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Ask Thomas is a periodic column by veteren ESL teacher, Thomas Lavelle. Thomas Lavelle received his Masters in TESL from Birmingham and has taught ESL in many countries, but currently teaches at a university in the United States.




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Teaching Relative Clauses Part II - by Thomas Lavelle

This is continuation of a lesson on Teaching Relative Clauses, which I discussed last time. After the students have been introduced to the concept and function of the basic relative clauses with the oral activities in the previous lesson, I then follow with a focused 'noticing' activity involving listening, reading and writing.

So far, the lesson gives students practice in speaking with relative clauses. The 'process' normally is interesting and helpful for students but I am uncomfortable unless there is a 'product' at the end of the lesson-something for the student and for me to measure.


The students will hear a short selection (Teacher Worksheet) I created about 3 unique aspects of American Culture: the prom, Buffalo wings and the Amish people. The first step is to introduce the students to the key words just mentioned and discuss/explain these things. Then read the selection or use a tape recorder.


Next, the students look at their worksheet. It has a list of relative clauses that are used in the selection. The teacher reads the selection again from the Teacher Worksheet and the students listen. When they hear one of the relative clauses, they make a check before it.


Following that, the students are given another worksheet, which contains the listening passage minus the relative clauses. Their job is to match the relative clause with the noun that it refers to. In pairs or alone, they work to fill in the worksheet.


Check the class for answers and discuss the selection. You can also give them a copy of the completed selection for them to review. Give them some silent time to re-read the selection and make corrections and observe and ask questions.


Finally, give a writing assignment with instructions to create a short essay draft  around the topic of unique aspects of their own culture based on the original model the teacher read. Create a scoring guide in advance of how you will grade the writing. At the very least, demand at least 3 unique aspects and 3 uses of relative clauses per topic along with the proper punctuation, etc?? Have other students proofread the draft for the items on your scoring guide. Students then are ready to create the final copy, which you will grade based on your scoring guide. This will be 'published' and posted around the room. This gives the entire activity the sense of purpose and finality, the 'product' if you will.