Good, Better, and Best Practices for Teaching Comparatives and Superlatives

  • Teach comparatives before superlatives. This is a no-brainer: the order is logical.

 

  • Consider teaching the use of more and less before the use of the suffix -er. Let students master sentence structure before dealing with spelling rules. (X is more [adjective] than Y).  Work first with common adjectives, such as expensive, beautiful, difficult, and dangerous. Keep examples simple and familiar. For example, show two apartments for rent in your city and list the monthly rent for students to compare. Which is more expensive? Let them discuss which one is more beautiful.

 

  • Consider teaching the best and the worst before the use of the most and the least or the suffix -est. Continue working with examples that everyone is familiar with, such as four test scores (60%, 75%, 85%, 100%) or three Olympic medals (bronze > silver > gold).

 

  • Consider teaching use of the most and the least before the suffix -est. Again, it’s a matter of focusing first on meaning (comparing three or more items), then sentence structure (X is the most/ least [adjective] of all), and finally spelling rules for adding the suffix -est.

 

  • When you present spelling rues, remember to note pronunciation as well (i.e., when the suffix adds a syllable as in friendliest).

 

  • Allow adequate time to work with adverbs. Sometimes grammar sources focus more on adjectives and less on adverbs when they present and practice comparatives and superlatives.

 

  • Don’t assume comparatives and superlatives are intermediate grammar topics only. Advanced ELLs might benefit from a review and expansion. Do they know which words don’t form comparatives or superlatives? (For example, we can’t say the most final and it’s not common to hear the least impossible.) Do they know how to use intensifiers like all the more and a whole lot more? Consider a lesson on pre- and postmodifiers that intensify the degree of adjectives and adverbs.

 

  • Make practice meaningful and fun (as you would with any grammar topic). For example, bring in some products from the grocery store (crackers, cookies, lotions, etc.) Let students work in pairs or small groups to advertise one brand. They can sample products and say why their brand is better than the competitor’s or why it’s the best on the market.

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