The Art of Teaching Articles (Part Three)

Recently I faced the challenge of explaining article usage to my beginner student, Natasha, whom you may know from my new series on YouTube. I hadn’t planned to focus on the difference between indefinite and definite articles yet, but as you know students’  needs and interests can easily change our game plan. I ended up creating a short lesson on articles. I felt challenged to explain the rules with so few words in Natasha’s vocabulary. Off-camera I offered some explanation in Russian, but I also tried to lead my student to a correct understanding through examples in English in order to make use of the language she does understand.

Some time ago I posted several ideas for presenting and teaching articles. When writing Part One and Part Two of “The Art of Teaching Articles,” I had intermediate and advanced students in mind.  I thought it would be a good idea to round out that collection of activities by adding some suggestions for basic level students.

I Spy  –

  1. Pair students up. Student A states what s/he sees. The student should name singular nouns.  (“I see a red bag.” = indefinite article)
  2. Student B locates the object and makes a statement about it. (“Yes. I see it. The bag is on the floor.”)
  3. Have students take alternate making the opening statements.

Keep & Toss

  1. Have students check their pockets, bags, and purses. They should find find two objects to show the class. Demonstrate by taking two items from your desk , bag, or pockets. (Choose one object you want to keep and one that you can throw away.)
  2. The class will place all objects on a central desk or table. When a person adds to the pile, s/he should identify the object. (“This is a ticket.” / “This is a book.”) Note new vocabulary on the board.
  3. Help students decide what to throw in the trash. (“What can we throw away?” – Demonstrate by tossing one item in the trash can.) Students can call out their suggestions. (“The paper…. the receipt…”)
  4. Allow students to claim the remaining items on the table. Demonstate by claiming yours. (“The blue pen is mine.”)
  5. You may choose to call attention to the pattern of articles just used. Explain the importance of first and second mention as well as “the” being a specific reference to something – an object understood by the listener.

Do you have a favorite way of presenting and practicing articles at the beginning level? Please feel free to post your ideas.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Love the “Keep and Toss” activity. Simple, fun and brilliant. Supremely timely too ‘cuz – as a newbie EFL Teach here in Vietnam, my lesson next week for “Seniors” (beginners age 12-16 yrs.) is… on “articles”! Will definitely try this one – thanks!

    1. Bravo! You are visiting ELT blogs and obviously gearing up for the next classroom challenge. The age group you are working with can be tough.
      I did my teacher training at an inner city high school in Pittsburgh, PA. I was poorly prepared, especially in terms of classroom management.
      I’m sure you are going into the classroom with more ideas and strategies than I did all those years ago! Good luck and have fun!

  2. Mr. Darwoto says:

    I am Indonesian English teacher. Nice to see you here. I will have many experiences about teaching English.

    1. Hello and thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will explore and find posts that relate to your own teaching.

  3. Harvey says:

    Your “Keep & Toss” game is simply ingenious! I’m teaching five basic-level classes this semester so I’ll be checking back regularly for more ideas and on Natasha’s progress.

    1. Wow! 5 classes all at the same level could be a challenge. Then again you can try out an activity with one group and modify it for a second based on what worked and what didn’t the first time. If you end up discovering a new variation of this or any other activity, please share it.

      Natasha and I met again today, so there will soon be more material to post both on YouTube and here on WordPress. Have a great week!

  4. Jennifer, I would like to give you an idea I got from your Natasha videos, as you were using cards with tape on the back to show the pronouns and teach the verbs. I would like to tell you my idea to improve this. I used to teach little children Bible stories as a missionary when I first came to Brazil using flannel graphs, which means a board covered with felt cloth (similar to a pool table and the cards backed with sandpaper or felt paper. Then the cards stick to the felt covered board, if you send me an email I will send you a picture of my work. I also used different colors for sorting the word categories. I hope you like my suggestion. Maurice

    1. Hi Maurice and thank you! The flannel graphs sound practical, and I can imagine that they might also be very colorful!
      I don’t often use cards as I did with Natasha, but I will keep your ideas in mind. I really like the idea of color coding information. Mostly what I wanted to do in that one lesson was cut down on writing time and also demonstrate substitution by having the pronoun cards take the place of the nouns.

      If you’ve watched all the lessons to date, you’ll see that we’ve progressed from the original blackboard in her son’s room to my small whiteboard on a shaky easel to a large whiteboard that Natasha can hang up and taken down off the wall. We keep adapting to our needs and the viewers’ preferences. Indeed, there are many types of boards to consider!

      If you have posted a video or photo of your work online, you can include the link here.

      Best wishes to you!

  5. Hany says:

    Hello I’m Hany from egypt I want to tell you thank you very much

    1. Thank you, Hany, for stopping by. Happy New Year to you!

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