“Finally I now Understand What Nouns, Subjects and Verbs are.” (And it took only 30 minutes to learn inductively.)

Is beautiful today.

We the soccer match on TV.

(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Ellie immigrated to the U.S. with limited English skills after she had graduated from college in her country.  As with many ear-learners, she gradually picked up English from talking, listening to the media and reading.  In other words, she had no formal training in English.

Here in the U.S., she has a good job in family counseling, but in order to be promoted, she needs to improve her writing skills, so she enrolled in an adult education class.  Unfortunately, the “direct” approach the instructors took of presenting rules and assigning exercises was not effective for her.  After months of studying, she became frustrated and embarrassed when she couldn’t even identify mistakes with subjects and verbs.

When she entered my academic ESL class, she demonstrated an advanced style of writing and vocabulary but had some breakdowns with basic grammar and struggled to fix these.  For example, she once started a paragraph with this sentence:

            People are social beings who has a need to be connected to other beings.

To help her edit her paragraph, I told her that there was a verb mistake in the first sentence.  She looked embarrassed and uncomfortable and after about 20 seconds of starring at the paper asked me to remind her of what a verb was.  In her next two sentences, she wrote:

            Individuals cannot be isolated for too long.  Through our brains, have the ability to connect with other’s emotions and develop empathy.

I pointed out that in the last sentence, she was missing a subject.  Again, with a pained look on her face she said she couldn’t remember was subjects were.

I realized that for me to be able to lead her to her mistakes and not just tell her what they were and how to change them, she needed to first be able to identify subjects and verbs.  So I gave her these three worksheets : Inductive exercises for nouns ; Inductive exercises for subjects ;  Inductive exercises for verbs . I should point out that I didn’t spend any time talking to her about subject and verbs or about how to do the worksheet.  (Feel free to download and use those exercises with your students.)

The results

The next day in class, she said, “Finally I now understand what nouns, subjects and verbs are.”  She said it took her about 30 minutes to do them and was amazed at the results after having struggled with these two concepts for so many years.

This inductive approach has been received overwhelming positive responses from not only ear-learners but also other ESL students.  So many of them like Ellie have expressed a sense of relief at finally having a frustrating mystery resolved.

For more about the inductive approach see Lync Discussion about Grammar

For more about ear-learners see Ear Learners

For more inductive exercises about a wide-variety of grammar points including modals, verb tenses, auxiliary (helping verbs), prepositions, clauses, gerunds, etc., see Grammar Review Book

David Kehe

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