Archive for the ‘articles’ Category


Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Articles are hard. Think about it. Why do we say “I ate a cookie,” but we say “I ate pizza?” Or “Who’s that? Oh, she’s the Queen of England,” “Who’s that? Oh, he’s a teacher.” Don’t even get me started on “Let’s go to Seoul” vs. “Let’s go to the store” vs. “I want to go shopping, let’s go to a department store” vs “I’ve always wanted to visit the Washington Monument.” They’re all places, for Pete’s sake.

The point is, articles are easy for (most) of you reading the blog because (most of) you are native speakers of English. It’s intuitive for us, but for many people learning English it’s one of the most frustrating parts of writing – because many languages, Korean for one, don’t have articles. There are “rules” about when to use the definite, indefinite, and zero article, but they’re not hard and fast, and there are are so many exceptions that you have to wonder why we bother.

As I mentioned before, I spend two weeks teaching students articles. It’s… definitely not their favorite. Every time I put 관사 (article) up on the board, the class collectively groans, and there’s always at least one student who melodramatically drops her head into her hands and fake sobs.

It’s the week before midterms, so we’re doing a review game in class. Students are broken into groups of 4 or 5 and have to answer questions and “bet” points. If they are right they receive the number of points they bet, and if they are wrong they lose that amount. It’s been going over pretty well. One of the questions was “please fill in the missing articles in the following passage: I saw __ bird. __ bird was in __ tree. I sat on __ ground under __ tree.” In order to get the points, they had to get every article right.

Every. Single. Group in 2.5 answered this question correctly. That’s 27 kids, broken into 6 groups. When I asked them why they chose those articles, one kid promptly rattled off “Bird – unknown. Bird – known. Tree – unknown. Ground – Unique. Tree – Known.”

So proud of my kids right now.

Look! A Hot Dog

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The second article rule I’ve been teaching this week is the “unknown/known” rule. Basically, if it is the first time you are introducing a previously unknown noun, you should use the indefinite article (a/an) and if the noun is already known or has previously been introduced you should use the definite article (the). Obviously this is not true in all cases, but it’s a good basic rule for students to keep in mind. As this is a really overwhelming looking definition, I’ve been breaking it down into a dialogue and having students fill in the blanks.

Look! __ dog.
__ dog is so cute.
__ dog has __ cat friend.
__ cat is sitting on __ tree.

When I wrote “Look! __ dog” on the board, class 2.9 automatically shouted out “HOT DOG.”

“No guys. Which article should I use?”
“… Okay, fine. Here’s the new dialogue:

Look! __ hot dog.
__ hot dog looks so delicious.
__ hot dog is next to __ bottle of ketchup.
__ bottle of ketchup is red.

Is this better?”

A Cup of Coffee Please

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

One thing I need to get better at doing is unit planning, and planning out my semester so that it makes sense. If you look at my topics they’re all individually good (I hope) but the order in which I teach them makes no sense, and there’s no real connection from week to week.

Last week I taught PBFV pronunciation. I like to do pronunciation lessons in-between other writing or grammar intensive lessons, or right after tests because there are so many fun and interactive things you can do with pronunciation. After making the students write postcards for fifteen minutes, I figured that doing a pronunciation lesson would be a nice, if abrupt, change. I showed them mouth-shape diagrams, we practiced tongue twisters that I had to make up (there’s a sad dearth of FV tongue twisters):

A cup of coffee please (p versus f)
Please don’t feed the bees peas (p, f, b)
The vehicle fee is very fairly voluntary (v versus f)

This week we’re teaching articles, which has no connection whatsoever to pronunciation. I wanted to save this lesson for later in the year, but it’s a two-week unit and this is the only point on my schedule where I teach every single class two weeks in a row with no interruption. As articles are really difficult (there are no articles in Korean, not in the same sense anyway), and as I was teaching articles as a set of four rules, two rules per class, it was important that these classes were taught back-to-back.

The one of the rules that I’ve been teaching this week are “countable versus uncountable” (“a stick of coffee,” countable, versus “coffee,” uncountable). I’ve been demonstrating the difference by showing a stick of coffee, then opening it up and pouring it into a mug (which, for some reason, always gets kids gasping about. TEACHER WHAT ARE YOU DOINGGG? – it’s baffling, really) and showing the coffee powder and asking students to count that. As I walked in, BAD, being the smart alec he is, yelled out “could I have a cup of coffee please?” I response I pulled out my stick of coffee and ask if he really wants one. The look on his face just about made my day.

So, I guess, there are some ties between my lessons after all?