The most common method of testing ESL and EFL students' grammar knowledge is to give traditional grammar exams. However, there are other ways of assessing your students' grammar knowledge, and one way that is both fun and educational is to conduct a grammar auction. This is a simple activity that takes about one hour. The grammar auction takes some preparation: write about 20 sentences on an overhead transparency; some of the sentences should be grammatically correct while others should be grammatically incorrect. The nature of the errors should vary greatly and cover grammar points emphasized in class up to this auction as well as some new concepts. However, there should not be more than one error per sentence in order not to confuse the students too much. (For advanced students, up to two errors may work.) Next, copy the 20 sentences onto plain, white paper and cut out each sentence. In order to motivate the students a little extra, I recommend that you bring pieces of candy, and lots of them, as incentives (extremely popular among the students).
Beginning the actual activity by splitting the class up into groups of three. Give each group at least 30 pieces of candy to use for bidding on the sentences prepared earlier. Next, put the transparency on the overhead, covering all sentences but one (begin with the one on top). Read that sentence aloud and have the groups bid, using their pieces of candy, on that sentence. When that sentence is "sold," uncover the next sentence and begin the next bidding process, and so on. (The "easy" sentences may go for 12-15 pieces while the difficult one for only two or three). Whichever group bids the most candy on a particular sentence brings candy equaling the bid to the teacher and receives the cut-out sentence you prepared that is identical to the overhead sentence the group bidded on. Before the auction begins, though, you must tell the students the rules of the auction:
1) The group that places the highest bid on a given sentence must put it upside-down on the desk as soon as it receives the sentence (to prevent cheating).
2) If no group bids on a sentence, all groups lose 1 candy (in order to force groups to bid).
3) Each group must bid on at least 5 of the 20 sentences (in order to prevent them from "holding on" to their candy).
4) When all the 20 sentences are "sold," the groups are given 10 minutes to figure out whether the sentences they "bought" are grammatically correct or incorrect. If the sentences are incorrect, the groups must figure out the nature of the error and fix it.
5) When the 10 minutes have run out, the groups must present their sentences on the overhead, in the same order as the sentences were "sold," and whether the sentences are correct or incorrect; if incorrect, the groups must present the incorrect element and corrections made. If the groups are able to present the correct answers, they win back their bided number of candy plus an additional one as a reward. If the groups change and present something that is correct to something that is incorrect, or make the wrong correction, they do not win the candy back.
When everything is said and done, some groups will have lots of candy while some groups will have very little. Whatever they have left, they divide within their group and enjoy.
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