Levels: B1 and higher (some activities are suitable for pre-intermediate students)
Type of course: General English/Business English; some activities suitable for IELTS students
Length: Depending on what activities you choose – altogether, there’s material for around two 90-minute classes.
Materials: all activities and pictures are available in a Microsoft Word document (shared under attribution sharealike licence, so feel free to adapt them); you’ll need a projector to project the infographic.
This is a language point that I decided to introduce at all levels I’m teaching this semester: the elementary group studied it at the same time as they studied comparatives (adding a modifier seemed like a very teachable point, and now, two weeks later, they are actually using the modifiers very confidently! I also noticed that at least some of the times they say something like ‘more cheaper’ they actually mean a lot cheaper, so seeing that they’re trying to convey this meaning anyway, why not teach it immediately?) My Upper-Intermediate+ group, on the other hand, was still not using any modifiers with comparatives, as the warm-up activity below revealed.
I like presenting the four ways to compare (-er/more/less/exceptions) with ‘circles’ – the visual ‘mnemonics’ is that the circles do not intersect, so you never use two ways at the same time, and thus ‘less cheaper’ or ‘more better’ is not allowed.
Stage one: Intro. In order to introduce this grammar point to B1 groups and higher, I asked my students whether they’d ever bough a gadget to replace an older one (e.g. a smart phone to replace a mobile phone) and asked them to chat about
- in what ways the new gadget was different and
- whether the old one was still better in some respects.
I listened in and boarded some comparative structures they’d used – some examples that came up were ‘longer battery life’, ‘more durable’, etc. I then told my students that they weren’t using a bit of language I’d hoped to hear, showed them the first part of the infographic above and asked them what information is present in the pictures but missing from the sentences (How much more expensive?); I then elicited a few examples of how to modify the sentence to say how much more expensive the present was (my students came up with ‘much’ and ‘a (little) bit); I boarded the remaining adverbs, i.e. a lot, somewhat, way, and asked them to rank the adverbs (with my Upper-Intermediate group, we also focused on infinitely, marginally and far). I then pointed out the samples of their language on the board in which they didn’t qualify the comparatives.
Stage Two. Focus on form. After that, in order to encourage the students to study the infographic closely, I handed out sentences with typical mistakes for them to correct (page 2 of the .docx worksheet) – show only the middle part of the infographic at this stage, hiding the examples.
|Level: Elementary/pre-intermediateSome of these sentences contain mistakes. Find and correct them.
||Key: 1 a lot more convenient
3. Has better design
4. two weeks longer than5. OK
6. is cheaper
|Level: Intermediate/Upper-IntermediateSome of these sentences contain mistakes. Find and correct them.
||1. way more2. find it easier3. OK4. longer than5. OK6. OK|
Having checked the answers, we used the correct sentences to model/drill sentence stress and intonation.
Stage 3. Refined production After that, the students went back to their conversations about gadgets (in new pairs), to find out how much longer the battery life was/how much more durable the new gadget was and so on.
We then briefly revised the rules how the comparative forms of adjectives are formed (alternatively, you could cut up a worksheet with adjectives – there are some in the .docx file – for the students to sort them into four groups) and went on to play a couple of games.
Further stages – games (pick and choose).
Game 1 (drill) – adapted from Intermediate Communication Games by Jill Hadfield, Pearson P T R (2000) – worked like a spell in all groups!
Course type: any
Levels: Pre-Intermediate – Upper-Intermediate
Materials: a set of cut-up cards for each pair/group of 3 (download a .pdf file from here or use the corresponding pages from the word document linked to at the beginning of the post); ideally, a dice for each pair
Time: 15-25 minutes
Every player takes 6 cards. The first player places one card on the desk and ‘boasts’ (‘my robot is very smart‘). After that, each turn players place one of their cards on the board, comparing the new object to the previous one (e.g. ‘my cat is way friendlier than your robot‘) and then takes one more card from the stack.
Rules: (a) They have to use a modifier – I drew 6 facets of a dice on the board, each one with a corresponding modifier, and each time a player boasted, they had to roll the dice to determine what modifier should be used
(b) Adjectives can’t be reused
Variation 1: players draw the cards directly from the stack and have to find a way to compare the last two objects
Variation 2: each turn, each player in the pair puts one of their cards on the desk; after that each player comments in what way their object is better than the other player’s object
Game 2 A board game in which students share opinions on a range of topics
Target structure: find [sth] [modifier] [comparative] (I find it a lot easier to… than to …)
Levels: Pre-Intermediate – Upper-Intermediate
Course type: General English or Business English (can be used with exam students, but does not replicate exam format)
Materials: a board with adjectives, for Variation 1 a cut-up set of discussion propts (see below)
Time: 30-40 minutes (more time with higher level students, as they launch into discussions, especially if discussion prompts are used)
Rules: The students work in pairs. Each turn, a player throws a coin (heads = one step forward, tails = two steps forward) and states a true opinion using a modified comparative form of the adjective on the field (possibly giving a reason – again, a dice could determine the number of reasons); their partner either agrees or disagrees (providing reasons) and/or asks follow-up questions – again, this could be decided by a roll of a dice. I made two board games for this game, one for pre-intermediate students, another for higher levels.
