Teaching Countable and Uncountable Nouns is a grammar point that beginners will learn early on and it can take multiple activities to solidify the correct usage.
I have taught this topic hundreds of times and each time I learn something about how I could do it better.
Here are 3 strategies to alleviate confusion about using How Much and How Many.
Making it Clear: How Much or How Many
Constantly Reiterate Countable/Uncountable Nouns Lesson
Once you have introduced what countable and uncountable nouns are, you will need to constantly refer back to your explanation. Countable nouns are things with quantities that you see with your eyes. They can be counted easily. Uncountable nouns are things that are more general and cannot be counted. Great examples for each are
- Countable: markers, pens, apples, hats, or anything you can point to in the classroom, pick up and count—countable nouns usually have an “S” at the end.
- Uncountable: Water (my favorite example). How can you count water? Rice - Can you count each piece of rice? Time - another favorite - because you cannot clearly see it to measure it.
When students come across the How Much or How Many question and it baffles them, refer back to these examples. “Is it like water or bananas?” What sounds right to you, “How much shoes or How many shoes?”
Use Food and Shopping as Your Main Practice Topic
The best way to teach and to reinforce the How Much/How Many grammar point is to use food. Everyone loves food and the food lessons bring with them lots of new vocabulary. You can do any range of activities from shopping in the grocery store, to taking stock of what’s in the kitchen, to creating recipes. Because the students will naturally have to incorporate how much or how many into questions and answers, food is the way to go. Another way to do this is with shopping or restaurant role plays that introduces ‘how much is it’ and ‘how many do we want/need’. There are innumerable food and shopping lesson ideas that can be dispersed into your lessons to practice how much or how many.
Give Concrete Examples
One of the problems with practicing How Much and How Many is that it often feels so forced or unnatural. Utilizing classroom objects, pictures and everyday situations can help you get around that and expose students to naturally using much and many. You don’t always have to force it with this point because we use much and many so often. We use it in telling stories, “There were many people at the mall.” We use it to talk about our time “I have too much homework tonight. I can’t go to the movies.” We use it to talk about money, “How much is the bill?” Look for ways that the students can draw their own conclusions and use error correction as a way to remind them why it one way and not another.
Teaching the grammar point of How Much or How Many is one of those points that comes up again and again.
Just keep giving great explanations and providing opportunities to refresh and practice! Soon students will begin using it without so much trouble.
How do you teach how much and how many? Tell us in the comments below!