Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Part 3 – Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

So far in this series entitled, “Teaching Grammar In The Target Language,” we’ve discussed:

  • Teaching “To Want” and “To Have” Verbs – Part 1
  • Focusing on “To NOT Want” and “To NOT Have” Verbs – Part 2
  • Teaching subject pronouns Part 1 & Part 2

In this post we will discuss how to stay in the target language while helping students learn how L2 sentence components change when the quantity of an noun is changed.


Some people say it’s nearly impossible to teach grammar while staying in the target language.  This IS the case if you feel like your job is to directly teach grammar.  However, a simple change in approach (as demonstrated in these posts) makes it much easier to help your students use correct L2 grammar structures.  Notice, in the script below, that the model teacher is not trying to directly teach grammar.  Instead, she’s helping students have a MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE in which the target grammar structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.  If this is your strategy, learning grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for your students.

(Note: The following Part 3 transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

Teacher reviews grammar structures from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series by facilitating the following activity:

Teacher writes the following L2 phrases on the board:

“Who has Cheerios?  Who has Lucky Charms?  Who doesn’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”

“______ has Cheerios.  ____ doesn’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

Teacher passes out some individual boxes of the three cereal varieties to students who are sitting quietly and attentively.  (Remember, behavior management is a HUGE factor affecting how successful you are at facilitating foreign language acquisition by staying in the target language.)

Teacher walks around the room/circle saying the following phrases: “You… (points at student) …have Cheerios.  And you… (points at another student) …have Cheerios.  I… (points to self) …don’t have Cheerios.  You… (points at another student) …don’t have Cheerios.  But you DO HAVE Lucky Charms.  Mmmm.  Delicious.  I… (points to self) …I want Lucky Charms.  Yes.  I want Lucky Charms.  Give me Lucky Charms.”  (Student shakes head “NO” because he doesn’t want to give them up.  Teacher helps him say, “They are FOR ME!” by using the Two-Hand-Method.)  Teacher, in a surprised voice, says, “The Lucky Charms are for YOU?  For you??!?  But I want them.  I want Lucky Charms.  (Teacher helps student say (again) “They are FOR ME!”.)  Teacher gives up and says, “Okay.  The Lucky Charms are for you.”

Teacher walks back to the board and asks the first of several rounds of questions to various students in the class.  “Roger has Cheerios.  Stacey has Cheerios.  Lauren has Cheerios.  But…who has Lucky Charms?  Does Elvin have Lucky Charms?  Does Daequan have Lucky Charms?  WHO… (Teacher raises her hand to imply that she’s looking for a volunteer to answer the question) …has Lucky Charms?”  Student answers.  If the answer is not complete, teacher points to the target answer, that is written on the board, and helps the student say it in a complete L2 sentence.  Teacher continues, “More.  More.  More.  Who else has Lucky Charms?”  Teacher continues this questioning pattern with all of the target questions that are written on the board.

When it’s time to move on, Teacher focuses the attention on herself by opening a bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Teacher starts to eat the cereal and says, “Delicious.  Delicious.  I like this.  I like this a lot.”  Teacher walks around the room with the open bag and says, “Who wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?  Who wants some?  Who wants some?”  Teacher reminds students how to say, “I do!  I want some!  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch!” by using the Two-Hand-Method.

Teacher focuses on quantity by saying, “How many?  How many do you want?  How many Cinnamon Toast Crunch pieces do you want?  Do you want one?  Do you want four?  Do you want seven?”  If Student says an incomplete answer, use the Two-Hand-Method to help him say, “I want seven.”  When Student says the complete sentence, Teacher counts out seven pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Teacher says, “Eat.  Go ahead.  Eat seven.”  Teacher prompts Student to say, “Thank you,” and, “Delicious.”  Teacher looks at the rest of the class and says, “Who else?  Who else wants some?  Who else wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch and he wants some (Teacher points to the student that ate seven).  Who else wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”  Teacher helps students answer with complete L2 sentences.  Teacher says to Student #2, “How many pieces do you want? Do you want one piece?  Do you want 2 pieces?  Do you want one piece or four pieces?  Do you want one piece or six pieces?”  Teacher helps Student #2 answer with a complete sentence.  Teacher continues this pattern of questioning for as long as she thinks is best.

REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • Students saw how the noun (in this case “pieces”) ending changes based on how many “pieces” of cereal they wanted.
  • Students heard how to say the L2 words for “for you” and “for me.”
  • Students got a meaningful review of target language numbers.
  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The students realized that they could not only survive in an L2-immersion environment but that it can be fun.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.

Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below.

Stay tuned to over the next weeks for more blog posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.

 See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – – @calhwrd

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Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”