Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Prime Imperative

Tutor Sara H. asked a grammar question about how to teach a specific grammar skill that native speakers of English rarely have to think about. She wrote,"I'd like to have a lesson on imperatives/commands. I'm having a hard time coming up with a creative/effective way to do it. We work together in the library and she prefers to work there, which limits some options. I feel that teaching her this will help her listening skills overall." Here is my reply:
I read your June feedback form with interest. I noticed two things you mentioned in particular. One was that she would like to work on listening comprehension. The other was your stated interest in imperatives. Have you already considered using a game to teach both? Playing “Simon Says” sounds to me like just the thing to work on commands and listening skills at the same time. The library may not be the best place to play it, unless you can come up with a creative way to keep it very quiet and low key. Perhaps whispered Simon Says played on a table top by manipulating small objects. Commands could sounds like, “Simon says pick up the pencil. Simon says put the pencil on the book. Pick up the quarter—aah, ahh, ahh! I didn’t say ‘Simon Says!’”

I will attach links to a couple of helpful documents I found at the Azar Grammar website. One of them involves using a song to introduce the concepts. Click here to download a PDF file. You can also download it as a Word document. The other is a Power Point presentation with pictures to explain the difference between a request and a command. Here is a link to that one.

The Power Point presentation made me think that you could also introduce driving directions as a form of command. You could, for instance, go to Google Maps and make up a trip guide to go from her house to the library where you meet, or some other place she likes to visit. The guide includes step-by-step instructions to follow. You could question the instructions. Where it says, for example, “Turn Right at Olin Avenue,” you could ask questions like, “Should I turn at Lakeside Street?” and she can have a chance to say, “No, don’t turn there. Turn at Olin.” She can learn to listen and follow commands, question them and make negative commands.

It's all out there for free. Have fun! Tutoring is a blast.

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