Cinderella and Past Simple – teaching grammar creatively
Have you ever thought how to change the way your students can learn grammatical structures in the classes? How to incorporate some fun elements into a typical lesson devoted to grammar?
No matter what age group you teach, try to break the barriers and do something different. Even if your students might not approve of your crazy ideas from the very beginning, later they will probably say thank you, because learning grammar is definitely more stimulating and effective when it is not solely about completing dull exercises in the workbooks.
One example might be the class I held with 12-year-old pupils. They were trying to master regular and irregular Past Simple forms when on the Internet I found a Cinderella story in a simplified version. One feature of this text that made it perfect for my students was that it included a lot of Past Simple forms. Not giving it at first a too deep thought, I printed out the story, because I found Cinderella in a slightly newer and more contemporary version truly appealing to young learners. Only later did I come to think what I could do with the text in my lesson.
As a lead-in activity, I asked my students to tell me what they know or what they can remember about Cinderella. A few students came up with some ideas and I told them what they were going to do.
The first activity was to listen to me reading the tale and draw what they could hear. I read the story twice and children were supposed to draw as many things as possible in order to retell it to me later. First, I asked them to say what they had drawn and the next stage was to try to tell me the whole story. It was a very difficult task, but with my help students managed quite well. To facilitate the task, I asked them some additional questions, e.g. ”Where did Cinderella live?”, ”What time did she get up?”, “How did she go the party?” or ”Why was the Prince sad?”. The aim was to use Past Simple correctly in the speaking activity.
Afterwards I distributed the text of the story to the pupils and asked them to read it and underline all of the verbs in the past forms. When they were ready, we started writing these verbs on the board, always providing two forms: infinitive and in the Past Simple.
To finish I handed out the worksheets with the exercise to fill in the sentences (directly taken from the story) with the verbs in the correct Past Simple forms.
This lesson was aimed at students who had already been introduced to Past Simple and they needed to practise it more. It combined learning grammar with a bit of literature (Cinderella) and art (drawing). It also helped to work on the listening and speaking skills. Mind that the vocabulary in the story had to be easy for the students not to overburden them with yet another challenge in the class.
I hope my short article will trigger some more creative ideas in you and that you will teach grammar in combination with other skills in a fun and motivating way. Good luck!
Cinderella lived in a small village in the north of England. She had two sisters; they were very ugly. She got up every morning at six o’clock, then she made breakfast for her sisters, and afterwards she cleaned the house. She worked all day. Her two ugly sisters were very lazy; they never did any work because Cinderella did everything. Cinderella was very unhappy.
One day, the postman came to the house. He gave Cinderella’s sister an envelope . In the envelope there were three invitations to a party at the Prince’s house. She said to her sisters, “Fantastic! There is a party at the Prince’s house. I can wear my new red dress and Esmerelda can wear her new blue dress, but Cinderella can’t go because her dress is old and dirty and she hasn’t got any shoes.”
On Saturday at 8 o’clock, the ugly sisters went to the party. Cinderella sat in the kitchen. She was very sad. There was a ring at the door. Cinderella opened the door. There was a woman. She said, “Hello! I am your Fairy Godmother. Why are you sad?” Cinderella said, “I want to go to the party but I haven’t got any beautiful clothes.” The Fairy Godmother said, “No problem, here is a new dress and some glass shoes. There is a golden bicycle in the street. Now you can go to the party, but you must return before 12 o’clock.” Cinderella said, “Thank you.” She put on the glass shoes and the red dress. She looked very pretty. Then she went to the party by bicycle.
The party was very good. At first, Cinderella was very shy but after an hour, the Prince asked Cinderella to dance. They danced for a long time. The Prince said to Cinderella, “I like your dress and you are very pretty.” Cinderella was very happy. She forgot what time it was. Suddenly the clock rang. Cinderella said, “Oh no! I must go. It is 12 o’clock.” She ran home, at the door of the Prince’s house she lost her shoe.
The next day, the Prince was very sad because he was in love with Cinderella but he didn’t know where she lived. He went to all the houses in the village and said, “Do you know whose shoe this is?” Finally, he went to Cinderella’s house. Cinderella opened the door. The Prince said, “I love you. Do you want to marry me?” Cinderella said, “Yes.” The wedding was the week after. Cinderella and the Prince were never unhappy again.
- Where did she live?
- When did she get up?
- How did she go to the party?
- Why was the prince sad?
Put the following verbs in the sentences (in the Past Simple)
Work, live, look, be, open, ask, sit, go
- Cinderella ……………….. in a small village in the north of England.
- She …………………. all day.
- Cinderella ………………… in the kitchen.
- She ……………… very pretty.
- Then she………………… to the party by bicycle.
- At first, Cinderella …………….. very shy but after an hour, the Prince ……………..Cinderella to dance.
- Cinderella ………………. the door.