Your adult ESL students barely managed to politely smother their sighs and suppress the glaze from creeping across their eyes when they realized that today’s grammar lesson would be a review on comparative adjectives. You know they need the practice, and if pressed, they’re likely to admit it even if only in their heads. Still, this is not the time to bust out a worksheet, no matter how funny the questions on it may be. Yes, you’re teaching adults, so your students realize the importance of the lessons, but you still want to get them engaged and talking, right? So let’s do this!
What are comparative adjectives?
We use comparative adjectives to compare and describe the differences between two nouns (or pronouns). Adult ESL students tend to appreciate that there are simple but explicit rules to follow when using comparative adjectives, such as adding –er to the end of a one-syllable adjective or employing not as ___ as to demonstrate a slight difference. If explicit rules and worksheets ARE what you are looking for, you’d love my comparative adjectives grammar guide resource.
So why would you want an activity when you’ve already got the worksheets? Just as our taste buds hunger for something different, our students crave a break in the routine. The following activities will get them sitting up in their seats and take some of that performance pressure off you.
Activity #1: On the Spot Comparisons
Goal: Students link two possibly unrelated nouns together in a descriptive sentence with a comparative adjective.
Preparation: Create a stack of noun cards. These can be simply a noun spelled out on each card, an image to represent the noun or an image with the term. Now is the perfect time to incorporate a little review of previously studied vocabulary words into your grammar review activity!
How to play:
- Put students together in groups of 2-4. Give each group a stack of noun cards. Have one student from each group shuffle the cards and pass out an equal number to everyone in the group.
- Choose, appoint, or otherwise have students decide who will go first. A quick round of paper-rock-scissors is usually accepted as a fair way to decide on the first player.
- The first student sets their card in the center of the table, face up. The remaining students take turns to place a noun card of their choice next to it and create a comparative sentence to link the nouns. These sentences can use the nouns as given, like “An elephant is not nearly as small as a hamster.” Or, they could change the noun slightly for a sentence such as “A tiger’s tooth is sharper than a frog’s toe.
- Once a comparative adjective has been used, students may not use it again. If someone makes a grammar mistake related to comparative adjectives or cannot think of a sentence to make, they forfeit their turn. I prefer not to penalize students for making grammar mistakes unrelated to comparative adjective rules. I want them to feel free to dive into their creativity and use more complex sentences rather than sticking to very simply formulaic sentences.
- Whoever uses up all their cards first wins.
Groups that finish first can be encouraged to write down some of their favorite sentences that they or their group members said to later share with the rest of the class.
Activity #2: Fascinating Facts & Opinions with Comparative Adjectives
Goal: Students use the context of sentences to guess the missing comparative adjective.
Preparation: For page 1, make a half-page list of facts that incorporate comparative adjectives but leave a gap where the comparative adjective should be. Instead, provide the adjective in its base form. On the bottom half of the page, list an equal number of facts with the comparative adjectives underlined, highlighted, or in bold.
On page 2, reverse it. Page 1’s bottom sentences go on the top with the comparative adjectives replaced with blank lines. Page 1’s top sentences go to the bottom of page 2 with the missing comparative adjectives in the sentences marked. Now is a great time to use facts to go with whatever theme you have recently taught!
How to Play:
- Pair up students with one as Student A and one as Student B. Give students the corresponding handout.
- Student A reads aloud the first sentence from the top of their page, filling in the gap with the comparative adjective they think should be there. If they have guessed correctly, they win 5 points. (Remember, Student B has all the answers at the bottom of their page.) If Student A’s guess is incorrect, they can try twice more. If they guess the second time correctly, they win 3 points. Third time is the charm? They get one point. But, if they missed all three times, Student B reads the sentence to them with the correct comparative adjective.
- Now switch. Student B does the same with the first sentence at the top of their page. Repeat back and forth until they’ve completed all the sentences or time is up.
- The winner is the one who won the most points.
Activity #3 Survey Says
Goal: Students ask questions using comparative adjectives, record answers, and write a one-sentence summary for the results of each question.
Preparation: Create a handout with questions and model answers (if your students will survey another class) for each. For example, Which do you think is smaller, an elephant or a whale? I think an elephant is smaller than a whale. Which language do you think is more difficult, Chinese or Tagalog? I think Tagalog is more difficult. Having model answers makes it easy for your students to give any necessary prompts to someone who is struggling to answer. If planning to have students survey others in another class, set up a begin and end time with the teacher of that class.
Be sure to choose a class that is either equal or above yours in proficiency level and ask the teacher of that class to do a quick review on answering a comparative question with a full-sentence answer. I’ve found that telling the other class that part of the reason for the activity is for your students to practice speaking and that they should refuse to answer until the student has spoken the full question helps prevent students from rushing through to finish first. Having your students join another class for a speaking activity is great for those reasons.
Surveying another class
Tell students that they will practice using comparative adjectives in a speaking activity with students from another class. Point out that practicing/reviewing is helpful for everyone, so they must make every attempt to get the other students to give full-sentence answers.
Surveying within your own class
Tell students that they will practice using comparative adjectives in a speaking and listening activity with their classmates. Remind them that they must take the time to listen to each other’s answers in full.
How to do the activity:
- Give each student your handout. First, have them fill in the blanks with the comparative form of the given adjectives. Next, they must ask all the questions of as many students as possible. You can also have them choose a certain number of questions to ask based on the amount of time you want them to speak to each person.
- Students go from person to person, ask the questions on their handout and record the answers.
- Once students have spoken with everyone or time is up, have them write a short summary of their survey results. You may wish to provide some example sentences as a model for them to work from.
- Pair up students and have them share their results.
Should grammar class be all activities all the time?!
You don’t need to throw out worksheets entirely. They have value, especially in an adult learners’ classroom. They are like a staple food. They’re reliable, dependable, and we take comfort in them. Activities are the side dishes that make it all taste that much better. They complement rather than replace the main dish, and we just might prefer them when that main dish has been overcooked.
Read more about grammar in adult ESL!
- Conditionals Worksheets: 6 Quick Ways to Make Them FUN!
- How Using Adjective Clauses Helps Power Up Their Writing
- 2 Fun Activities for Reviewing Prepositions of Time
- Why Aren’t You Teaching Grammar Vocabulary?
Comparative Adjectives: Resources Made for Adult Learners
If you need a comparative adjectives refresher and/or want a guide that spells out all the rules for your students, take a look at my Comparative Adjectives Grammar Guide & Worksheets resource. I also have task cards (printable) and BOOM cards (digital + self-checking).