Vysotska A.I. The use of verses, games, and problem-solving activities in English grammar teaching of primary school students

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Висоцька Анна Іванівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, спеціальність «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті розглянуто використання віршів, ігор і проблемних ситуацій у процесі навчання граматики англійської мови учнів початкової школи; доведено важливість віршів, ігор і проблемних ситуацій як цінних педагогічних засобів; розкрито можливість зробити урок з граматики ефективним, корисним і цікавим і сформувати комунікативну компетентність учнів початкової школи за допомогою ігор і проблемних ситуацій.

Ключові слова: вірш, гра, проблемна ситуація, навчання граматики англійської мови, комунікативна компетентність, учні початкової школи.

В статье рассмотрено использование стихов, игр и проблемных ситуаций в процессе обучения грамматики английского языка учащихся начальной школы; доказана важность стихов, игр и проблемных ситуаций как ценных педагогических средств; раскрыто возможность сделать урок по грамматике эффективным, полезным и интересным и сформировать коммуникативную компетентность учащихся начальной школы с помощью игр и проблемных ситуаций.

Ключевые слова: стихотворение, игра, проблемная ситуация, обучение грамматике английского языка, коммуникативная компетентность, ученики начальной школы.

The usage of verses, games, and problem solving activities in English grammar teaching of primary school students is examined; the importance of verses, games, and problem solving activities as valuable pedagogical tools are proved; the potentiality of making a grammar lesson effective, beneficial, and interesting and forming primary school students’ communicative competence through games and problem solving activities are revealed.

Key words: verse, game, problem solving activity, English grammar teaching, communicative competence, primary school students.


Problem setting

Nowadays millions of people all over the world have made heads and tails of learning English because of increasing political, economic, and cultural ties among different countries. And we are sure to be understood and to understand people of different nationalities. The English language plays an important role in the world communication, international business, and social and cultural affairs. It helps understand the mentality of another nation.

Learning a foreign language is not an easy thing. It is a long and slow process that takes a lot of time and efforts. Acquiring the ability to use a language automatically, that is without stopping to think, is a process of habit formation. Forming a habit, any kind of habit, requires much practice [5, p. 36]. Ukrainian people also give much attention to master English, a language that forms the means of effective communication worldwide. They yearn to learn it effectively to gain command over language skills by acquiring perfection in terms of grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. of the language. In learning English grammar occupies a very important place, it is a kind of frame, on which lexis is based. That is why acquiring grammatical competence is an essential background for successful use of English as a means of communication.

When teaching grammar of primary school students a teacher should use different pedagogical tools to make a lesson effective, beneficial, and interesting. We think that the usage of such sources as verses, games, and problem solving activities may be very helpful in students’ grammatical competence form.

Last scientific researches and publications analysis

Having analysed and researched contemporary scientific, educational, and methodological literature we may claim that the traditional methods of teaching English grammar of both young and adult learners through writing, rewriting, and worksheets as well as through new active approaches to it have become a subject of investigation of many researchers.

Different grammar aspects have been studied by a great deal of native scientists, namely O. Nitsetska, Z. Danylova, O. Yarmolovych, O. Vovk, N. Kovalchuk, H. Boretska and others. Foreign researchers such as A. Wright, D. Betteridge, A. Ersoz, A. Saricoban, E. Metin, Sh. Vernon, M. Rinvolucri, D. Paul and others have dedicated their works to using an active approach to teaching grammar through games. M. Celce-Murcia and Sh. Hilles, authors of «Techniques and Resources in Teaching Grammar», state that the conservative approach of a structural syllabus will work fine if include games, songs, verse, role playing, creative writing, narrating comic strip stories and more [3, p.18].

Formulation of the article’s purpose

As to say, the problem of teaching English grammar of adult students through both traditional and active methods is widely observed in scientific investigations of both foreign and native scholars. However, the use of such sources as verses, games, and problem solving activities as valuable pedagogical tools in English grammar classes in primary school is paid little attention and needs further development. It concerns the integration of just mentioned sources with some well-developed and fascinating techniques in the classroom that is aimed to forming grammar competence of young learners effectively.

The aim of the article is to examine the usage of verses, games, and problem solving activities in English grammar teaching of primary school students.

