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Exploiting a simple drill worksheet

One type of activity which I found useful to do from time to time with students was audio-lingual style grammar drills. A simple cue and response style drill can be exploited in a number of ways. In the example below the exercise is designed to practise perfect tense verbs (avoir auxiliary, regular past participles).

So as not to overload pupils with too much other distracting information, all the (high frequency) vocabulary should already be known to the class so that students are encouraged to notice and focus on the contrast between present and perfect tense.

First of all, the worksheet is meant to be used primarily for whole class and paired oral work so that pupils get to hear multiple uses of the two tenses. Assume that these exercises come late in a sequence of work focusing on the perfect tense with avoir verbs, i.e. pupils already have a good understanding of how the grammar works and the phonology associated with the two tenses. This stress on listening should help build a strong link between sound and grammar.

So first, here is part of the sheet (imagine a total of about 20 cues):

1.                  Aujourd’hui je joue au football. (Hier j’ai joué…)
2.                 Aujourd’hui je voyage en train.
3.                 Aujourd’hui je finis mes devoirs.                   
4.                 Aujourd’hui je choisis un biscuit.
5.                 Aujourd’hui je vends mon CD.
6.                 Aujourd’hui je perds mon cartable.
7.                 Aujourd’hui il écoute le prof.
8.                 Aujourd’hui elle chante dans la chorale.
9.                 Aujourd’hui on finit à trois heures trente.
10.               Aujourd’hui nous dansons dans la rue.

Here is a possible sequence of tasks:

1.  Teacher reads a cue and gives an example answer (as in No. 1 above).
2.  Teacher reads a few cues and pupils answer (hands up and no hands up), then choral repetition aftre each response so all are involved).
3.  Pupils work in pairs. One reads the cue, the other gives an answer. Most pupils should be able to work confidently having heard the responses already.
4.  Now the teacher goes through the cues again and this term asks pupils to change another element in the sentence too, e.g. in No. 1 the answer may be Hier j'ai joué au tennis.
5. Then the pupils have to hide the sheet (or you hide it if you have been displaying it from the front) and you do some of the same examples requiring pupils to just listen and respond. (This raises the challenge level and adds a twist to the lesson.)
6. Then make up some new examples with the sheet still hidden.
7. Reveal the original sheet and get students to write out their answers with one changed element. (This allows for a degree of creativity and differentiation.)
8. Finally, as a fluency task, in pairs each student has to give as many past tense examples as possible without stopping. the partner could time them to see how long they can go. This could be done competitively.

You can imagine how many repetitions you get from a sequence like this. A bit boring? It depends how you deliver it and remember that each activity would be seen as a variation by the pupils. And don't forget this would be just one sequence in a whole series of lesson activities, some less structured than this. Note that you have been working in TL nearly all the time, using high frequency vocab and structures in a meaningful way. True, this is not highly interesting comprehensible input, but as part of a unit it should help embed a key area of grammar. Long term memory (acquisition?) is the aim.


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