REPLACEMENT AND SUBSTITUTION DRILLS
One of the best general criteria as to how a lesson is going is the proportion of time spent by the student in trying to speak in comparison to the time spent in speaking by the teacher. A competent teacher should be able to maintain a student participation of 60-70% with ease. Some techniques can increase this a lot further for a time and one of them is replacement or substitution drills.
Like many other practice techniques the basic principle is to set a pattern which the student follows. Usually he repeats a sentence and then changes an element in it. Suppose we have a student who needs some drill on the simple past tense:
T How many times did you go to the
theatre last year?
S I went to the theatre about 10 times last year.
T And the cinema?
S I went to the cinema about 30 times last year.
T And your wife?
S She went to the cinema about 30 times last year too.
T And the theatre?
S She went to the theatre about 5 times last year.
T And the children?
S They didn't go to the theatre last year.
T And to school?
S They went to school about 230 times last year.
T And on holiday?
S They went on holiday 3 times last year.
T And last month?
S They didn't go on holiday last month.
T And you and your wife?
S We didn't go on holiday last month too.
S We didn't go on holiday last month either.
The use of prompts, or cues, to elicite a new sentence instead of a full question cuts down the teachers intervention time considerably.
The potential for drill like this in even a simple sentence is enormous: subject, object, verb, adjective, adverb, tense - all can be changed to create a new sentence. If we take a simple sentence:
"John goes to Brighton twice a week by car."
John=A, Brighton=B, Twice = C, Week=D, Car=E,
Each element A-E can be changed in a replacement drill. A few simple examples:
A: Peter, Mr Jones, My assistant, The man next door, A girl who works with me, you, me, my husband and I.
B: Newhaven, the country, the seaside, work, a nice little pub by the river.
C: Once, 5 times
D: A day, a month, a year, an hour,
E: By taxi, by bicycle, on foot, in his veteran steamroller.
The examples here are not exhaustive and, of course not all are for a student at a simple level.
This limited set of examples could, if used exhaustively, generate (8 x 5 x 2 x 4 x 4) - 5 different sentences. That is, if my arithmetic is correct, 1275. You are hardly likely to need them all!
A slightly more sophisticated use of replacement drills is to use them to elicite structural elements, especially tenses.
T How many times did you take a plane
S I took a plane 5 times last year.
T And so far this year?
S I have taken a plane only once so far this year.
T and last week?
S I didn't take a plane last week.
T and this week?
S I haven't taken a plane this week either.
The student must switch from simple past to present perfect and back again according to the prompt. Numerous variations on this theme are possible and are useful to find out if a student can use tenses correctly and spontaneously - that is without the teacher using the tense in a question. Another example might check a sequence of perfect tenses. We can make it more difficult by using passives and getting the student to ask the questions:
T How many French cars wer exported last
S I have no idea!
T Ask me then.
S How many French cars were exported last year?
T 300,000 .... and by the end of June last year?
S Err.... How many cars had been exported by the end of June last year?
T Good, 120,000 .... and so far this year?
S How many cars have been exported so far this year?
T Only 100,000 ... and by the end of this year?
S How many cars will have been exported by the end of this year?
T 400,000 .... Now lets try it with "imported".
S How many .......etc.
Once again the teacher is using a very short prompt and this time the student has a lot of work on his plate to adjust his sentence accordingly. It should be clear from the foregoing that this kind of drill is appropriate at virtually every level of teaching for it can be used not only for basic practice of certain structures which just require a lot of repetition but also for the kind of exploratory work which can tell a teacher what needs to be done with more advanced students.
© Mark Yates 2000