- Key words: Young learners, task-based learning, opposites, quiz making
- Learner English level: Beginner
- Learner maturity level: Elementary school
- Preparation time: 30 minutes to one hour
- Activity time: One 45- or 50-minute class period
- Materials: Animal and adjective worksheets and flashcards
This lesson allows students to practice using opposites via an information gap activity before allowing them to take English into their own hands and create questions for the rest of the class in a “focus on form” activity. Students ask questions to other groups about animals on their worksheet, using the structure:
Is the monkey adjective or opposite adjective (e.g., Is the monkey short or tall?)
Create information gap worksheets which feature animals that the students are familiar with and adjectives that you want them to learn (Figure 1).
Each worksheet has one main animal (on the left) and six other animals, each with two corresponding adjectives. The adjective for the main animal is circled, and represents a teacher-defined characteristic for that animal (Figure 1). Adjectives can be used freely and even in a humorous or unexpected way. A worksheet similar to that shown in Figure 1 needs to be created for each of the animals. The appendix contains all seven worksheets that I used, enough for a class of seven groups.
Flashcards for both animals and adjectives used on the worksheet should also be made so that a worksheet can be reproduced on the blackboard, and used to check vocabulary.
Step 1: Introduce the adjectives using the flashcards. The blackboard could be dirty, and a desk, hard, etc. For things that are not immediately available, ask questions to get the students to think of examples (e.g., “What’s cold?”).
Step 2: Ask students questions such as, “Is the blackboard dirty or clean?”, introducing the target grammar. It is important not to make questions too original at this point, as the students will make these types of questions later.
Step 3: Get students into groups based on how many different worksheets you have. At this point hand out one worksheet to each group. Tell the groups that their worksheet has secret information on it. Emphasise that they are not to show the “main animal” information to other groups. Finally, make sure students are familiar with the animals on their worksheets using the animal flashcards. So that students know which group has which animal, write group numbers underneath each of the animal flashcards on the blackboard.
Step 4: Have one student from each group stand up, move to another group, and ask about the characteristics of that group’s animal. These students go back to their groups and circle the correct adjective under that animal on their group worksheet (see Figure 2). Once finished, the next group member can go to another group and ask about that group’s animal.
Step 5: Check that all groups have completed their worksheets correctly by asking the relevant questions (e.g., “Is the dog good or bad?”) and elicit answers from students.
Step 6: Finally, give students a chance to make their own questions based on the target structure, where their questions do not need to be based on animals alone. Giving a few examples such as “Is Tokyo big or small?” is a good way to get the students thinking of their own questions. Other students in the class answer these questions.
Putting the students in groups for the first part of the lesson is an excellent way of promoting peer-based support and a focus on fluency. In the final “quiz-making” part of the lesson (Step 6) students’ linguistic ability improves, as they not only try to express themselves, but are given direct feedback from the teacher regarding accuracy. I have observed students produce inspired questions using English that was not covered in the lesson. Examples include:
Is white chocolate bitter or sweet?
Is Kasei (Mars) hot or cold?
Is Mt. Everest big or small?
*Is dinosaur good or bad?
Although the students’ questions are not all grammatically perfect, and may contain instances of Japanese, this lesson is an extraordinary example of how students will try to express themselves in English and challenge their peers.