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Grammar Safari




TEACHERS: HERE IS ONE SUGGESTED PLAN FOR CONDUCTING AN INTRODUCTORY GRAMMAR SAFARI ACTIVITY : After students have begun collecting examples of grammatical structures for class assignments (grammar journals, etc.), schedule a class period (2 hours is best; 1 hour will do) in a language lab with access to the WWW. This seems to be most effective early in the semester, but after the students have had a few assignments requiring them to collect examples of grammatical structures in the "real world." The purpose is to introduce the class to a faster, easier, more interesting way to collect examples of grammatical structures (Grammar Safari), and to help them become comfortable using the computer and surfing the net. The competition adds motivation, fun, closure for this introductory activity. (Having the goal be to "win" by amassing more points that other teams, rather than finding an assigned number of examples, avoids the problem of students not being able to complete the assignment. It is intended as a classtime activity, not as homework. ) After this, you can then either require students to do future assignments via the WWW (no longer a competition, but to complete assignments), or just let each student decide whether he/she's more comfortable hunting through magazines and newspapers.

BEFORE CLASS:

  • Prepare a handout for each student, explaining the step-by-step procedures for "hunting" game. (you can print out the FIND instructions above, or prepare your own version.)
  • Decide how you would like to pair the students up. Suggested issues: pairing students who speak different languages, pairing computer novices with students with at least basic computer-literacy, pairing students with somewhat weaker grammatical knowledge with students whose grammatical knowledge is stronger, same-sex pairs, all seem to help.
  • Prepare a handout for each student similar to one of the sample Safaris here, with each pair of students' names on two handouts. (The handout should include the "game" to be hunted, the points awarded for each, and the format the report should take, including examples of how the students are to demonstrate understanding.)
  • Arrange to meet in a computer lab with at least half as many computers as there are students in the class, plus one for you. Yours will need to be hooked up to an LCD panel so students can see what is on your screen.
  • Tell students to come to the lab for class, and suggest that they bring a disk with them in case they want to save their work, but that it is not necessary. (Or you can require everyone to bring a disk .. or give each pair a disk after they get to the lab .. and require that the assignment be handed in on that disk at the end of class. [suggested by Teresa Baker])
DURING CLASS:
  • As students enter the lab, hand them the Safari handouts with their names on them, and ask them to find their partners and sit together at ONE computer. Ask them NOT to turn on the computer.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity (above) and briefly go over the "game" to be hunted, the points, and the format for the report.
  • Then give each student a copy of the FIND instructions and tell them that you're going to show them how to complete the assignment. Students should NOT turn their computers on yet. They should follow along on the handout as they watch your screen (as projected by the LCD panel.) Keep referring to the handout as you do each step, so they'll be able to retrace your steps when they do it themselves:
    • OPEN NETSCAPE/GET A BOOK/GET THE WORDPROCESSING PROGRAM READY: You can let students suggest a book -- if a major movie has recently been made from a classic, many students may be somewhat familiar with it. Or they may have other suggestions. Point out the issues on the handout to be considered in selecting a book. Show them how you can arrange the windows and move back and forth just by clicking.
    • START HUNTING: Decide together what letters you should type in to get one (or several) of the structures you want. Point out the effect of having spaces before and after the letters. As you find examples, decide together whether they're examples of the grammatical structure you want.
    • START COLLECTING: Choose one or two examples to copy and paste into the wordprocessing window. Then analyze them according to the instructions you prepare. (Bold, underline, add grammatical analyses, restatements, etc.) Be sure to include the source of the example. (If the students are going to be handing their assignment in on a disk, show them how to save their document.)
    • KEEP HUNTING: Keep looking in the same document for the same words, begin again looking for different words, if you have time, choose a different document to look through.
  • Tell the students to turn on their computers, and all proceed together (check after each step) to:
    • Open Netscape
    • Open a wordprocessing window, arrange the windows, and practicing moving from one to the other
    • Choose a book.
  • After each pair has their windows set up and has chosen a book, tell them when they will have to stop and save (or print) their document, and then turn them loose.. Circulate throughout the lab as the students work together, admiring their work and answering the many questions they will have. You will probably notice three kinds of communication going on:

AFTER CLASS

  • "Correct" each pair's report, adding comments, re-calculate the points earned if necessary, and make a copy for each student (and one for you, if you'd like). (If they've handed in the results on a disk, decide how you will give detailed feedback to both partners.)
  • In the next class, announce the "winners" (the pair with the highest point total WHO FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS -- not necessarily without mistakes.) Award some sort of prize .. something to share with the rest of the class is always nice. Return the papers (or feedback on the disks).
  • In future class activities consider using some of the examples found.

(This activity is designed to familiarize students with FINDING COMMON grammatical structures in long documents that have been chosen for that purpose -- structures like articles, relative clauses, verb tenses, etc. that can be expected to be found in most long documents. At some later point you will probably also want to introduce the idea of SEARCHING for documents that contain RARER grammatical structures or vocabulary -- structures like particular transitions, conjunctions, phrases, etc.)


RELATED PAGES:
A description of three activities using the WWW as a Grammar Corpus
A presentation outlining four WWW Activities, originally given at the TESOL conference in Chicago, March 1996

Ann Salzmann
Intensive English Institute
Division of English as an International Language
University of Illinois