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One of the reasons why I don’t like Christmas is that it causes havoc to my schedules and my classes. Only three students turned up today! I seriously contemplated abandoning my plan to lead them on a guided discovery of the passive voice, but then I thought, what guarantee do I have that I’ll have a fuller class the next time? So, I decided to go ahead with it.

The subject of the passives came up several times the past week, and I decided to embark on this journey when they came across the phrasal verb taken in (as in to deceive somebody) and used it in the active form when they’d tried to construct sentences.

Guided discovery Passive Voice Guided discovery of passive voice

  • Lead-in: I started the class with a group work activity: find out from each other if you have read or watched any news lately and if so, what has stayed on your mind?
  • I got them to report back to me, and inevitably, like I’d expected, the Newtown tragedy was the topic that stood out.


PS: I’ve noticed that some animations appear misaligned. I can assure you they look all right on my computer although I must admit that I had issues with them on the school’s computer, too, and had to make slight changes on the spot. So, I suspect it depends on the version of PowerPoint.

  • Present language: I beamed up a series of 3 images, all taken from the BBC website, and invited speculations on what the story could be about. Then I displayed the (passive) sentence above it, without paying too much attention to the form.
  • I turned the projector off, gave them a worksheet and asked them to fill in the gaps of these sentences:
  1. The US premiere of ________________________________ has been called off in the wake of last week’s shootings in a Connecticut school.

They have _______________ the US premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s western Django Unchained in the wake of last week’s shootings in a Connecticut school.

  1. A ________ carrying the casket of six-year-old Jack Pinto enters the Newtown Village Cemetery.

The casket of six-year-old Jack Pinto is being _________ by a hearse.

  1. Two _____________________ have called for changes to firearm laws, as the _______________ of the 26 victims of Newtown school shootings were buried.

Changes to firearm laws have been _____________ by two pro-gun US senators, as they _________ the first victims of the 26 victims of Newtown school shootings.

  • If you observe carefully, the sentences come in pairs and the missing part of one sentence is found in the other.
  • I beamed up the answers, got them to compare against theirs.


  • Checking meaning: I showed them this sentence:

They have called off the US premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s western Django Unchained

and asked them what the subject, the verb and the object were and if it was an active or a passive sentence. I followed up by this sentence

The US premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s western Django Unchained has been called off

and repeated the questions. And added: how do we know that it’s a passive sentence?

  • They then analysed three sentences on their own (see embedded worksheet).


  • Deduce rules: They were asked to try to complete a set of rules by themselves (exercise 3 on the worksheet), but we did the first one together as a demonstration.


  • Controlled practice: A short exercise where they had to fill in the appropriate form of the verb in both active and passive sentences.


  • Pronunciation: We worked on word and sentence stress, paying special attention to weak forms.


  • Controlled practice: They converted active sentences to passive and vice versa.


  • Free practice: I must admit that I didn’t do this part. They were supposed to prepare a quiz, but since there were only three of them, I didn’t think it was beneficial enough.


I thought the lesson went quite well. The passive voice wasn’t completely new to them, but for the most part, they had forgotten about it. This lesson served to refresh their memory. Their post-lesson feedback was positive. They thought it a good idea to us to do lessons like this from time to time.