Imagine if there were a helpline for articles. Anytime learners had a doubt over choosing a, an, the, or the zero article, they could dial the number to get an immediate answer. Well, that kind of handy service isn’t available, so we need to strengthen students’ accuracy and confidence through exposure and practice with feedback. They must be able to rely on their own knowledge.
My all-time favorite exercise for articles is to copy a paragraph from an online text, remove the articles, insert gaps before all nouns, and share it as a fill-in-the-blank task. Students can easily create such exercises on their own. If they do, the key is to wait a day or two so that they’re not merely memorizing the text and then reinserting the articles based on short-term memory. (More details in the related post The Art of Teaching Articles, Part 2.)
Controlled exercises can generally be reserved for independent study so that class time is used more for meaningful production. However, group practice of articles can also be beneficial if you give students the chance to talk through their choices and voice their logic. We can guide their thought process and thus help them develop better instincts.
If you’d like to review a half dozen patterns with article usage, please consider my classroom slides below.
Student Stumper: Generic use of article (2010)
The Art of Teaching Articles (2010) – Part 1
The Art of Teaching Articles (2010) – Part 2
The Art of Teaching Articles (2012) – Part 3
Online Shopping Activity (2010)
English Articles: One of the Trickiest Grammar Topics on Earth (2010)