Grammar auction


In my language school staffroom, I often here GE teachers say they are going to ‘do a grammar auction’ in class. I was interested to know exactly what this was, and asked a few people. Apparently the activity comes originally from ‘Grammar Games’ by Mario Rinvolucri (a book I have in front of me now), and is basically a ‘fun’ way of doing language feedback using sentences with student-generated errors. I present it below exactly as it was described to me by my colleagues last week.

My first reactions for how to adapt/improve the lesson recipe below are that students should also be allowed to bid if they think they can correct the wrong sentences. I’m not sure how this would work. Perhaps there could be a second round of the auction, this time only looking at the incorrect sentences, and again the students have €100 for them to bid if they think they can find the mistake and correct it (again with €80 to use initially and €20 to use during the bidding). The pair with the highest bid win the sentence if they can correct it properly.


1 Preparation before the class: a list of sentences (perhaps a dozen or so), about half of which are correct, and half incorrect. Preferably the incorrect ones should have mistakes from a communication task in the previous class, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t reuse a list of sentences from another class at the same level that you already have on your computer. Photocopy handouts of the list, one per student.

2 Now in class. Establish the idea of an auction. People ‘bid’ for items, and the person who bids the most gets the item. The auctioneer uses the phrase Going, Going, Gone to signal the end of the bidding – you can make last-minute bids up until the word ‘gone’.

3 Put the students into pairs and give each student a list of the sentences. Tell them some sentences are correct and some incorrect. They should work together to decide which are correct, and in the auction that follows they will try to buy only correct sentences. Each pair will start with €100 (or dollars or any other currency). They should note down after each sentence how much they are willing to bid for that sentence, and should aim to spend €80 of their €100. The remaining €20 is to increase bids during the auction process itself. The pair that finishes with the most correct sentences wins.

4 When students have finished discussing the sentences and deciding how much money they will bid, start the auction. Read out the first sentence in a lively, persuasive way, even if it is wrong. Ask each pair how much they bid initially, and find out which pair/s have the highest bid so far. Write the amount on the board.

5 Remind them that they know have a further €20 to increase their first bid, the one written down on their paper. They cannot exceed the amount of their first bid + €20. Restart the bidding from the previous maximum. This will create a lively atmosphere with lots of laughter and tension, and you as auctioneer will use Going, Going, Gone! to keep up the pressure towards the end. Accept last-minute bids before the final word Gone. At the end one pair will have bid the most money, and you can pause for a moment while everyone looks at them and waits to hear whether the sentence is correct or incorrect.

6 Announce in a dramatic fashion that The sentence is … correct! or The sentence is … incorrect! If the sentence is correct, the pair ‘win’ the sentence – make a note of their names. If it is incorrect, nothing happens – they simply ‘lose’ their money. Do not explain the grammar point at this stage – postpone this until later. Keep the auction moving, and go straight on to sentence #2 where the above process repeats.

7 At the end, see who is the winner (with the most correct sentences), and then move on to discuss the incorrect sentences. Use the usual techniques of trying to elicit corrections from the group first before writing up the correct version on the board.