How to Teach Definite & Indefinite Articles in English

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Articles are adjectives. The articles "a" and "an" are called indefinite articles and the article "the" is called a definite article. "A" is used before consonant sounds, and "an" is used before vowel sounds. These two articles refer to any one of a type of person, place or thing. "The" refers to a specific person, place or thing.

Teach the rules of articles briefly. The learning will come through practice, not through a long, boring lecture. Consider assigning a group of students to teach the class about each type of article. Teaching the lesson themselves is an effective way to cement the lesson in the students' minds.

Prepare plenty of handouts for the students to practice using the forms of articles. Younger students may enjoy coloring and decorating their handouts as an incentive to complete the work. Older students can handle more complex sentences; consider giving them whole paragraphs or essays to work with.

Play a board game. Kids love to play games, and using a board game to teach grammar is an effective tool to teach young people the rules of definite and indefinite articles. You can find grammar games at your local teaching store and online. An alternative idea is to have the students create their own version of a board game. Assign groups to come up with a game and then the students can exchange games.

Introduce the lesson on articles while reading a story or an essay. After reading, explain the three forms of articles. Then have the students go back through the reading and circle or underline all of the articles. Younger students may enjoy using a different colored highlighter or colored marker for each type of article.

Have a scavenger hunt or a race. For a scavenger hunt, give each group of students a limited amount of time to find items in their backpack or in their desk that they can attach an article to. Prepare index cards with the articles written on them in advance. In a race, give each student a handful of index cards with articles written on them, and tell them to find items in the room that they can attach the correct index card to.

Karen Silvestri is an English professor at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Fla., and has been writing professionally since 1997. She also leads workshops on memoir writing, journaling, creative writing and poetry in her community and online. Silvestri holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and studied business and education at the graduate level.