Example: I find it a lot less stressful to get to work by car than to use public transport, because I really dislike the underground. There are just too many people on the train in the morning. What about you?
Alternatively, the students can ask questions instead of stating their opinions (see Variation 1).
Setting the game up:
It’s better to give the students patterns for questions and answers (I boarded a jumbled question and a jumbled answer and asked the students to unjumble them). In a pre-intemediate group, it’s better just to teach the statements (I find it + modifier + comparative to … than to…), whereas higher levels will cope with questions too.
- Board one scrambled question (examples here are for ‘would’):
would what you to be find easier so working in a big team in a small team or?Allow students to unscramble individually and then check in pairs, elicit and board the correct question:
So what would you find to be [easier], working in a big team or in a small team?
- Board the sentence frame under the unscrambled question:
So what would you find to be [comparative structure], verb-ing or verb-ing?)
(alternatively, make a few mistakes in the frame and ask the students to correct them)
- Elicit and board a reply (first the structure, but then elicit the reason – I put ‘because’ on the board and circled it in red (Sample reply: I’d find it a lot easier to work in a small company because you always know who is doing what. )
- Again, board the frame under the reply: I’d find it [a comparative structure] to [verb] [than to verb] because..)
Game 2 Variation 1. A board game in which students talk about topics given on discussion prompts
Materials: one of the above boards, cut-up discussion questions (either General English or Business English – see below).
The players shuffle the cut-up discussion prompts and take 6 promtps each. Having landed on a field, a player asks their partner a question using an adjective on the field and one of their cards (e.g. What would you find to be easier, working in a big company or in a small company?)
Non-cut alternative: Each pair gets the sheet with discussion prompts. Having landed on a field, a player picks a question that fits the adjective (possibly, crossing it over).
Discussion prompts for General English:
Game 3 Students talk about topics given on discussion prompts using a wider range of adjectives provided on cards; the game is played in pairs or in groups of three.
Course type: General English, Business English or IELTS
Level: Intermediate and higher
- cut-up discussion prompts – see above (for GE and BE see above; for IELTS download IELTS ‘difference’ questions),
- cut-up adjectives; an uncut worksheet with adjectives for each student
Time: up to 60 minutes as there are a lot of discussion questions
- check that the students know all the adjectives: hand out an uncut copy to each student and set a few simple tasks, e.g.
>>> tick all adjectives you know; check with your partner – is there something you don’t know and they do? class feedback
>>> in pairs, for each adjective brainstorm two people, things, places or activities that fit this adjective (e.g. elicit examples for useful, e.g. reading news every day). Rules: 1) ask the pair to write their examples down 2) if they can’t come up with two examples in 10 seconds, they should move on (why not tell them you’re going to snap your fingers every 10 seconds?) 3) at the end of the activity, group the students into groups of four so that they ask the other pair for ideas for the examples they couldn’t come up with 4) finish with a group game in which one pair gives their examples and the group guesses the adjective
>>> focus on grammar: the students go through the table and count how many comparatives in each row are formed with ‘er’ and not with ‘more’
- The game. The students deal the adjectives (6-8 per player). Each turn, one student picks two questions, chooses one (discarding the other) and asks the other players which alternative they’d prefer (Would you rather [verb] or [verb]). All players in the group discuss the question using as many of their adjectives as they can. These are adjectives that are often used with the structure ‘I find it [modifier] [comparative], so they are fairly easy to use in this activity.
Adjectives for intermediate learners:
Adjectives for advanced learners (edit the Microsoft Word file to choose only those you’d like to focus on – alternatively, let the students choose!):
As a follow-up, the students could pick a few of these questions and discuss them in new pairs/groups – this time without being forced to use any specific adjectives/structures. They could also choose a few cards and write about them for homework.
As I said at the start of the post, if you’d like to adapt these games, here’s a Microsoft Office document with all materials. Also, I’d be grateful if you let me know if you’ve got any suggestions how to improve this, ideas how to extend these activities or if you find typos.