Monday, June 16, 2014

Hangman for Grammar

            I probably don’t need to waste time saying this isn’t originally my idea, but it’s an idea that I’ve found has worked rather well recently, so I’m going to jot it down here.
            Like a lot of TESOL teachers, I’ve used hangman frequently in my classes, but mainly just as a quick time killer if I have 10 minutes left in the class.
            But more recently, I’ve started to use it to introduce or review grammar points, and have found it works very well.
            Instead of a single word, the students have to guess a whole sentence.  (They sometimes get intimidated when they see me writing lots of dashes on the board, but they soon figure out longer sentences are actually easier to guess than shorter words, because there’s a much higher probability of getting a correct letter.)
            Also, no one gets “hung” in my version—2 teams compete against each other.  One team guesses a letter, and this team will get a point for each time that letter appears in the sentence.  Then it’s the other team’s turn.  (This may actually be closer to “Wheel of Fortune” than to “Hangman”, but I find if I say “We’re going to play hangman today,” then the students instantly know what you’re talking about, so I still use that name, and then introduce the variations.)
            Teams can attempt to guess the whole sentence instead of just one letter.  They get 10 points for correctly solving the sentence, and they lose 10 points for incorrect sentence guesses.
            The grammar variation I’ve been using recently is to make each hangman sentence feature the target grammar for that day.  Initially I don’t tell students what the grammar will be, or even that all the sentences will feature the same grammar point.  But teams that are highly motivated to win will quickly begin looking for patterns in the sentences.  For younger students it’s a great way to get them focused on sentence structure at the start of a grammar lesson.

_ _ _    _ _ _     _ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _.

Team One?
 _ _ e    _ _  _    _ _ _   _ _ _ _ e _   _ _   _ _ e   _ _ _.

There are 3 e’s, so that’s 3 points for team 1.  Team 2?

 _ _ e    _ a _    _ a _   _ _ _ _ e _   _ _   _ _ e   _ _ _.

Okay, 2 a’s, so 2 points for team 2.  Team 1, your turn again.
 T _ e    _ a _    _ a _   _  _tt  e _   _ _   t _ e   _ _ _.

4 t’s, so that’s 4 more points for team 1.  Team 1, your total is 7 points so far.  Team 2, your turn.

 T _ e    _ a _    _ a _   _b _tt  e _   b _   t _ e   _ _ _.

Okay, 2 b’s.  Team 2, your total is 4 points.  Team 1, your turn.
We’d like to solve the puzzle.
Okay.  But remember, if you get it wrong, you lose 10 points.  Are you sure you’re ready?
Yes, the answer is “The man was bitten by the dog.”

Yes, that’s right.  10 more points for team 1.  Okay, new sentence.  Team 2, you get the first turn….

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