Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
If you think the sentence “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” makes no sense, you’re right. It was devised by Chomsky to prove that syntax and semantics are two very distinct things. However, despite a seeming absence of any meaning, it still communicates a certain message. We know the person, place, thing, or idea that is doing or being something, we can describe it, and we know what it does and how it does it. And, by looking at the tense form, we know that it does it regularly.
We can use the same approach to get our students to practise tense forms.
We can use “chocolate” to consolidate tenses and focus, primarily, on tense forms.
(Note: Chocolate is versatile. It may be used as a noun, an adjective, a nature’s way of making up for Mondays, or a life saver, but it is not used as a verb).
3 Ways to ‘Chocolate’
1. Sing a ‘chocolate’ song
Pair up or split students into small teams and hand out the lyrics of Pink’s song (“Who Knew”) with the verbs replaced with ‘chocolate’. Ask students to guess the verbs (make sure they use them in the right forms).
You chocolated my hand
You chocolated me how
You chocolated me you’d be around
I chocolated your words
And I chocolated
You chocolated to me
If someone chocolated three years from now
You’d be long chocolated
I’d chocolate up and chocolate them out
Cause they’re all wrong
I chocolate better
Cause you chocolated forever
Remember when we were such fools
And so convinced and just too cool
I wish I could chocolate you again
I wish I could still chocolate you friend
I’d chocolate anything
When someone chocolated count your blessings now
‘fore they’re long chocolated
I guess I just didn’t chocolate how
I was all wrong
They chocolated better
Still you chocolated forever
I’ll chocolate you locked in my head
Until we chocolate again
Until we chocolate again
And I won’t chocolate you my friend
I chocolate you
Now listen and check (see the lyrics of the song here)
Alternatively, hand out the lyrics of the song and ask students to replace the verbs in the song with ‘chocolate’ in the right form.
2. Guessing Game
Ask each student to think of one sentence describing what they did yesterday, or are doing at the moment, or will do tomorrow (depending on the tense you’d like to focus on). Ask them to replace the verb in the sentence with “chocolate” in the right form. The other students should guess the verb. Encourage students to ask questions to get some details or clues. Award one point for each correct guess. You may also split students into small teams and have them compete against each other. The team that gets more points wins (NB. Make sure you have some chocolates for the winners – after all, it’s all about chocolate, isn’t it?)
3. Story writing
Pair up or split students into small teams and ask them to write a short story with ‘On Christmas Eve, you hear a strange noise on the roof…’ You may also use different story starters for teams. Here’s a wonderful resource of fun boosts for creative students and busy teachers – http://journalbuddies.com/creative-writing-2/creative-writing-story-starters/ After they have finished writing their stories, ask students to replace verbs with ‘chocolate’ in the right form. Ask them to tell their stories while the other teams should retell them with ‘meaningful’ verbs. Alternatively, you may organize a ‘consecutive translation’ session. The story teller should pause after each sentence, while the ‘interpreter’ should interpret and replace ‘chocolate’ with the verb he/she thinks should be used.
This presentation was originally designed for speakers of Slavic languages to practise and consolidate tense forms.
Image credit: www.picturequote.com