Grammar Challenges

This is a quick post to share a successful grammar activity I used in my advanced grammar class last term.

A little background: our program offers four core courses: reading, writing, listening/speaking, and grammar. That’s right: grammar is a separate, explicit course all by itself. There are up to 7 levels of grammar. This blog post is referring to what I did with my level 7 grammar class, but it could easily be used with any level.

One struggle I had when designing my grammar class was how to move the grammar from object of study to tool that could be used anywhere. All my students know that grammar is important for speaking English competently. However, I was worried that my lessons – no matter how much practice and engagement were involved – would be relegated only to grammar class, or seen only as relevant to grammar class, especially because the core courses are not integrated. In other words, I was worried about the transferability of the lessons I taught and the things my students were learning. Therefore, I made a weekly assignment called “grammar challenges“.

The assignment was quite easy and the requirements – the “challenges” – stayed consistent each week. Basically, each week, students would have to consider the grammar point we had been using (past perfect, adverb clauses, adjective clauses, mixed conditionals) and complete the following challenges:

  1. Use it in another class
  2. Use it with an international student outside of class
  3. Use it with a native speaker
  4. Use it off campus
  5. See it in another class
  6. See it on campus
  7. See it off campus
  8. Hear it in another class
  9. Hear it on campus
  10. Hear it off campus

For each challenge, students needed to add what they had said/seen/heard and an explanation about the context in which it occurred. For example, some told me about using the grammar point in an essay in their writing class. They would tell me the essay title, the class level, and the teacher too. Some told me about using it or hearing it with native-speaking friends. They explained the situation they were in, what was said, and often why or the response.

The point of these challenges is to provide students with the opportunity to use and notice (textually and aurally) the grammar, therefore gaining more exposure and practice with it, hopefully internalizing or reinforcing the practice we had already done in class.

I was worried that students did not find the challenges useful, or they found them difficult, uninteresting, or repetitive. However, the opposite was true. On my evaluations, a number of students mentioned the grammar challenges as being a useful and effective activity to help them improve their grammar.

I hope that grammar challenges are a helpful activity that you can use with your students.

A Note about Grammar Challenges

I had students complete challenges via Google Classroom. Students received a copy of the same document each week and filled in the necessary information. This could also easily be done with Google Drive and Doctopus if you do not have Classroom. It can also be done via Blackboard, email, or old-fashioned pen and paper.


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