Simple Games Give Grammar a Boost

The only memory I have of sixth grade is of playing “My grandmother went to Europe,” a traditional memory game.

In the game, the first player (the one closest to the teacher’s desk, if I remember correctly) says, “My grandmother went to Europe and in her trunk she took…” The first player names some object. The second player repeats the sentence adding a second object. Play continues with each player repeating the list and adding an object not already named until a player makes a memory error.

The game requires no real talent, but it has just enough challenge to keep a class from getting out of hand.

An English teacher with a grain of creativity could modify the game to add a bit of oral grammar drill — and possibly drill on other topics as well — while still keeping the game moderately engaging for middle school students and even for some high school students.

Here are three possible ways to add some useful content to grandmother’s trunk:

1) Instead of using the simple past tense, use a different verb tense. For example:

  • “My grandmother will go to Europe, and in her trunk she will take…”
  • “My grandmother has gone to Europe, and in her trunk she has taken…”

2) To give students practice in using irregular verb forms, use a different verb in opening clause such as fly, swim, drive, ride, hike, or cycle.

  • “My grandmother will fly Europe, and in her trunk she will take…”
  • “My grandmother swam to Europe, and in her trunk she took…”

3) When students are familiar with the way the game works, have them invent a pair of clauses to use in practicing other grammar and possibly in recalling other information.

  • “This week my favorite sport is football, but next week it may be __.”
  • “Last month my sister’s hair was blonde, but next week it may be __.”
  • “Anne Frank and her family hid in a building, and in this building there was/were __.”

Since most of us acquire grammar by hearing spoken language, oral activities help students whose out-of-school experience has not provided opportunities to hear “good” English grammar patterns. Try one of the memory games when you have a block of class time that’s too long to waste but too short for any activity you’ve planned.  Observing students’ reactions can provide a useful clue to students who could benefit from ear training in grammar.

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