How to help students learn Passive Voice: tips for teachers

Teaching Passive Voice: ideas for your classes

Teaching Passive Voice: ideas for your classes

16.08.2022

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  • Grammar
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Students find some grammar structures easier, others – more difficult. One of the reasons why this happens is that there is no such grammatical structure in the students’ native language and they cannot associate it with anything. 

Passive Voice is one of them because, for example, the Ukrainian language avoids passive constructions.

Naturally, in our language, “the workers repair the house” or “the singer performs a song”, or “a friend invites you to a birthday party”, not “the house is repaired by workers”, “the song is performed by a singer”, or “you are invited by a friend to a birthday party”.

Although Passive Voice is less frequently used in English, students have to be able to use it especially if they intend to take Cambridge exams, ZNO or EVI, or to be able to write academic texts for IELTS or write formal correspondence or speak in formal situations, etc.

Of course, in order to learn to use this grammatical construction correctly, you need a lot of controlled practice. At this stage, students will learn to use the Passive Voice in a limited context by doing gapfills, multiple choice, grammar code activities, or correcting mistakes, etc.

However, it is necessary to give them the opportunity to use this grammatical structure more freely, in a relaxing atmosphere and in situations close to real communication. We have selected some interesting activities you can do with your students. 

These are ideas that can be easily adapted to your students’ needs and the teaching context.

Describing a process

Passive Voice is most often used in English to describe various processes, for example, in production, in IT, at the airport, and in hospitals, services, and so on. This grammar structure will be needed if you teach business English, for example, and the task itself does not require any prep.

First, ask students to make a drawing of a process and then describe it. The topic should match the topic of the lesson. You can also choose the tense or aspect you need: present, past or future, simple, perfect, progressive or perfect progressive.

For example, here is how IT specialists could describe “Online transactions”:

The order is placed by the customer. The availability of the product is confirmed by the seller’s service, and the response is sent. After that, the payment request is sent to the customer. 

How can we use critical thinking in teaching grammar

Fing out

Information Gap Speaking Activity

Information gaps is a favourite type of task for many colleagues because it can be adapted to almost any topic in vocabulary or grammar as well as performed both online and in the regular classroom. Students are divided into pairs A and B. Each is given the appropriate worksheet: Student A and Student B.

They must fill in the blanks in the table. To do this, they need to ask questions to their partner using Passive Voice. When all the blanks are filled, students compare the answers with each other. Again, the topics can be different depending on what you are teaching. For, example: Famous Artists or Inventions.

One of the alternatives of the Information gap is a task in which students have to spot the differences in pictures. For example, you can describe what has changed in a particular area, room, and so on.

What’s it made of? What’s it used for?

This task is performed by students in a group. You need to make word cards for each group of 4-7 students. They take turns picking up the card and describing the object depicted on it (or the name of which is written there). 

Ask students to think about the following questions: How big is it? What’s it used for? What’s it made of?

The first person to guess the word keeps the card. The winner is the one who collected the most cards.

You can use the following words: desk lamp, notebook, mouse mat, scanner, coffee cup, chair, desk, light switch, plug, pot plant, drawer, phone, stapler, paper clip, envelope, printer, headset, etc. Or use any other words on the topic being studied.

Another version of this game is called “Something in common“, and it can also be played by dividing the class into 2 teams. Each team receives a set of cards with the names of two items written on them.

For example, ‘a window and a lamp’. Team A picks up a card and asks team B, “What do a window and a lamp have in common?” Team B has a discussion with each other and gives an answer using Passive Voice, for example, “Both are made of glass.”

How to practise grammar and vocabulary with flashcards

Several ways

If the answer is grammatically correct and satisfies the teacher, then team B keeps the card. If not, team A gets a chance to answer and pick up the card. The team with the most cards wins. 

Here are examples of words that may be on cards:

  • forks/coins (are made of metal)
  • tennis/squash (are played with a racket)
  • coffee/cotton (are grown in tropical countries)
  • polar bears/penguins (are found in the Poles)
  • shoes/socks (are worn on foot)
  • presents/greeting cards (given at Christmas)
  • bottle opener/corkscrew (are used to open bottles)
  • paints/brushes (are used for painting)
  • glass/cement (are made from sand)
  • shower cap/credit card (are made of plastic)
  • newspapers/magazines (are made from paper/ bought at the newsagents)
  • stamps/airletters (are sold at the post office)

Change the room

Thisphysical game for beginners is quite fun and will not leave anyone indifferent. It is easy to adapt to the present or past times. Divide students into two teams. Choose one member from each team and ask them to go out of the classroom.

Meanwhile, students rearrange furniture or objects in the classroom. Invite students to return to class. They must describe in English everything that has changed. Set a time limit. The one who names the most correct sentences wins.

Here’s what students can say:

  • “The table has been moved,” 
  • “The board has been cleaned,” 
  • “The window has been closed,” and so on.

How to teach grammar

Passive Voice Quizzes

Everyone loves quizzes. Therefore, it is a great way to practice the use of passive structures, especially when there are so many variations.

Another interesting kind of quizzes needs a little time to prepare, but it is very interesting. Write the words on strips of paper. 

For example: 65% of Greenland / cover / ice. Divide students into 2 teams. Each team receives different prompts. Their task is to compose a sentence using Passive Voice.

For example, “65% of Greenland is covered with ice”. For each correct statement the team receives a point. The team’s answer should be as close as possible to the correct one. In this case, the correct answer is 85%. So if another team said, “65% of Greenland is covered with ice,” that’s the answer you’d count.

Or, for example:

Seals / eat / by crocodile” (false> polar bears)

Spain / visit / by the highest number of tourists in the world every year (false > France)

We hope that you and your students will like the activities. 

How do you teach Passive Voice? Don’t forget to share with us.

Homework ideas for English learners

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Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna

    Author

    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English

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