A story in four grids

Sonoko Tsuchiya, Tokyo Keizai University


Quick Guide

  • Key words: Consciousness-raising, communicative task, past simple, narrative, information gap
  • Learner English level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Learner maturity level: High school and above
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity time: 30 minutes
  • Materials: Text grid handouts

Numerous researchers have claimed that incorporating focus on form activities into the performance of unfocused tasks effectively promotes a balance between accuracy and fluency. Use of consciousness-raising communicative and grammar tasks that require either recognition of the target structure or its use while performing the tasks is recommended (Fotos 1994). The following activity is one such task and is based on a story in four grids (Ur 1988). The story used here is about the early days of the Beatles. The aim is to promote recognition and use of the past simple in a narrative text. It is also designed to encourage interaction among students, as each student is required to speak English and negotiate meaning in order to get a complete picture of the story.


Step 1: Find a suitable reading text for your class.

Step 2: Divide key points from the text into four grid handouts, as demonstrated in Appendix A. Each print should have a grid that contains partial information.

Step 3: Create enough copies for your class.


Step 1: Divide the class into groups of four and give each member a different grid handout.

Step 2: Have the group members exchange necessary information to fill the empty spaces in their grids. For example, the student with grid one asks, “What happened to John in 1957?” The student with that information answers, “He formed his band in Liverpool.” The student with grid one then writes this information in the appropriate blank space on their grid. Next, the student with grid two asks a question to get information to fill one of their empty spaces. In this way, students of each group exchange information to fill the blanks on their grids. Do not allow students to show their papers to each other.

Step 3: When everyone has finished, ask the whole class questions about the text, such as “How did George meet John?” (See Appendix B for sample questions.)

Step 4: (Optional) Ask the whole class general questions about the Beatles such as, “Who became the fourth member of the Beatles after Stuart left?”


Stories about other legendary bands, TV shows, or movies that have sequences of events involving several main characters can be used for this activity. You can make this activity more interesting with a little creativity. The vocabulary level can also be manipulated depending on the students’ English proficiency.


Fotos, S. (1994). Integrating grammar instruction and communicative language use through grammar consciousness-raising tasks. TESOL Quarterly, 28 (2), 323-351.

Ur, P. (1988). Grammar practice activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Available below.