The acquisition of new grammar presents interesting challenges for both the student and the teacher. There are factors that need to be considered from the student's point of view, as well as the teacher's point of view. Grammar should be taught and learned a natural form. Teacher should avoid using technical terms related to grammar. The aforementioned factors can cause other difficulties that will be discussed in this article.
Learning grammar in a natural form depends mostly on the way on which the teacher presents the grammar. The teacher must present the grammar using natural situations and examples that the students can relate to. In order to achieve this it is necessary, that the teacher plan ahead, know his students well, have a firm grasp of the grammar topic and have examples prepared ahead of time.
Avoiding the use of technical terms related to grammar goes hand-in-hand with the previous point of learning grammar in a natural form. If we look at the way children learn to use clamor, and not explained that this is “simple present” or that is “past participle”. And learning, making the connection between the situations that are happening and the way things are said. We want to achieve this same correlation with our students.
One of the most common difficulties is out is not being able to make the connection between the situation in the use of the grammar. Loan as insurers, we must always remember that students may not always be able to see things the same way we do. This makes it necessary for the teacher to always be prepared with backup exercises, examples and other a material. Achieving this level of preparedness can be time-consuming however it is always rewarding when being in this prepared, helps a student to better understand what is being taught. On the up side, once a teacher has prepared material, he/she will always have it on hand for future classes and other students. It is worth mentioning that we would not prepare this material, the same way for adults and children.
Best resource, a student has for learning new grammar is a dedicated teacher. If the teacher comes prepare with exercises and examples, knowing that topic extremely well and can present it to using different situations, we can ease the learning process for the students. Most students are apprehensive when they begin studying. We as teachers might show them that learning is fun and easy and a way to do it is by carrying out the things that have been discussed in this article.
In closing, I would like to say that having worked in systems that require teaching grammar by using the technical terms and explaining the structures, as well as systems that prohibit teaching in this way, I have found that teaching in a natural form, is the most useful system for students. We should not blind ourselves however, thinking that we should strictly follow this type of system. Upon occasion, it can be very useful to explain to a student who is struggling the form of the grammar. Learning grammar is the basis of everything else the students will do in class and with the English language in life, let's teach at the best way possible!
Softly Tread The Brave : Pacing and Integration
Grammar can be a very scary thing. For students learning English (let alone teachers !) it can be highly intimidating. How to differentiate relative and dependent clauses. Negative versus interrogative forms. Subject and object, predicative and attributive adjectives, pronouns, gerunds and modal particles…oh, and did I mention conjugating verbs?
Pacing and integration are therefore vital in the integration of grammar into a TESL course so as to not overload students. Grammar should be weaved in with exercises in vocabulary, subtly if possible, and into speaking, writing, reading and listening exercises. Simple sentence structure (subject-verb-object) should come before sentences with multiple clauses; verb tenses should be gradually introduced. It’s better to take a single aspect of grammar and teach it well (e.g. can/can’t)than to try to introduce a whole principle in one lesson (e.g. all the modal verbs). Integrating the grammar point into the Engage / Activate parts of a lesson, not just the Study session, will also make it easier to digest. The most obvious point, but one that has to be made, is to keep it clear, concise, and as simple as possible.
I Didn’t Do Nothin’: Spoken or Written English?
There are vast differences in spoken and written English. Quite apart from colloquialisms and slang, the grammar used in our spoken English will be different to that used in our written English. It will be predominantly more formal, with perhaps more complex clause construction, when we write. Similarly, the written English that the students will read from almost any source (newspapers, books, signs) will be different to the English they hear (music, conversation, films). This shouldn’t be regarded as a bad thing and nor should we disdain the more informal uses of grammar. What is important is that we expose students to both, and that they learn which grammatical register is appropriate in any given situation.
I Did It My Way: Cultural Relativism
One of the great difficulties facing TESL teachers with regards to grammar is that we may never have learnt it ourselves. Curricula in many Western nations from the 1970’s and 80’s onwards moved away from formal grammatical training – the parsing and conjugation of verbs, study of syntax, and so on. The first challenge for the TESL teacher is to realise than many cultures, particularly in Europe and Asia, place great emphasis on grammar. Even in a predominantly ‘conversational class’, students may well be keen to learn English grammar rules. Quite apart from the need to know the rules, this means something far more profound for the TESL teacher. It is a clue as to how the students learn and process language. The teacher must be willing to adapt his or her style to how the students will best respond.
