We are all faced with dilemmas at some or many stages of our life. The fact that we have these tough decisions, and usually have to deal with them ourselves, does not mean another one won't pop up whenever we are not expecting it. So, when you point this out to teenagers, and you get passed the translation (it took quite a while explaining it to our Turkish students), you can start to hear some pretty good situations, stories and anecdotes.
We have just finished our peunultimate novel, and a link to a previous activity we did on it, There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom. The book is perfect for teenagers as it highlights so many teenage issues, behaviours, parenting, schools and education, insecurity, sibling rivalry, bullying and peer-acceptance. As a final activity for the book, we came up with the idea of incorporating grammar through dilemmas faced by the book's characters as a way of practising the structures the students had been learning side-by-side with the book. The three main areas of new explicit grammar were:
3rd Conditional: If I had known you were so horrible, I wouldn't have sat here.
"Regret" + Gerund: Mrs Ebbel regrets turning to Bradley and telling him to shut it.
Wish / If only: Bradley wishes he hadn't broken his toy dinosaur.
If only he hadn't shouted at his dad. Everything would be okay now.
However, before getting to the the final part of the lengthy activity, we did lots of scaffolding exercises, as well as of course, reading the book. The students would then be expected to use their prior knowledge of the constructions, and recall information with what came out in classroom discussion regarding the dilemmas.
We gave the mechanical constructions of each grammar part, in typical fashion (p-p-p + visual/video springboards) over a period of two weeks. Apart from the visual references, drilling and practice found in their grammar reference book, Top Grammar, we also had them create a google doc and write out personal situations that typically need these grammatical components to work. This was done over the same two week period, thus the students could go back via the google drive service, amend their original efforts, and more importantly have a digital record of what they had written. Here are two examples of those:
The students are split into groups. They are then given page numbers from the book, and asked to read the dilemmas already chosen by us from the story. The groups then work on each dilemma and discuss possible suggestions using the appropriate grammar. Once they are happy with their suggestions, they come up to the whiteboard, and under their group they write out the suggestions.
The student writing is clearly enjoying the activity.
Two boys from her group eagerly look on, as one dictates.
All groups go back to amend their already written suggestions.
- The focus of the finished suggestions is first the grammar, then logic and finally punctuation and spelling.
- The teacher then checks each one quickly, and marks next to the sentences which errors or problems there may be with the suggestions.
- The same groups are then allowed to confer with their peers and make changes.
- The teacher then checks again. If there are still problems, the needed corrections are opened up to the whole class.
- Once every group's answers have been amended and corrected, the activity is done.
The activity, a variation on a classic ELT lesson, also uses the support of ICT (google drive, i-reader). However, it is the classic style of getting up off the seats, going to the board with support and confidence of the group as a whole that makes this very enjoyable for both students and teachers. In addition to them discussing the book's characters, they get to think of soulutions for dilemmas, while at the same time practice the grammar of English. I doubt whether any teacher could say this type of activity is not better than gap-fills on photocopies. But, hey if there are, please leave a comment below and we can have a debate...