Go to the Mountaintop
My students in Korea (largely elementary kids in BIG classes) were having trouble with Is it...? It is .., especially understanding that the syntax reverses from question to answer. Also, they had trouble grasping the rising intonation fo a question an d a falling intonation of an answer. Since I have little time for individual work, I found I have to do a lot of explanations for the whole class. So, I drew a mountain on the board (gamemeisters please pay attention, because this can be turned into a game).
The bottom level of the mountain says IS, the second level of the mountain IT, and the top level (above the timber line, I guess) can say
anything. The point is, to go up a mountain to ask a question (draw a guru at the top of your mountain, if you wan t), you have to first pass IS, then IT, of course doing this with rising intonation. To go down the mountain, one passes IT, then IS. Thus, I'm able to teach the inverted grammar of questions and their intonation at the same time.
Tip: you can use singing to teach the rising and falling intonation, so long as the tones sung are part of a simple chord. I sing major chords going up: DO, MI, SO, DO (imagine singing "Is it a dog?" this way). Then the falling intonation is, of course , DO, SO, MI, DO (e.g., "It is a dog.").
About a month ago, I posted something on this idea page about the game Word Shark, which is a version of Hangman involving a man falling into the jaws of a shark instead of a man being hung, the object of the game being to guess the right word or expre ssion before he meets his death. To make this exercise a game, I put letter blanks next to the appropriate level of the mountain, with the question letter blanks on one side and the answer letter blanks on the other (my questions always go up the left sid e, and my answers always come down the right side). The man who falls toward the shark is a mountaineer with a walking stick, and the shark is in a lake (yes, I said 'lake') at the bottom of the mountain.
This is especially helpful for them to drill in where and when the verb goes, and where the pronoun goes (up: Is -- a man? down: -- is a man.).
Note that this can be done with plural verbs (Are they toys? They are toys.) and, of course, pronouns other than "it."
Note also that with the game, I can combine grammar, spelling, and intonation in one fun activity. So, I find myself doing this game a lot, maybe too much. Another participant to this Idea Page is right when she says that we teachers in Korea overuse Hangman.
Anyway, this seems to work for my large elementary classes, especially when it looks like a song and a game, and not a lesson. My students
understand the grammar of questions and answers now, and other teachers in my company are using the Mountain. Cog nitively, it's a great tool
for teaching the logical structure of English. The mountain makes it look very sensible that the gammar and the intonation would be reversed
between question and answer.
Name: Roger Fusselman
Location: Taejon, Korea
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