Understanding English grammar is a critical component for most ESL teachers. While there are niche areas in ESL teaching, such as kindergarten education, where grammar instruction might be minimal, the majority of ESL teaching roles require a strong grasp of English grammar. As an ESL teacher, you can expect to teach students at varying proficiency levels, ranging from absolute beginners to advanced learners. At each level, different aspects of English grammar are introduced and taught, making a thorough knowledge of grammatical concepts essential for effective teaching. This foundational understanding enables ESL teachers to confidently guide students through the complexities of the English language, addressing grammar features appropriate to each learning stage.
Table of Contents
This level starts from zero knowledge of English, so the first thing to be covered would be the English alphabet. Moving from there would be some simple parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs and prepositions. Moving towards the upper end of this first level there would be an introduction to the tense system, covering the present simple and possibly present continuous tenses.
At this next level the fundamentals would continue to be developed, so the parts of speech would be expanded to include different types of prepositions, different types of adverbs and different types of nouns. The tense system would also be developed to introduce past and future tenses probably just in simple form. The present tenses in the simple and continuous form would be further expanded and possibly the perfect tense introduced.
In this stage more complex grammar items start to be introduced. Typically all tense forms will be covered in some depth or other, to develop, past, present and future form. Grammar items such as modal auxiliary verbs, adverbials and phrasal verbs may also be covered.
In this stage and assuming that all simple forms of past, present and future tenses have already been covered, the full tense system may be laid out, to include past, present and future forms of the continuous, perfect and perfect continuous tenses. Additional grammar items such as reported speech and conditionals are usually covered here also.
In this final stage as all tenses have been covered, their use in comparative situations is often covered. Further grammar items will include direct and reported speech, passive and active voice and all four conditional forms.
It is important to appreciate that the descriptions above are just a snapshot of some of the material covered and there are a whole range of other parts of speech, grammar items and tense usages that will also be covered.
To answer the point of the question: you will certainly need to know some grammar when teaching ESL. How much you will need to know and how well you will need to know it depends on the teaching situation, expectations of your job role and the students' needs.
Regardless of whether you need to know all of the above, you will without doubt be a better English teacher if you have at least studied to the highest level you are likely to teach (and beyond).
Also read: What makes a great TESOL teacher?