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  1. #1
    dandred is offline Newbie
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    Question Teaching "the" to high level students?

    I have a problem that keeps coming up while teaching my upper intermediate and advanced students, in their written work there are always problems with use of "the" when to use it and when not to use it.

    I want to try and teach the correct uses without the lessons being like a lecture or simple going through grammar books. This is the only area in which I'm stuck for ideas on how to teach this without the lessons being like lectures. I usually teach these students 1-1 so peer correction is not an option.

    Any idea on how to make this aspect of English engaging without it just being about learning the rules?

    Thank you

  2. #2
    I'm With Stupid's Avatar
    I'm With Stupid is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    "A man walks into a pub. The man says to the barman...."

    Get them to write jokes? Or at least read a joke and they have to select "a," "an" or "the" at various points.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandred View Post
    I want to try and teach the correct uses without the lessons being like a lecture or simple going through grammar books. This is the only area in which I'm stuck for ideas on how to teach this without the lessons being like lectures.
    At advanced levels, the usage of articles is difficult and, sometimes, apparently fairly arbitrary. I can offer no advice, simply reassurance tht you are not alone in having problems in this area.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    It is one of those things that drags on for ages- I have a friend who was my CAE then CPE student many years ago, has since done two degrees at British universities and articles are still an issue.

  5. #5
    dandred is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    Thank you for the replies......I'm glad I'm not the only one.........

    I've been giving sentences with and without mistakes to my students, and then asking them which on is correct and why, they almost always get the correct answer and the reason why.......But that isn't comming across in their written work.

    Such a complex area, all the resources and textbooks I'm used to dealing with never seem to confront this problem, Headway, Cutting Edge, New English File, Language Leader all seem take it as a given that the rules will have been learnt after intermediate level, without any real focus on the language/grammar point in question.
    Last edited by dandred; 14-Apr-2012 at 05:19.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandred View Post
    Such a complex area, all the resources and textbooks I'm used to dealing with never seem to confront this problem, Headway, Cutting Edge, New English File, Language Leader all seem take it as a given that the rules will have been learnt after intermediate level, without any real focus on the language/grammar point in question.
    One of the problems is that there are no hard and fast rules. The 'rules' that teachers and books present to students up to Intermediate level, and sometimes beyond, work well in most everyday situations, and rarely cause students to produce incorrect English. However, in real life, we native speakers are far more flexible than the rules allow for.

    Students who are exposed to real English will often see/hear usage that they have been told is incorrect, and they naturally become confused. I have found this to be particularly true of people who read a lot of business and/or technial reports, in which 'obligatory' articles are often omitted.

    Michael Swan (Practical English Usage, 3rd edn, 2005) devotes 16 pages to the subject. It is not insignifiant that his section headings include 'articles (9): the (difficult cases' [6 sub-sections], 'articles (10) special rules and exceptions' [19 sub-sections!].

    One thing to console you. Despite all the fuss we teachers make about articles, student mistakes rarely impede communication. Although correct article usage may be the last thing that (a gifted few) learners really master, this is rarely a problem in real life. Provided that learners have a reasonably sound idea of the basic rules we give them, article mistakes are probably less intrusive for most native speakers then a foreign accent.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    This is correct- learners from languages that have no articles may never master them, but this rarely leads to comprehension problems.

  8. #8
    paulsorrow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    One trick I use for teaching the concept of THE is with red and black pens.

    Hold out two black pens and a red pen. Ask the student to take the black pen. If they understand the basic concept of THE, they will be confused.

    The rules for articles are numerous but not insurmountably complex. Students that don't use articles in their mother tongue will struggle, naturally, but a degree of mastery is possible.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    Quote Originally Posted by paulsorrow View Post
    Hold out two black pens and a red pen. Ask the student to take the black pen. If they understand the basic concept of THE, they will be confused.
    Welcome to the forum, paulsorrow.

    I prefer not to confuse students. I don't really see the point of using articles incorrectly with a learner in any circumstances.
    Last edited by 5jj; 15-Jul-2012 at 20:47. Reason: typo
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Teaching "the" to high level students?

    I see the point of the exercise, but when advanced users are struggling between surgery/the surgery, etc, and the choice between article or zero article is probably the hardest, is when this becomes difficult. I have an above average understanding of the rules of articles but I struggle to provide a reason for many. The beginner student who can't understand your order is off to a good start, but getting them to professional or thesis level is more difficult.

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