To give an example : the French, who study grammar vigorously, will be comfortable with formal explanations of how to conjugate verbs – indeed they will want it, and will understand the terminology (past participles, auxiliary verbs, tenses). The Vietnamese, who have a single verb form for all subjects (1st person, 2nd person, etc.), will not be so familiar with the idea that verbs change depending on who does them and when (I run, He runs). As such, knowing a little about the grammatical basics of the native tongue spoken is invaluable.
Because It Just Is, OK?: Rules vs Habits
However, English being English, it’s not quite that simple. There are as many exceptions as rules. Sentence structure, phrasing, the intricacies of auxiliary and modal verbs – many of these cannot just be taught by a rule in a book. English is very much a language of habit. This applies most obviously to pronunciation, but is also evident in our grammatical curiosities (why was he hung like a horse, but hanged by the neck until he was dead?). It is a language that must be absorbed through use, familiarity and habit. Students from some cultures, particularly Asian and European ones which rely heavily on grammatical rules, will have to be gently persuaded to look up from their rulebooks. They should by all means learn the rules, but they should also be prepared to let them go.
Teaching grammar is one of the most important aspects in an ESL/EFL classroom. It is important to decide the objective of the course- “How is grammar going to be taught?”
Firstly, the class composition has to be considered, the level of the class, how much grammar has to be taught and the learning background of the students. Adults will find grammar terminology difficult while students who are currently at school will adapt more easily.
The next point that is imperative in the class is that there should be enough learning materials and resources. If there is a variety of learning resources then there will be ample opportunity for different forms of learning grammar. There are certain students who benefit from oral explanation and some need visual points for better understanding. Many function well with computers and for them grammar activities can be given that they are able to self correct. If the class has similar learning styles then a simple approach is fine, but if there is mixed learning styles the instruction has to be provided with as many different methods so that the faster paced learners do not get bored and the slower paced students do not feel overwhelmed.
When teaching grammar, the best way is to begin with a game or an opening activity that introduces the concept of grammar. Students should be questioned so that they can identify the concept of grammar. After this a reading exercise can be given with questions and responses based on the structure that is being taught. Responses should be checked with the class and the students should explain their responses so that all the students are on the right track and are clear about the concepts. An exercise should be given which focuses on the current construction of the grammar points. This can be a “fill in the gaps” activity, cloze test or a verb tense conjugation activity. Finally, the class can be asked to explain the concept again. This is one method that can be adapted in as many ways that a teacher feels comfortable with.
In teaching grammar, it must be realized, that if there is no grammar the words hang together without any real meaning or sense. Grammar is essential to the students who need to express them selves as well as to fulfill their expectation of a foreign language. Grammar can be taught by the teacher giving the rules and the language is based on these rules. Another way is that the rule is inferred through some form of guided discovery. One method is the teacher created rule and the other is learner centered.
A very important aspect of teaching grammar is to show the students how grammar is needed and used in real life events and communication. The students need to be engaged in varied guided oral practice. Students should also be encouraged to use the structure with communicative expressions. Examples can be put on the board or the overhead projector and students can add to each sentence using grammar points that have been covered in the course and what is currently being taught.
For example they can add adjectives, adverbs and subject pronouns to a sentence:
Paul has a house- He has big red house
Paul walked to the market- He walked to the market very slowly.
When using tense that are being taught many examples have to be given to the class. Explanation of what the present is and then how something happened yesterday versus what will happen tomorrow. Key words to show tenses are also very important. e.g. For present tense- Now, today. For past tenses - last night, yesterday, in 1950. For future and conditional tenses- tomorrow, next week, I wish I could. Clear clarification and instructions have to be given to the students so that they know how different tenses have to be used. Skits and dialogues in group work are some of the ways to learn tenses as well as story telling in the past and also the future.
Many students enter a class thinking that grammar will be very difficult and boring but if a teacher has a variety of activities, good examples, visuals, learning materials, resources, enthusiasm, motivated and a sense of humor then grammar can be fun and concepts can be understood easily. Continuous revision is required so that the students can build all four standards which must contain grammar activities- reading, writing, listening and speaking.
- “Planning a grammar lesson” - Tanya Cotter, British Council, Morocco
- “Teaching English in an ESL / EFL Setting” - Kenneth Beare - English as a 2nd language
- “Major components of the study of Syntax and Grammar - Teaching Grammar in context - Jill Kerper Mora - San Diego State University