Teaching parts of speech: Pronouns
Grammar is the foundation of language, yet some ESL and EFL students have not learned the basic grammatical concepts of their own language. Sometimes pupils do not understand the basic structure of a sentence and the ESL teacher is left with this task.
You can teach pronouns even if students do not know what a pronoun is. Teach pronouns in context in sentences. Pupils will learn to use them. However you might be required to teach grammar as a topic. So, here are some ideas to teach pronouns through fun games.
Start by listing these pronouns on the board. I, you, he, she.
Bring up a boy, a girl to the front. Use a picture if you are missing either one. Tell the class to stand in pairs.
Give an action for each pronoun:
I - point to oneself.
You - point to the student you are pairing with. Use a hand, an arrow or a suitable gesture if pointing is unacceptable.
He - point to the boy at the front on the left.
She - point to the girl at the front on the right. Place them far apart so there is no doubt or confusion as to where students are pointing.
Say these over and over while the class point. Those at the front are doing it too.
In this lesson only teach I, you, he and she. Drill these thoroughly through games, until they are automatic. It's better to teach less and have students retain more, rather than teaching everything and students retain nothing or confuse the pronouns.
Here's a miming game to drill pronouns. Ask, "Who is playing football?" Have a class member mime playing football, let's say it's a girl. You say "She is." Write this on the board. Repeat with a different question such as, "Who is writing?" Choose a student to mime writing. "He is." Repeat the idea with "I am" and "You are". Then mix all four up and practise. Using mime, pointing and speaking make the meaning of these pronouns real. It's much easier to understand and retain a concept by acting it, being it, living it. In the next lesson revise first and add we and they.
We - indicate oneself and the student one is pairing with
They - point to the group of boys and girls at the front.
Play a game where students race to demonstrate the pronoun you name in groups. For I all students point to themselves. For you, all students point to their pair, looking at each other. For we students jump together, interlocking elbows and using both hands to indicate both of them. For they students jump into a group of three and indicate a different group of three.
Play the memory game, "Which one has gone?" At the front of class place a boy (he), a girl (she), a group of three (they), a person pointing at himself (I), a pair of students pointing at themselves (we), and the teacher (that's you). Check understanding by indicating each configuration while the class name the relevant pronoun. Ask the class to close their eyes and hide their faces in their arms. Quickly shuffle the groups at the front. Then hide one of the individuals or group. Either have them hide behind your desk, or put a sheet over them while they crouch down. Ask the class to open their eyes and tell you which one is missing.
It might be a bit chaotic and you might feel this is time-consuming, but wouldn't you prefer your pupils to grasp these pronouns once and for all, rather than be making mistakes for a long time until they sink in via the textbook?
At this point, I would play more games from the book to drill short sentences with pronouns - for example, Abracadanagram from 176 English Language Games for Children. Or use any of the drill games from my teen and adult games book.
Reinforce all the listening and speaking games with writing games - see the games books for ideas.
Let me know whether you use any of these ideas and how they go.
Shelley Ann Vernon
Teaching English Games