There are many ways of revising and consolidating grammar. I have found that it is often useful to give students short passages containing grammar mistakes. The grammar mistakes should be characteristic of the student’s level, nationality, areas of strength, or weakness.
What kind of grammar?
Italians characteristically use the Present Perfect to describe the past. Thus, ‘Yesterday, I have bought a new computer,’ is a very typical mistake, even for Italian-speakers at an upper-intermediate level, because it’s a direct translation from Italian to English. Use a passage that contains several instances where Present Perfect is misused instead of the simple past. The intention is not to catch the student out, but to identify and focus attention on areas of difficulty which may still be problematic.
Other characteristic and problematic grammar
Points at this level for Italian speakers include:
- the use of going to and present continuous to describe plans and intentions, rather than will
- the position of adjectives before the noun
- the use of articles
- comparative and superlative constructions: as…as…etc,
- conditional structures – which are constructed and used differently in Italian
- verbs with irregular past forms.
These problems are universal, but they often present difficulties for Italian speakers at the intermediate level (and above).
Use your imagination!
Writing these kinds of passages can be good fun and an opportunity for the teacher to exercise her/his creative writing talents. Use your imagination: write about yourself, your country, someone you know, customize what you write to fit the needs and personal characteristics of the student, but remember to keep it relatively simple: it’s a grammar test, not ‘Middlemarch.’ Keep the subject matter familiar and close to home, and the vocabulary straightforward. If the student is struggling to understand the sense of the text, the obstacle is probably one of general comprehension, not grammar. If you do not feel confident enough to write your materials, why not try setting your students a composition for homework. Compile their most frequent mistakes and create a template from the work they have produced for you.
Range and appropriateness
It should go without saying that it’s necessary to keep the grammar within the appropriate range. Don’t ‘invent’ grammar mistakes which are totally out of keeping with the mistakes students usually make in the normal run of things. Also, it’s probably not a good idea to introduce an erroneous third conditional structure into a passage you intend to use with an elementary group. If you have advanced-level students, it’s probably better to assume they already know to add s to the end of verbs in the third person when using the simple present tense.
How to use the passage
The passages can be used by students working alone, or in pairs or small groups. Set a time limit – I usually allow a maximum of fifteen minutes, reinforcing the need to keep things relatively simple. These are essentially revision exercises – not a way of trying to introduce students to new grammar. At the end of the exercise, go through the passage with the student(s), correct the mistakes they’ve overlooked. Go over the material you think it’s necessary for them to have learned by that point in the course. Refer students to the appropriate unit in the grammar book – if you’re using one to supplement the course.
From experience, I have learned to limit these exercises to a few hundred words and to insert between twenty to thirty grammar mistakes into each passage. I have used exercises at the beginning of courses. These exercises;
- test levels
- identify areas of grammatical difficulty
- as warmers at the beginning of lessons as a way of revising and consolidating the grammar
- as progress tests
- and most particularly as homework exercises.
Students like these exercises. Given a choice they often ask me for one of these passages instead of a piece of writing, or activities from the workbook, etc. Exercise your imagination and perhaps introduce a bit of humor.
Grammar resources for teachers and students
|Learner English by Michael Swan
This updated edition is a practical reference guide that compares the relevant features of a student’s language with English. Understanding language features help teachers to predict and understand the problems their students have. Learner English has chapters focusing on significant issues of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and other errors as well as new chapters covering Korean, Malay/Indonesian and Polish language backgrounds.
|Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar: A comprehensive grammar book is invaluable to learning for English second language students. It is not enough to learn vocabulary and phrases; it is crucial to be able to put words into the correct order for sentences. The topics covered in this book will help with understanding word order and grammar. As well as a self-study guide, this book can also be used in a classroom situation.|
|Grammarly: takes the guesswork out of great writing. Check your emails, documents, essays, and more. Eliminate grammar errors. Easily improve any text. Services: Advanced Grammar Rules, Contextual Spell Checker, Vocabulary Enhancement, Plagiarism Checker, Corrects Writing Mistakes.|
|English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy: is like the bible of grammar for students who already have an extensive vocabulary and want to improve grammar. This book can be a self-study guide or for use in the classroom.|
|The Blue book of Grammar and punctuation: provides an easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes.|