Time: 60 minutes
Materials Required: A4 Paper (1 sheet per student)
Overview: A low-prep, enjoyable, short lesson for introducing or practising comparatives. Suitable for all ages – in my experience, teenagers have reacted particularly well to this lesson as they create their own material, they get to move around and the context for the language is clear.
1) Give each student one piece of paper and instruct them to write their first name on the bottom right side of the paper.
2) Tell the students they have four minutes to draw a picture. The picture must be of a house, and in that house there is a room. In that room there is a piece of art. Keep the instructions short and simple, and assure students that there is no right or wrong answer. I prepared the slide below to provide a simple visual prompt.
3) Take in the pictures – we will use these soon. Inform the students that their pictures will soon be hanging in an art gallery for everyone to see! Meanwhile, you (the teacher) are the editor of a local newspaper and you need a team of art critics to visit the gallery / exhibition and write about it. This role will come into play later when the students are writing about their classmates’ pictures.
4) Language focus: Introduce adjectives to your students by eliciting that a ‘house’ is a noun, but a house can be big / small etc. Elicit more adjectives from the class, putting them on the board in lists. I prefer to organise them on a prepared board layout such as the blue/black parts below:
Do the same with rooms and pieces of art, noting students’ ideas on the board and eliciting other adjectives if they don’t think of ‘dark’, ‘spacious’, ’empty’, etc.
5) Drill and clap the pronunciation of the adjectives you have added, eliciting that the short adjectives have just one clap (or two if they finish with a consonant and ‘y’), and the long ones have multiple claps.
6) Introduce the concept of comparing one thing with another. As younger learners love to be involved, perhaps choose a taller and shorter student to the front and elicit these adjectives, but if we want to talk about them both in the same sentence, we are ‘comparing’ and thus need to ‘help’ the adjectives a little with some extra sounds. You can then bring add the red words from the board layout above and practise the pronunciation again by pointing at the adjective with the students echoing back the comparative form. Chant only short adjectives, then only long, then mix things up.
(Note: if you are working in a school where you have another member of staff / assistant at hand, you could ask them to take the students’ artwork and stick them on the wall of a corridor outside a classroom, or in any space with a couple of walls. If not, the work can be placed around a classroom, on tables, or anywhere visible during the next stage!)
7) Now it is time to go to the art gallery! Tell students that the newspaper has only paid for a very brief time in the gallery for their critics, therefore they will only have a few minutes to do their work. The students must now assume the role of an egotistical art critic, however, as they are going to be comparing all the work they see with their own.
Due to the lack of time, the students are going to browse the gallery and take BRIEF notes – writing only the name, object and adjective that they are comparing with their own picture. Exemplify this by doing it yourself a couple of times with a couple of the pictures.
8) Give the students 5 minutes to admire their classmates’ work and make at least five sets of notes!
9) Inform the students that you (their boss) want them now to write about the work they just saw for the newspaper. They should be using the notes they have made to write sentences comparing the pictures with their own using the following form:
Demonstrate by converting your example notes into a sentence with the help of the students, noting that the adjectives are in the comparative form and they should either use ‘-er’ or ‘more’ according to their length.
Monitor closely, especially if it is your students’ first time using this structure. Make sure the students pair check at the end, and even follow that up with a group check, ensuring their sentences make sense, following the simple comparative rules.
10) The final stage could be done a couple of ways, but I quite like presenting the scenario of an art TV show where artists come up to the front ‘under the spotlight’ with their picture, and students read out what they thought of this work. If students are quiet or haven’t written many sentences about that particular student, you could encourage spontaneity and elicit new ideas from students. When students read out their thoughts, you could act as a ‘funny host’, echoing the sentences back by saying ‘Oh, he thinks his house is bigger than yours!’
Alternatively, you could set up a mingle where the students find each other and tell each other what they think of their work and how it compares. You could teach some simple response phrases for agreeing and disagreeing so students can answer back if they think the sentences is true or false.
Optional Extension: Superlatives
If you wish to also cover superlatives, you could add it on to this lesson, offering the language and then instructing the students to award three prizes to the art they saw. The prizes could be ‘the most beautiful piece of art’, ‘the most fantastic house’, etc.
You could finish with a short awards ceremony, asking students to write their award sentences on the pictures around the room and seeing who has the most prizes at the end.