Sentences: It\\\'s a Jumble Out There!
Jan 24, 2013 Classroom Materials 3026 Views
Mixed-up or jumbled sentences has long been a common, effective method used by ESL teachers around the world to test their students' ability to rearrange a series of words and correctly form them into a sentence. In my experience, most students dislike having to do this. They often find it difficult and hard to comprehend. It is also quite boring for them.
What you, as a teacher, are asking them to do is to reformat sentences that generally mean nothing to the students. Here are two things to remember:
1. Try to use material that is relative to your students' age group and is meaningful to them.
2. It is vital for teachers to never bore their students. If you do, you lose them. Their attention will drift quickly onto something more interesting than what you are teaching and that is not good. It can lead to class disruptions.
But... a mixed-up sentence is a good exercise so the question is, 'How can a teacher make this more interesting for the students?' I was thinking about this as I was preparing for a class the other day and I thought that instead of giving students a series of sentences to unjumble - uninteresting sentences that were not related to each other - I would give them a story.
Here is what I gave them:
The Prince, the Dragon and the Princess
Marry wanted handsome to princess the prince. Fight the would dragon prince he king the have that the told to. Away the rode dragon prince find the to. Strong very dragon big was and the. Breathed the dragon fire. Was dragon the afraid prince of the. Saw breathed prince dragon the on him on the fire. Rock the large behind jumped prince a. Behind snuck the then dragon prince the. Heart sword his into plunged he the dragon's. Was dragon the dead. Castle the back princess to married rode prince the back and. After happily lived they ever.
Here is the reformatted text:
The Prince, the Dragon and the Princess
The handsome prince wanted to marry the princess. The king told the prince that he would have to fight the dragon. The prince rode away to find the dragon. The dragon was very big and strong. The dragon breathed fire. The prince was afraid of the dragon. The dragon saw the prince and breathed fire on him. The prince jumped behind a large rock. Then the prince snuck behind the dragon. He plunged his sword into the dragon's heart. The dragon was dead. The prince rode back to the castle and married the princess. They lived happily ever after.
I used it as a board exercise but it would work just as well as an in-class worksheet exercise or homework project. Sure, it is very simple but it is geared to the age and vocabulary level of the class.
The difference in attitude in the class was amazing. It was something the students were interested in. I had them work in groups of two or three. They really got into figuring out the next part of the story. The usual amount of student apathy was reduced and the challenge of deciphering a short story sparked their interest. Students are naturally competitive so they were quick to raise their hands as they realized they had reworked the next sentence of the story.
This is an exercise you can use regardless of the age or the comprehension level of your students. All you need to do is to structure your story accordingly. I just wrote the story quickly off the top of my head... but then, I write a lot of children's stories. If you are not a writer, not to worry. There are lots of short stories available on the Net or you can use one out of a fairytale book or other appropriate book you find in the school, library or bookstore.
If you use this as a worksheet, you can add appropriate clipart illustrations to add further interest and intrigue to your exercise.
Students love ghost stories, stories about teen idols, animals and anything that they find funny. Do you have a local student newspaper? If you do, that would be another good source for short material you can convert.
As you rearrange the words, you have to be careful that you do not omit words. You can also include punctuation marks. Sometimes you will see a mixed-up sentence shown like this:
went /store /, / I / Monday / to / On /. / bananas / bought / some / and /
In my story, I chose not to show a capital letter on the word that actually began each sentence but you can do this if you choose. It helps the students a little because it automatically tells them which word they should use to begin each sentence.
That's it. Just a quick idea for you on how to make your students perk up and listen!