The statement of basic material of investigation

Grammar teaching has often been regarded as a structure based formal activity. But due to the integration of several sources, such as verses, games, and problem solving activities, and techniques, which are mainly based on communicative activities, grammar teaching gains a new insight.

Verses may contextualize a grammar lesson effectively. Since poetry is often spoken, repeated, dealt with, and considered, it acts as an effective tool for practicing a specific grammatical structure, especially when teaching young learners. For example, a verse called Where do We Go? provides practice in the question forms with what do and where do. It also offers examples of the contraction don’t: Where do we go? What do we do? Don’t ask me. I was following you. What do we do? Where do we go? Don’t ask me. I don’t know… [1, p. 72]

Through repeating and considering a verse, grammatical structures become more deeply internalized. Thus, verses not only provide a rewarding resource for structured practice of grammar, but also are a proper basis for review. If a verse that exemplifies a particular structure is also a good verse, it engages the eye, the ear, and the tongue simultaneously while also stimulating and moving learners. This polymorphic effect makes verses easier to memorize than other things for many students, especially those primary ones [3, p. 86].

There is an undeniable fact that verses exaggerate the rhythmic nature of the language. Thus it is an important aspect to be taught, since English, as we know, is a syllable timed language with stressed syllables being spoken at roughly equal time pauses, even in everyday speech. Similar to songs, verses have an enormous linguistic value as they provide authenticity and cultural views. A verse’s capacity to comfort a reader or a listener also increases its effectiveness as a teaching resource. Once a verse has been learned, it stays in the minds of students for the rest of their lives, with all the rhythms, grammatical features, and vocabulary.

It is worth to note that verses bring the use of creativity and the rhythm into English language classes of young learners, though they may also bring some difficulties. Verses are not constructed in a simple way and syntactically they are at a higher level than prose, thus it might be very difficult for a foreign language learner, especially young students, to comprehend them completely [3, p. 93]. Thus, in the selection of a verse, a teacher should first consider the grammatical structure to be presented, practiced, or reviewed, then the level and the age of the students, next the theme and the length of the verse and its appropriateness to the classroom objectives. It is advisable to select more contemporary verses of the 20th or 21st century poets than older ones. It is explained by the fact that older verses often provide a more difficult lexicon and syntax, and may reflect some old-fashioned ideas. It is also advisable to select verses, which are helpful not only in teaching different grammar aspects but reflect cultural themes, universal features, humanistic values, and emotional aspects. By removing or minimizing the potential problems, verses can provide an enormously rich, enjoyable, and authentic context for foreign language primary school learners.

Here it should be also mentioned the teaching procedure. At the teaching stage of a verse, it is not advisable to talk about its meaning in advance. Since they offer a reading and listening activity, verses could be presented through a reading plan. At the pre-reading stage, students might be motivated through some enthusiastic talks about verses or poets. Some necessary vocabulary can also be handled at this stage. At the reading stage, in order to create images, a teacher may ask students to close their eyes while he or she is reading a verse. After a verse has been read at least twice, it is better to elicit students’ primary responses about a verse. Next, after distributing a verse to students, students may be asked to read it either loudly or silently. In order to practice the determined grammar point, students may be asked to paraphrase a verse. Through transforming a verse into prose students get acquainted with the structure.

After easing the grammar and understanding the vocabulary, students get an idea about the theme of a verse. Asking questions about context may follow the reading. Through asking Wh- questions, providing additional information about the culture, and asking students to share their experience with the subject matter, the cultural content of a verse becomes more real and vivid. Words, pictures, and shared experiences can eliminate the gap that is created by different cultures, as no one can deny that verses cannot always evoke the same sounds, sights, smells, and associations for both native speakers and foreign language learners. After discussing the content of a verse, students may be asked again to close their eyes and visualize the verse while listening to it [3, p. 98].

As a follow-up activity a discussion on a verse’s plot may be held, or students may also be asked to write their own verses about anything they want.

In such a procedure the four speech skills are effectively integrated to practice or present any grammar point. Since every class is different, teachers should creativity determine the teaching procedure. It is not advisable to apply one procedure too strictly. A teacher should adopt the activities according to learners’ needs.

