This is a spooky grammar lesson for Halloween. Students listen to the first part of a horror story in the form of a dictogloss, then continue the story using inversions. Download the handout and teacher’s notes below:
Horror Story Dictogloss – Teacher’s Notes
Tell students you’re going to read them the introduction to a horror story. It features a haunted mansion and the first line is “It was a dark and stormy night…” Tell them to make predictions about what will happen.
Explain the dictogloss to your students:
You will read the story to them several times. A note on delivery, read the text in a natural way, don’t pause mid-sentence, follow the punctuation. You may want to exaggerate the pauses after full stops and commas to give students a bit of extra processing time.
- The first time all they have to do is listen.
- Second time they can take notes of words and phrases, stress that it’s not a dictation and that they shouldn’t worry if their version is different.
- Students compare notes with a partner or in a three.
- Students listen for a third time, taking notes and then compare with their group again. You may want to read the text for a fourth time, gauge it with your own group.
- Students work to recreate the text. You could do this on a Google doc so you can see the versions taking shape. Assign each group a page of the doc so that they’re not tempted to copy each other.
- Show them the original text and copy/paste all their versions below. Have them compare their versions and looks for differences.
It was a dark and stormy night, the wind was whistling through the trees and the rain was pouring down. Not only was I completely soaking wet, but also my teeth were chattering because of the icy wind. I knocked on the door of the ancient run-down mansion as hard as I could; little did I know the horror that awaited me on the other side of the door. No sooner had I ceased my knocking than the door swung slowly open. The darkness on the other side was pitch-black but so desperate was I to get out of the storm that I jumped inside without a second thought. Hardly had I set foot inside the house when the door slammed shut behind me…
Ask students to complete the following language analysis task in pairs:
- Meaning – substitute the phrases in bold for other, simpler words so that the meaning is the same.
- Usage – why do you think the writer decided to use the phrases in bold instead of simpler language? What effect do these expressions have on the reader? More emphatic, more exciting, draws the reader in.
- Form – Look at the word order after the inversion phrases:
- Complete the formula: Inversion phrase + _______ + _______ + _______
(Inversion phrase + auxiliary verb + subject + verb)
Show students further examples of each inversion:
Not only: used with a wide range of tenses and auxiliary verbs:
- Not only are vampires afraid of crosses, but also garlic.
- Not only did the werewolf have sharp teeth, but also long claws.
- Not only would I recommend calling the police, but also I would run away as fast as I could.
Little: most commonly used with “know” and “realise”:
- Little did I realise how much danger I was in.
- Little did she know what had just happened in the other room.
No sooner…. than: Or Hardly…. when Most commonly used with past perfect to express that one action happened immediately after another:
- No sooner had I closed the door than I heard a strange scratching sound.
- No sooner had I fallen asleep than a strange light came in through the window.
- Hardly had the sound stopped when the door burst open.
- Hardly had I turned around when the beast appeared at the end of the corridor.
So + adjective + that…: Used with a range of adjectives to add emphasis and express consequences:
- So cold was it that my hands were shaking.
- So frightening was the beast that even the brave soldier screamed in fear.
Practice – Key
- I had just opened the door when the monster appeared.
Hardly had I opened the door when the monster appeared.
- They had no idea that the beast was watching their every move.
Little did they realise (that) the beast was watching their every move.
- The enormous size of the beast’s tentacles stopped them from reaching the exit.
So enormous were the beast’s tentacles that they couldn’t reach the exit.
- As soon as they were outside the house, she called the police.
No sooner had they got out of the house than she called the police.
- The car wouldn’t start and the gun was jammed.
Not only would the car not start but also the gun was jammed.
- They didn’t know that the call was coming from inside the house until it was too late.
Little did they know/realise that the call was coming from inside the house until it was too late.
Have students write another paragraph of the story either in class or for homework. Encourage them to use as many inversions as possible and other descriptive language.