by Lisa Ruschman
ESL Instructor, Terry Campus
Delaware Technical Community College
Tags: Active and Collaborative Learning

I never thought I’d get old enough for Grammar to go out of style, but admittedly, my favorite class to teach is not high on the excitability scale.  At 8:30 every morning, while I bask in the glow of subject-verb agreement, my students wish to be watching the backs of their eyelids.  Beyond full displays of singing, dancing and making a spectacle of myself, keeping a room of ESL students focused on Grammar at 8:30 in the morning deserves Academy Award recognition.

Because Grammar is not a naturally collaborative subject lending itself to deep and insightful conversation, we rely on the activity aspect of Active and Collaborative Learning.  This week’s game was called “Boggle My Mind” and is loosely based on the word game Boggle.  Because we are working on the stimulating subject of verb tenses, I asked each student to write an “Advanced Grammar” sentence using the verb tense assigned.  As the first finished, I checked to be sure his sentence structure was correct and gave him enough dry erase boards (30 boards for $30 on Amazon – best teaching aid I have EVER purchased) on which to write his complete sentence (13 words, 13 boards).  The student then distributed his boards randomly throughout the class.

For example:

Students who received dry erase boards came to the front of the room and had to work together to put their words in the correct order.   Their confusion was apparent at first, but I prompted them to start looking for sentence chunks (adverb clauses, prepositional phrases, verb tenses) and they quickly figured out what they were supposed to do.  It was quite enjoyable for me to stand back and watch this very diverse group of students shoving each other around, waving their signs and laughing hysterically at each other while slowly putting together a correct sentence.  Eventually they had formed a human train around the room with each of them holding their signs.  When they thought they had it, each student read their word to make the complete sentence.

I have been studying for my Grammar test for the past three hours.

We did several rounds of this, even throwing in some mistakes, missing words, or extra words to make them work harder.   Sentences with time clauses were especially fun (don’t roll your eyes) because we could move the time clause people to another part of the sentence and still be correct.  When I called a stop to the game, students whose sentences hadn’t been used yet were MAD!

This game can easily be used for other subjects …I’m thinking recipe ingredients, math formulas, vocabulary collocations, composition of scientific elements, just to name a few.

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