Sometimes the easiest way to teach confusing words is to take the grammar and the boardwork totally out of the picture. Many students have had trouble knowing when to use lend and when to use borrow. In class, it’s not uncommon to hear, “can you borrow me a pencil?” After having tried, very unsuccessfully, to discuss giving and taking, I finally stumbled upon a solution. I was shocked when student after student got it right! So, if you’re having trouble, and all else fails, try this:
Face away from your students. Put your left hand up, and make the “L” shape with your hand. Then turn around, holding your arm in that position, and tell them, “L” for “Lend.”
Put your “L” hand flat in front of you. Explain that when you lend things, your hand must be open so the other person can take it. If your hand is clenched, they can’t take it. I usually put a marker in my hand. Keep your hand in the “L” shape and repeat, “’L’ for ’Lend.’” Tell your class that person who has their hand open is who “lends.”
I then bring up a student to demonstrate the “L” hand and put the marker in his/her hand. I ask the class, “if I want the marker, what will I say?” They almost always get it right (Will you _____ (lend) me the marker?), because their classmate is standing there with their hand open.
I then take the marker, but with both my hands curled right next to each other. Then keeping my hands together, I move them vertically and show them the capital “B” formed for “Borrow.” Tell your class that the person taking is the person “borrowing.”
I then hold the marker and the student models the question, “can I _________ (borrow) your marker?” The whole time I emphasize the pronoun – who is asking. We then model, “will you _______ (lend) me your marker?”
The whole class gets paired off and we practice the hands and forming the questions, followed by statements (I borrowed the pencil; she lent me the pencil). Remember, focus on the hands.
Hopefully a moment of teaching bliss!
I have found that incorporating the hand movements when learning, as silly as they are, actually improved student retention weeks later. This gets students moving, away from their books, utilizing their language and their bodies, learning something without getting swamped with grammar rules which they unfortunately often confuse or forget.