Category Archives: *Inductive Approach & Exercises

The Grammar Aspect with Most Mistakes by Language Learners: Prepositions

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

According to Brain Briefs by Bob Duke and cognitive scientist Art Markman, “… adults who learn a new language make more mistakes with prepositions than with just about any other aspect of speech.”

Most ESL teachers have probably been asked questions like this one that I had from one of my students, Camila, from Mexico: “Why do we say ‘I’m confused about’ rather than ‘I’m confused at’?”

It seems futile to try to explain the reasons or give rules for when to use certain prepositions. And even if we could formulate some, it seems unimaginable that students will stop while speaking or writing and ask themselves, “Now what was the rule for the preposition here?” Just the preposition “on” has 10 definitions.

How to learn prepositions

Markman and Duke summarize what many professionals (e.g. Krashen) in the teaching ESL field  have said about how to learn prepositions: “… the best way … is to hear them, use them, and allow your brain to recognize which ones are appropriate in different circumstances by taking into account both the meaning and the statistics of when they are used.  This kind of implicit learning requires a lot of exposure to the language …” (p. 127).

This doesn’t mean that the only role that a teacher plays in this is to just provide meaningful input through reading and listening.

Three ways teachers can facilitate students’ learning of prepositions

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Most Important Motivator of Students: How You Can Use It

autonomy

This posting includes sample lessons that give students a lot of autonomy.

YouTube This posting is discussed on my YouTube video ESL Writing Workshop Approach

The most important ingredient for motivating students is autonomy. 1 The sense of being autonomous can produce a very positive effect on students’ attitude, focus and their performance.  Best of all, it’s very effective and quite easy to include this in ESL classes.

Having autonomy doesn’t mean that students decide what is taught in a lesson.  Instead, students can experience autonomy if the lesson is set up so that they can individually choose which exercise to do first, second etc., how fast to work, when to ask the teacher a question or for help and even when to take a break.

A lesson plan template that gives students autonomy (Writing Workshop)

Teachers can organize their lesson in a Writing Workshop using many different types of materials, but it works best when using inductive exercises.  That is because inductive exercises require little or no time taken up with teacher lectures.

These are General Steps for a Writing Workshop and Sample Specific Lesson with handouts

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“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.)

Youtube icon posting notice very small Shot

• ESL student, “Finally, I now Understand What Nouns, Subjects and Verbs are!”

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 Exercise 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

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Teaching Gerunds (a discussion from LINCS)

                                  SOME COMMON PROBLEMS

                                              Run is good exercise.
                                          I finished read that book.
                               He made some money by work hard
                                Eating in restaurants are expensive.
                                      They enjoyed to do their work

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

I was invited to participate in a discussion about how to teach gerunds.  You can read the discussion at this linkLINCS discussion of gerunds

I’ll summarize here some exercises that I’ve used to help students at all levels and include a links to handouts that you can use with your students.  Also, below you’ll find brief samples of those exercises.

First handout: Inductive exercises to introduce gerunds to students.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds inductive intro
For more inductive grammar exercises like these, see The Grammar Review Book

Second handout: Listening and writing exercises to help students learn when to use a gerund and when to use an infinitive.   One purpose of the listening exercise is to internalize what sounds right.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds vs Infinitives listening and writing exercise
For more listening/writing exercises like these, see Write after Input

Third handout: Exercises for more advanced students who know what gerunds are.  These will help them understand how to use them as subjects of sentences and to contrast gerunds and participles.
See brief samples of these below.
Here is the link to the complete exercises. Gerunds vs Participles Exercises
For more advanced grammar exercises like these, see Writing Strategies Book 2

Brief sample exercises

Inductive exercises to introduce the concept of gerunds, especially good for ear-learners.

Exercise 1: Circle the nouns. Ignore pronouns such as he. (There are 8 nouns, including candy.)

  1. He likes candy.
  2. He likes eating.
  3. We enjoy music.
  4. We enjoy singing.

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