Active vs. Passive Voice/Timing Guide

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Active vs. Passive Voice: In-Class Activities, Instructor Timing Guide

Please note this guide is to help you keep track of time as students work through the activities. It complements the final worksheets (and PowerPoint) but please have a look at this guide so you know when you should display certain slides. Before beginning Activity 1, you should have students read the preamble (on worksheets) to remind them of the differences involved in using the active and passive voice.


Activity 1 (work alone or together, 10 min)

You should allow a total of 10 minutes for students to complete Activity 1.


Activity 2 (work alone, 15 min + 5 min for instructor to show/discuss answers, total time elapsed =30 min)

You should allow 15 minutes for students to complete Activity 2, before spending a further five minutes discussing the solutions to Activities 1 & 2 (PowerPoint slides #4, 5, 6 and 7) so that they can all see what the correct answers were (and some examples of re-written sentences). You could ask students for examples that used even fewer words than the solutions.


  1. You should stress that there are multiple right answers for Activity 2, but the key is in making the original versions more concise by using the active voice.
  2. You should stress it is important to stick to time. If students do not finish all the sentences in Activity 2, they can always complete this part at home.


Activity 3 (work alone, 5 min, total time elapsed = 35 min)

You should allow five minutes for students to complete Activity 3 (they only have to write five or six sentences about the best science lecture they ever attended.


Activity 4 (work together, 5 min, total time elapsed = 40 min)

You should allow 5 minutes for students to work together to complete Activity 4.


Activity 5 (work alone, 10 min, total time elapsed = 50 min)

You should allow 10 minutes for students to complete Activity 5 (they might need less time as they are just altering their own sentences to the opposite style of voice they originally wrote them in).


Activity 6 (optional/take home)

This Activity simply asks students to critique each sentence they have written. For each topic, they will have one active voice sentence and one passive voice sentence. The idea here is to get them to appreciate that different styles are more or less appropriate depending on the content (it is not always a bad idea to use the passive voice). Also draw attention to the suggested link on their handouts for more information on this topic.


* Please note that when piloted in Term 1, 2013, some classes completed everything in the allotted time and some failed to get past Activity 4 *'

* If students are taking time to complete these activities, feel free to let them. As long as they complete Activities 1 – 4, they can take Activities 5 and 6 home to reflect on the messages of this hands-on unit, and gain more practice in swapping between styles of voice. *

* This is one of the harder hands-on units, so it is important not to rush. Working through activities 1 – 4 should give everyone more confidence working with the active and passive voice. *