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Advancing the advanced
by Diane Hall & Mark Foley
- 2

To continue with the work on gradable and ungradable adjectives, it's best to use examples that students might easily come across in the real world:

Ungradable adjectives are not usually used in comparatives and superlatives and we do not use very to make them stronger:

x Entrance to the museum is very free.x
Entrance to the museum is absolutely free.
xThe Ming vases are more priceless than the Egyptian mummies.x
xThe Ming vases are more valuable than the Egyptian mummies.x

[from page 233, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]

It is also desirable to practise language as much as possible at discourse rather than sentence level. While sentence-level practice is useful at lower levels and when learning rules of formation, it is often less appropriate for advanced students. Typical examples of discourse-level practice are multiple-choice exercises but based on a text (example 1 below), and error correction in discourse (2):

1*
... Muscarella's earlier claims have been (1) ... by some museum officials who are (2) ... opposed to his arguments. But Muscarella has (3) ... good scientific evidence for his claims, showing that over 40 per cent of the objects examined by the Oxford Thermoluminescence laboratory are fakes.

1 A - discussed B - rejected C - criticised
2 A - bitterly B - highly C - rather
3 A - perfectly B - absolutely C - somewhat

[from page 237, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]

2*
[Students have to find the unsuitable adjectives and substitute suitable ones.]

We've seen most of the sights in the city. Karen was absolutely pleased when we went to the 'Sagrada Familia' - she loves Gaudi's work. It's certainly a totally rare building. And Steve was very ecstatic about going to the Maritime Museum - he seems to find anything to do with boats utterly interesting. I can't understand it myself. I was absolutely annoyed when he suggested we stay there over lunchtime - especially as I was a bit famished at the time ...

[from page 239, Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar]

* Answers to these extracts are given at the end of the article.

4 General tips for awareness raising
It is important when presenting grammar to provide contextualised examples and information from the real world and actual environment, in order to illustrate real language use more effectively. When checking understanding, get students to go beyond the sentence level and put the target language into a wider context, e.g. not It couldn't have been my mother at the bus stop but The woman you saw at the bus stop yesterday couldn't have been my mother, because my mother always drives to the shops.

One of the reasons that we find some errors difficult to classify is that they are lexical rather than grammatical. Encourage students to recognise the links between lexis and grammar, and to see patterns, so when they learn new vocabulary they learn it in a grammatical context. We should encourage students to learn, for example, phrasal verbs with an object (put something down), verbs and adjectives with their dependent prepositions (complain about something), adjectives with their adverb collocates (deeply religious), or reporting verbs with their patterns (thank somebody for doing something).

To help students use language naturally and fluently, encourage them to see the structures that underlie everything they read and listen to. Make them aware of authentic reading texts as a source of grammar and have them analyse these in terms of grammar use as well as meaning. Cloze tests and tasks involving the reassembling of cut-up texts are useful in helping students understand the importance of discourse. When doing these sorts of task it is important to talk about the clues (e.g. collocates, linkers) that help us to fill the gaps or to put the text back together.

5 Conclusion
In this article, we have looked at reasons why it can be so difficult to teach grammar to a class of advanced students, with reference to the Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar. We have looked at a way of assessing students' weaknesses, by using diagnostic tests, and we have looked at how to analyse the kind of errors that advanced students make that are not easily recognisable. We have then looked at ways of helping students to 'see the bigger picture', i.e. to focus on larger chunks of text and not just on sentences. In all of this, with students at advanced level, the most important thing is to raise their awareness: their awareness of their own weaknesses, or how to tackle and improve those areas of weakness, and of how the English language works at text and discourse level, i.e. the level at which advanced students should be working.


* Answers to exercise extracts:
1
1 C
2 A
3 A

2
x absolutely pleased >> absolutely delighted
x totally rare >> totally unique
x very ecstatic >> very pleased/happy
x utterly interesting >> utterly fascinating
x absolutely annoyed >> absolutely furious
x a bit famished >> a bit hungry

Biodata

Diane Hall has been involved in English language Teaching and Publishing for over 25 years. She taught for several years in the UK and Germany before moving into publishing and writing. She has written a number of books, notably the Longman Advanced Learners' Grammar and Distinction, a course for advanced learners (with Mark Foley), and Pacesetter, an upper secondary course, with Derek Strange. Diane has a teaching qualification in ELT and an MA in Second Language Learning and Teaching from the University of London.
Mark Foley has worked in English Language Teaching for over 23 years and has extensive experience in teaching (mostly in the UK and Spain), teacher training, examining and materials writing. He is the co-author of a number of publications, including the Longman ELT advanced titles Distinction and Advanced Learners' Grammar.

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