Yesterday I was standing in for a colleague who’s gone to Disney with her kids, and so I was teaching an Upper Intermediate 2 class (they’re preparing for FCE in december). The previous class they’d read a text about Pompeii and the other teacher had left me with the remit of continuing on into the language focus that followed on from the reading – participle clauses!
While I can imagine some of you might think participle clauses aren’t for the faint hearted, I was actually quite excited at the prospect, since it gave me the opportunity to try out a game I designed for the IHWO Games Bank, which I’ve never actually had the chance to use in a class before. And since the class was a group of teens from 13 to 16, a game of boxes was just what I needed to keep their attention on the target language and get some intense practice in.
We quickly looked at the example sentences form the text and explored together what participle clauses actually were. Normally I’d do this as a guided discovery, but the downside to GD is the prep needed and when substituting I like to keep that to a minimum. So old fashioned teacher-at-the-board presentation it was, although I elicited all of the info from the students, of course!
Then it was straight into the game. Hopefully you all know how to play boxes? It’s basically joining up dots to complete the four sides of a square. The strategy comes in because it’s the team that completes the fourth side of the square that wins the box for their team – and the team with the most boxes wins the game. In our class version of the game, the teams have to correctly add a participle clause into short sentences in order to win the opportunity to draw a line and start building up squares. Here’s the game and rules for you to try with your students:
I knew the success of the game would hinge on keeping the pace high, so I set the game up very carefully. They had to use a new verb in their clause each time. They had ten seconds to answer, once I’d said the initial participle-clause-less sentence. I simply counted down the ten seconds on my fingers, ensuring I didn’t distract them from thinking up their clauses, but also keeping the pressure on and the pace high. Indeed, if they could think of both an active and passive participle clause for the same sentence they got two goes at box-making.
The game actually worked even better than I thought it would. The students were motivated to be playing a game they play anyway amongst themselves and they were motivated to try and solve the challenge of creating sentences that would win points but also try and entertain me at the same time. I think the topics of the original sentences also helped here. The momentum of the game and the ten second rule also helped to keep the game flowing and the two point rule also allowed us to actually make some boxes in the time we played for (about twenty minutes).
The game also helped the students to see how participle clauses can make their sentences more interesting and informative and they also were challenged to make logical sense with their clauses – there were quite a few non-sequiturs to start with which I didn’t allow, leading to some interesting arguments about the logic of what they were coming up with.
In the end the game was so successful that I’m very tempted to continue playing it at the beginning of the next lesson to revise the use of participle clauses, but only if everyone’s done their homework of course! I hope you and your students enjoy playing Participles in a box too – let us know how you get on!