Physical Games To Practise A/An

TPR games for the difference between “a” and “an”.

The distinction between “an + vowel sound” and “a + consonant sound” is something that is taught mainly to young learners and needs a lot more practice than explanation, so it is a perfect point to bring a running around game or two into class. This article gives variations on two popular running around games for this grammar point as well as a less manic physical game.

A/An Stations

Put cards saying “a” and “an” on opposite walls of the classroom, getting students to run and touch the correct wall depending on what they see or hear, e.g. running and touching the “an” wall when you say “It’s blank umbrella”. The teacher could also show a flashcard (e.g. of an apricot) or hold up a letter to represent the beginning of the next word.

Less physical versions of Stations include students throwing sticky balls or paper aeroplanes at those two cards, pretending to shoot those two cards, competing to be the first to slap those two cards in the middle of their table, racing to hold up the correct one of the two cards they have each been given, or racing to hold up their ruler for “a” and eraser for “an” (or holding up more amusing body parts or objects in the same way).

If you can stand the noise and excitement of the running around version of this game, there is an even more chaotic version that takes away the chance of students just copying each other when they choose which wall to run to. The teacher stands at the front of the room and gives out one picture flashcard, word flashcard or letter flashcard to each student. The students run to the appropriate wall and put their flashcards down there, then run back to the teacher for another one. If you want to play the same game for points, you could have a box at each wall for each team or ask students to write their name (or their team’s name) on the card before they put it down in the right place. Alternatively, you can have students from each team taking turns to come up to the teacher, with the next person only coming up when their teammate has sat down, with the rest of their team staying involved by giving their partner advice if they are not sure where the card that they have been given should go. Another option is to give each team a whole stack of flashcards at once and let them work out their own way of getting them to the right walls as soon as possible. This also works well with realia such as plastic fruit.

Touch A/An…

This is a very slight variation on the typical young learner classroom games of students running and touching things in the classroom or slapping flashcards on the table or floor. The teacher gives the sentence telling them what they should touch very slowly, pausing after the indefinite article, e.g. “Touch… a… …. window” and “Touch… an… … orange thing”. This allows students to think about the grammar and anticipate a little what the teacher is going to say. Especially with things around the classroom, if possible try to make sure that there are at least two of the things you mention so that “Touch the…” wouldn’t be a more natural thing to say. Students can then take on the teacher’s role, with their classmates no doubt loudly correcting them if they get “a” and “an” wrong in their sentence.

This game can also be played with just clues, e.g. “Touch something with an that is big”. This can also be done with the teacher holding up an “a” or “an” card and saying the other part of the clue, e.g. holding up “a” and saying “It’s made from glass”. Alternatively, you could just say or hold up “a” or “an” and give points for any object or flashcard which is in that category that they find and slap and hasn’t been touched so far in the game.

Matching games

Perhaps the most common workbook and textbook for this grammar point is just joining “a” or “an” with suitable words or pictures on the same page. This can be made much more stimulating by getting students to exert themselves physically to match them up, e.g. stretching their bodies to touch “a” and “banana”, two students running to connect one end of their rope to the “an” flashcard and another to an eraser on someone’s desk, or holding hands in a chain to connect “a” and “an” on two walls and picture flashcards on the other two walls.

Written by Alex Case for April 2013
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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