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5 Steps to Teaching the Degrees of Comparison in an ESL Classroom

5 Steps to Teaching the Degrees of Comparison in an ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

ESL students face the rules for the degrees of comparison early on in their English learning path. However, this topic may become daunting and lead to constant mistakes later on due to problems like confusing different degrees, doubling up, formulating unbalanced comparisons, etc.

In this blog post, you will learn five easy steps you should take to teach this grammar point in your ESL classroom.

What Are Adjectives?

Before you start digging deep, elicit some ideas of what adjectives are from your students. When you see they understand what adjectives are and don't confuse adjectives with other parts of speech, you can continue further.

You need your ESL classroom to know two main functions of adjectives:* They are words that describe a person, place, or thing (nouns and pronouns).* They appear before the word they modify.

For example:

  • black swan
  • small house
  • large sweater

Adjective Degrees

When every student in your ESL classroom completely understands how adjectives act within a sentence, explain that every adjective has degrees of comparison. Don't forget to use examples!

  • Positive - base adjective, non-comparative (e.g., My friend Eric is sweet).
  • Comparative - comparing two nouns, use adj + than (e.g., Eric is sweeter than Thomas).
  • Superlative - comparing more than two nouns, use the + adj (e.g., Eric is the sweetest guy among all of my friends).

Irregular Comparative

Stress that some adjectives have irregular forms, changing in all three degrees.

  • Good - better - best
  • Little - less - least
  • Bad - worse - worst


Don't forget to mention that one-syllable adjectives add -er or -est endings in comparative and superlative degrees.

  • Big - bigger
  • Fat - fatter

If they contain more than two syllables, they need helpers more/most/less/least instead of the endings.

  • more expensive
  • most beautiful
  • less common

When adjectives are made of two syllables, they can be modified either way depending on their endings in the positive form.

  • Use -er and -est if the adjective ends in-er, -le, -y, -ow. (e.g., noble - nobler; shallow - shallower).
  • Use -er and -est + -i if the adjective ends in a consonant + -y. (e.g., early - earlier; pretty - prettier).
  • Use more and most if the adjective ends in -ous, -ed, -re, -ing, -ful. (e.g., amazing - more amazing; beautiful - the most beautiful).

Bonus Rule

Point out that if your ESL classroom starts mixing up, it would feel and sound intimidating. If it is so, then the degrees of comparison should be revised.

For example, let's take a positive adjective slow:

If we say "The most slowest animmal" it would sound unnatural.However, we can say "The slowest animal" or "The most slow animal".

Do you want to develop your ESL teaching career? Take a TEFL course today!

All in all, teaching the degrees of comparison to students in an ESL classroom is quite fun. Don't forget to explain this controversial topic interactively, and your students will enjoy this grammar point. If you teach online, check out these posts for more engaging activities: 7 Activities to Enhance Your Online ESL Lesson with Miro and 3 Online ESL Teaching Ideas You Must Try Before 2021.

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