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Session 21 Using texts to focus on grammar

The Passive Voice. Form 3. 80 mins


An American tourist Jessica Johnson was with her husband in Causeway Bay at the weekend when she was attacked by a large dog. She was rushed to Queen Mary hospital where she was admitted with severe injuries. She was discharged yesterday. The owners of the dog have been fined and it has been put down.
(Please note this is NOT the format for supervised lessons. I have only incl uded the stages column here. You will need to include a cover sheet and timing, purpose and interaction columns for supervised lesson plans)

Step 1: Lead in
Show the two pics: 1. a vicious dog and 2. a woman in hospital. Tell stds we are going to read a newspaper article and they have to guess what the article is about by looking at the two pics. Stds make guesses about the article and give it a headline. Feedback: elicit and discuss ideas

Step 2: Gist task

1. Who was attacked 2. Was she badly hurt? Stds read the text silently and answer the questions. Feedback: elicit answers.

Step 3: Specific task

Pre-teach: To be unsupervised (ask guiding questions was the doc on a chain/lead etc) To fine someone (ask guiding questions. Were the owners right or wrong NOT to have their dog on a lead? So what punishment should they have? pay money etc) To put an animal down (ask guiding questions about the dog should he live or die. If he dies who kills him? vet so what do you think to put an animal down means? Etc etc) Show specific task 1. Where was Jessica attacked? 2. Where did she go then? 3. Why did she go there? 4. When did she leave this place? 5. What happened to the owners? 6. What happened to the dog? Individuals read and answer questions Pairs to share and compare Feedback: elicit and discuss answers

Step 4: Focus on Meaning

Ask the class to turn the text over Write these two sentences on the board: 1. A large dog attacked Jessica 2. Jessica was attacked by a large dog Ask students to guess which of these two sentences is closest to the ones used in the text and why they think this Pairs to discuss Elicit answers and reasons Without telling students the answer ask them the following concept questions to help them understand why 2 (the passive voice) is used in the text: Who the text is about? (Jessica) Is it about Jessica or is it about the dog? (Jessica) SO Clearly establish and reinforce that the text is about Jessica. SO which is more important in the text Jessica or the dog? (Jessica) SO which idea should go first? Jessica or the dog? (Jessica) OK SO Jessica is the most important idea so we put that idea first, at the FRONT of the sentence yes? (Yes) SO which sentence is closest to the one in the text? 1 or 2? (2)

Step 5: Focus on Form

Tabulate the form of the two sentences on the board Elicit a description of the difference in form between the two sentences, identifying 1 as an active construction and 2 as a passive construction.

1. A large dog DOER Front Position Topic or Theme Position

attacked Verb

Jessica RECEIVER of the action End position

2. Jessica (She) Receiver Front Position Topic or Theme Position

was attacked Verb

by a large dog Doer End position for emphasis (Note the by + agent pattern is optional)

Look at the two sentences on the board Ask concept questions to guide (dont tell initially) students to noticing that: o 1 = Active voice and 2 = Passive voice o In 1 the DOER of the action comes first, the verb is active and the RECEIVER of the action comes near the end of the sentence. (This is the normal Subject/ Verb/Object pattern) o BUT we want to put Jessica at the beginning of the sentence because she is the main theme of the text. In 2 Jessica is the RECEIVER of the action. The passive voice allows us to put the RECEIVER at the beginning, in front position so that we can keep the RECEIVER as the main topic. SO If we want to put the RECEIVER of the action in front or topic position THEN we need to use the passive voice. To do this we need to passivise the verb!! o The passive voice is always made with the verb to be (in past/present or a future form) + the past participle

Focus on Meaning 2
Ask students to underline other examples of the passive voice in the text and ask them to discuss why the passive is used in each case: Feedback: elicit their ideas by asking carefully phrased concept questions in relation to each example the students find and clearly establish that the passive is typically used: o to organize information so that the topic is in front position when the topic is the RECEIVER not the DOER of the action, and/or o when the DOER is obvious, unimportant or not known (See examples of possible concept questions below)

Step 6: Consolidate meaning and form

Ask concept questions to build up an understanding of the form and meaning of the passive voice, Draw up the following tabulation on the board
1 2 3 4 Jessica She She She Person (or thing) receiver The dog The owners Person (or thing) receiver was was was was was were attacked rushed admitted discharged pp by X X X by a dog X X X agent

