In order for grammar activities based on a literary text to be efficient and appropriate, teachers can introduce a wide range of exercises. A literary text gives opportunities to practice and use grammar realistically and meaningfully so as to stimulate students’ knowledge and develop the fluency and automaticity of their performance.
However, grammar activities based on a literary text usually deal with the identification of parts of speech, nouns, verbs, tenses, word order and so on. For example, we ask the students to read the literary text from Great Expectation by Charles Dickens (“Upstream, Upper Intermediate” textbook, Xth class) and while they do this, they must find out all the verbs and put them into two categories: regular and irregular verbs. After the students have read and understood the text by answering comprehension questions, we can ask them to imagine what happens next. Also, after reading the literary text, we can ask the students to work in pairs to extract the adjectives, to put them into two categories (long and short adjectives) and to give the comparison degrees of the adjectives found in the text. When students have finished each activity, the teacher checks their answers and makes the possible corrections.
Another literary text from The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham (“Upstream, Upper Intermediate” textbook, Xth class) offers activities which stimulate students to concentrate on some grammatical rules those relating to the use of preposition, to the use of the modal verb ‘should/would’ or types of adjectives made from nouns.
We ask the students to read the text and while they do this, they must underline and write in their notebooks the prepositions required by adjectives, nouns or verbs: favorable to (him), I was engaged in, no chance of, prepare for, it vanished from (the view), the feeling of sadness, the little town along (the bay); then, in pairs, they should make up sentences of their own using these prepositions.
We ask the students to identify in the text the modal verb ‘should/would’: I should never have written this, it would seem that, my visit should revive my interest, it would not surprise you; as the students can notice, ‘would’ expresses an imaginary, unreal condition mostly used in if clause, type II or when expressing opinion, uncertainty or expectation. E.g. It would seem that I was right. Also, ‘should’ is used to make recommendations or give advice whereas should + have + past participle is often used to criticize your own or other people’s behaviour. E.g. I should have told you before. Now we encourage the students to work in pairs to make up sentences of their own using ‘should’ and ‘should not’ for recommendations or giving advice and using ‘should +have +past participle/ shouldn’t +have+ past participle to express thing in the past. E.g. ‘I should have done my homework on time.’ It is worth remembering the rules used with modal verbs. (a modal verb is always followed by a bare infinitive and so on.)
We ask the students to identify in the text the adjectives derived from nouns or nouns derived from verbs or adjectives: my arrival, the unexpected, stormy, rocky, an opening, loneliness, shadowy, sadness, enjoyment, coloured, the uploading, mysteriously. In pairs, the students should find out the correct suffix of the initial word, explain if the meaning of the words is changed and make sentences of their own with both the initial word and the derived word to unveil their meanings (to show how the adjectives reflect the meaning of corresponding nouns and vice versa).
While reading the text, students can notice the use of the causative form: ‘my arrival in Tahiti made me forget even more important matters.’ which slightly changes the meaning of the sentence emphasizing the strong impression Tahiti had upon the writer. Students are asked if they know some other causative forms: (let/make/have/get +person + bare infinitive) and to give examples: ‘He let me drive his new car.’ Or ‘My teacher made him apologize for what he had said.’ Or ‘I had my roof repaired last month.’ Or ‘He got his hair cut by a hairdresser.’
The aim of these two grammar activities based on a literary text is to encourage students to explore and recognize the subtle meanings of the modal verb ‘must’ and to offer students confidence when using English.