Articles, as any English language learner will tell you, are a bit of a nightmare. In this video I’ll give you a great communicative activity for you to teach and practice articles with geographical names - its motivating and fun for your learners, works well online or face to face and all you need is a world map.
All you need for this is a world map. You can find these really easily on Google, or you could use Google Earth to make things more interesting.
It’s worth looking at some of the rules for articles with place names before you start – give them a list of places and ask them to work in pairs to decide whether an article is needed or not:
• Botswana, Africa
• United States of America
• Pacific Ocean
• Lake Geneva
• Mount Fuji
From this, you can elicit the rules- that country names (and continents) don’t usually take an article except in the pattern The ___ of ___ (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The People’s Republic of China). Cities and towns almost never take an article. Seas and oceans do, so do rivers, but lakes don’t. Ranges of mountains do, but single mountains don’t.
Right, now tell them that they are going on a trip around the world- money no object, Covid no object. They have to include countries, place names, rivers, oceans, mountains etc. as many different things as they can.
Start with a model- I’d like to start in Europe, in Paris, then I’ll travel by train to the Alps and climb Mt Blanc and go down through Italy, stopping for a while in Tuscany. Then I’ll go across the Med to North Africa….
You might also want to provide some useful phrases:
• I’d like to start…
• I’ll travel by…
• I’ll go across the (sea)
• I’ll stay for a while in….
Give them a bit of time to prepare and tell them to make a list of 10 places to include. Now put them in pairs (in breakout rooms if you are online) and give them time to tell each other about their trip. Encourage their partner to ask ‘Why do you want to go there?’
As a teacher, monitor and note errors – you can do some delayed error correction with the whole class after the exercise. It’s also a really good idea to get them to do the exercise again with a new partner. If they have the chance to repeat what they said, they’ll be able to try to improve it and it won’t be boring for the listener, because they won’t have heard it before.
As a follow up exercise, or for homework, why not ask them to write a description of a place they’d like to go to, or a place they know well, including information about its location- La Paz is the capital city of Bolivia. It is high in the Andes, southeast of Lake Titicaca and it’s built in the valley of the Choqueyapu River.