before the students have had a chance to check their own language feeling of the amended sentence. Obey the students' suggestions, no matter how wrong they might be. If, after reading the alteration, they fail to realise what is wrong, simply write the deleted part back into the sentence. When the sentence is finally reduced, I hold a small lottery just for those students who have worked at the deconstruction with 3 or 4 Aussie stick-pins as prizes. Then we start the process again with a new sentence. The final word must be a noun, but of course you knew that. (Concept sourced from Mario Rinvolueri's Grammar Games, Cambridge Uni Press, 1984)

Teaching Tip

Every student in every class has been given a number. Many ALTs deplore the practice of numbering S/s as dehumanising, but it is unlikely to be changed. Therefore, make use of these numbers when you want to ask S/s questions, or when you need some S/s to perform a dialogue. Make 'Volunteer ' cards with the numbers 1 - 40 on them and select one at random as needed. This is good listening practice for students, who don't often get the chance to listen to numbers.

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