The latest trend of the foreign language teachers is to make their students use the language communicatively. Hence, activities or techniques that are task-oriented and that lead students to use the language creatively have gained great importance. Games and problem-solving activities, which are task-based and have a purpose beyond the production of correct speech, are, to our mind, the examples of the most preferable communicative activities. Such activities highlight not only the competence but also the performance of a learner. Yet they are the indispensable parts of a grammar lesson, since they reinforce a form-discourse match. In such activities the attention is on the discourse context.

Both games and problem-solving activities have a goal. Games are organized according to rules, and they are enjoyable. Most games require choral responses or group works, whereas problem-solving activities require individual response and creative solutions. Games and problem-solving activities are generally used after the presentation, in the practice part, because such communicative tasks can only be handled after mastering sufficient grammar and lexical points.

Through well-planned games, primary school students can practice and internalize not only grammar extensively but vocabulary and structures as well. Moreover, play and competition that are provided by games enhance the motivation of learners. They also reduce the stress in the classroom. While playing games, learners’ attention is on the message, not on the language. Thus, learners acquire language unconsciously since their whole attention is engaged by the activity. By providing personal, social, and cross-cultural issues to define, they sometimes simulate real life situations.

A lot of various grammar games can be found in teaching grammar or course books. For example, an English teacher while teaching young learners the structure There is /are may use the game called Class Island, and involves each student in the class contributing some sort of feature or item to exist on an imaginary island. As each student contributes something, a teacher writes this down on the whiteboard. After everyone has finished adding a feature or object, each student attempts to draw the island that has been created using the vocabulary. For example: Teacher: OK class – what things are there on our island? Student 1: There are flowers on the island. Student 2: There is a mountain on the island. Student 3: There are dinosaurs on the island. Student 4: There is a purple and green butterfly on the island.

A teacher then can make this game more challenging by writing these features on a piece of paper rather than on the whiteboard for everyone to see. When students then go to draw the island, they may need to ask fellow students again about the feature they added, which creates a good communicative opportunity to utilize the key language naturally. The game can also be applied to other more ambitious projects as well, such as an imaginary city or school [2, p. 34].

Like games, problem-solving activities have communicative purposes. Questions which require students to use available evidence to reach a conclusion and the logic problems which assist language learning by challenging students to demonstrate their understanding of English in an interesting way are the types of problem-solving activities. In problem solving activities, the problems are either based on real or imaginary situations. In the activities students are given a real or an imagery situation, and they are expected to find solutions for the problems.

Through problem solving activities students’ almost attention is to the detail and to the meaning. The solution part of the problem can be used to generate any specific grammar point. In such activities a teacher should act as a facilitator rather than a director. It is also possible to integrate all skills in such activities. Reading or listening to a situation, a problem, or a question; responding or commenting either through speaking or writing.

In sum, games and problem solving activities provide favorable usages for extended communicative practice of grammar. They are both motivating and challenging. They encourage young learners to interact and communicate. Thus, potential classroom ideas come into being, and a successful, joyful, and enthusiastic learning is provided.


So far, the usage of verses, games, and problem solving activities in English grammar teaching are clarified and the advantages and some key points are explained as well. It is now more apparent that English grammar teaching of primary school students can be supported effectively by integration of the abovementioned resources and well-developed techniques.

Since teaching is a developing art, which requires innovative and creative ideas to enrich its effectiveness, we must not hesitate to use such resources in our classrooms. These resources can assist our teaching of grammar while providing a relaxed atmosphere and motivated students. They can also help a teacher form students’ communicative competence. As further work, a study involving the use of fairy tales in English teaching of primary school students should be carried out to see whether they are helpful or not in students’ grammar competence forming.


  1. C. Graham. Grammar chants. – Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1993. – 86 p.
  2. D. Jason. Grammar games and activities: (ERES) English Raven Educational Resources, 2007. – 34 p.
  3. M. Celce-Murcia, S. Hilles. Techniques and resources in teaching grammar. – Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1988. – 118 p.
  4. M. Rinvolucri, P. Davis. More grammar games. – Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995. – 176 p.
  5. Pass Your English Exam Well (Складіть іспит з англійської мови успішно): навч. посіб.для студ. спец. 6.010102 “Початкова освіта”. Спеціалізація: англійська мова. / авт.-уклад.: І.П. Сінельник [текст англ.]. – К.: Київськ. ун-т ім. Бориса Грінченка, 2011. – 144с.

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