I have come up with the most imaginative activities and have given my students the funniest on-line tasks, the most creative exercises – still ‘verb patterns’ is the grammar point that is best practised with drills.

Old fashioned? Perhaps. Nevertheless in my view it is worth drilling sometimes to see some improvement – or am I just impatient?

Anyway, when I was speculating about some verbs and found that it was really easy for my students to use ‘to + infinitive’ after ‘want’ or ‘try’, I realised that the only reason is that they tend to use those verbs really often. So that would be the real argument for drilling – even if it is found old-fashioned by some methodology gurus.

So the simple task was the following:

– the students are in groups of 3 or 4

– each student receives one card (cut out from the page) with a verb but also indicating if it is followed by to + infinitive or the -ing (Gerund) structure

– in the middle of the desk I put a sheet with lots of different verbs – the verbs that I intended to be the “second” verb, i.e. the one that has to be put into the gerund or infinitive form

– one student from the group asks a question with the verb on their card plus one of the “second verbs” from the sheet in the approproate form. Every group member has to give an answer in a full sentence, making sure that they repeat the whole structure.

e.g. the verb on the card is ‘AGREE’ to

Student 1’s question: Do you agree to come to the cinema with me tonight?

Student 2’s answer: I agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

Student 3’s answer: I don’t agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

The students take turns to ask and answer with the verbs on their cards.

What is happening here? The students listen to the same structure lots of times thus creating the imprint of that verb pattern. After 3-4 questions with the same verb the students can take new cards (for instance change cards with another group)

Well, I am not saying that drilling is the most exciting activity in the world but with a little twist, like creating group work and a speaking activity it can help the students memorise difficult structures like verb patterns.