to hospital


5 6

has have has have

been been been

put down fined pp

X X by

X X agent

Concept questions are in bold. Students possible responses are in italics Who is this text about? Jessica Who is the DOER of the action in each sentence above? 1.A dog 2. an ambulance driver 3. Medical staff at the hospital 4. Her doctor 5.A vet 6. A judge Who is more important in this sentence (sentence 1) Jessica or the dog? Jessica Who is more important in this sentence (sentence 2) Jessica or the ambulance driver? Jessica Who is more important in this sentence (sentence 3) Jessica or medical staff? Jessica Who is more important in this sentence (sentence 4) Jessica or the doctor? Jessica So, Jessica is the most important? Yes Ok. So is Jessica the RECEIVER or DOER in each sentence? The RECEIVER OK, so we want to keep the RECEIVER at the front of the sentence so that she is the topic yes? Yes OK so what happens to the verb if the RECEIVER of the action is put at the front of the sentence? The verb becomes passive OK, so how do we do this? Look at the examples above. PERSON + BE (was were/has been etc) + PAST PARTICIPLE. Look again at sentence 1. Who is the DOER? The dog Why is the dog at the end of the first sentence? Why isnt it at the beginning? To keep Jessica in topic position at the front of the sentence and to introduce the dog at the end for emphasis. The DOER is important here SO the writer uses the by + DOER option. In sentence 2, 3 and 4 who are the DOERS? The ambulance drivers, hospital staff and the doctor. Are they important? Not really Why not? Its obvious or not really important who they are What is important? Jessica and what happened to her In sentence 5 and 6 who are the DOERS? (A vet, a judge) Are they important? Not really Why not? Its obvious or not really important who they are So why do we use the passive voice instead of the active voice here? The DOERS (the dog, the ambulance men the doctor, the judge, the vet are unimportant in the text OR they are very obvious so not worth mentioning. Jessica is the RECEIVER NOT the DOER of the action. To keep Jessica, the RECEIVER in topic or front position the writer has to use the passive voice so that the readers focus on what happened to Jessica and NOT on the DOERS of the action (the dog, the ambulance men etc.). And how can we form the passive? PERSON (recipient) + TO BE (is, are, am // were, was, // has/have been // will be) + PP (+ BY + AGENT)

Step 7: Text re-construction to focus on form and meaning

Collect in the text Pairs or groups of 3 with one person writing, stds reconstruct the text from memory with the help of their answers to the specific task questions in Stage 3. Monitor and help students Possibly select one good piece of writing and go through it using a visualiser asking concept questions to reinforce students understanding of why the passive is used Distribute original text and allow stds to compare their version with the original.

Step 8: Focus on why we choose the passive voice over the active voice
2 AMERICAN TOURIST ATTACKED IN CAUSEWAY BAY An American tourist, Jessica Johnson was with her husband in Causeway Bay at the weekend when a dog attacked her. Ambulance men rushed her to Queen Mary hospital. Nursing staff admitted her with severe injuries. Doctors discharged her yesterday. Police fined the owners of the dog and a vet has put it down. The teacher shows the class the text above and asks them which text is better (1 or 2) and asks students to discuss the reasons why 1 is better than 2, why the passive voice makes text 1 a better text and what effect the use of the active voice has on text 2. The text is mainly about Jessica Jessica should therefore be in front or theme sentence position Jessica is the RECEIVER not the DOER of the action In order to put the RECEIVER in front position the verb needs to be made passive It is not necessary to mention the ambulance men they are obvious and unimportant. The action of rushing to hospital is more important than who does the rushing so the passive is used because the passive voice allows us to omit the DOER (unlike the active voice in which the DOER must be mentioned). Similarly it is not important to know who admitted Jessica to hospital, the fact that she was admitted is more important than who did the admitting so the passive is used because it allows us to omit the DOER. It is obvious who discharged her, who fined the owners of the Alsation and who put the Alsation down so it is not necessary to mention them. The passive is therefore used because the writer wants to omit the DOER. The effect on text 2 Text 2 is written using the active voice. The DOER (or subject) therefore must be included. The subject or the DOER keeps changing so it is not easy to follow who or what the text is about. Coherence is undermined by using the active voice and having to introduce many different subjects or DOERS: Jessica, an Alsation dog, ambulance men, nursing staff, doctors, police, a vet. This then reinforces what stds have learned about the reasons for using the passive voice

Step 9: Follow up for next lesson

Ask stds to recall a similar experience they have had or someone they know has had injuries in sports, outings etc and to recount what happened to that person in as much detail as possible - using the passive. (If they cant recall a similar experience, they can make up a story). Stds make notes on the story for homework . They can work in buddy pairs to em ail each other their homework and check it for content and use of the passive before bringing it into class. Next lesson stds get into pairs to tell each other their stories. Swap partners and do the same ( x 2) so that each time their recount improves. Partners must listen and try to remember as much as possible also offer feedback on the use of the passive. Stds regroup and tell new partners about the experiences / stories of their last partner

Adapted by Gerry Davies from: Thornbury, S.(1999). How to Teach Grammar Ch 5 p. 77