5 Simple Ideas on Teaching Grammar
I think of myself as having been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to learn other languages at a young age. I was taught French in primary school and at home, I learned or acquired Spanish. At school, I remember my language teacher being very textbook-oriented and she focused and followed the book to the “T”. I picked up easily on the grammar because I had already learned Spanish at home and I was also very keen to learn foreign languages, especially French. The grammar didn’t seem difficult or boring to me at all because I had already been exposed to the language at a very early age. However, many students didn’t feel the same way I did and had difficulty with the subject and therefore, developed a disinterest in learning another language. Looking back now, I feel this was very sad and unfortunate.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Genoveve C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
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My Personal Experience
Now as an adult, I want to teach languages, and already have some personal experience teaching my own children Spanish and French. Over the years I’ve tutored adults and children alike and learned that each person has a different purpose for learning another language and therefore, I need a different approach to teach them the language. It is well known that not everybody finds grammar easy or fun! No matter if it is Spanish, French or English. I personally think Spanish grammar is the easiest and I feel grateful that English is my mother tongue. English grammar can be very difficult to learn and teach, as it has lots of obscure rules and a long list of exceptions.
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In the past, grammar was taught based on memorization of rules. This may work for other languages, but, in my opinion, it is not the most effective and creative way to teach or learn English grammar. Trying to “translate” grammar from your mother tongue into English does not work because another language has a different way of expressing or another way of thinking that is not always the same equivalent to English. In my opinion, the best way to learn another language is to live in that language and this means to live and work or study in the country where they speak the language. However, sometimes this is not possible and therefore, students are left to learn by the book in most cases.
1. Grammar and Writing
Learning grammar through writing encourages the student to explore the language through reading and writing and pick up grammar along the way. This is where stories can be extremely useful and effective and can be used with all different ages and levels. If there is a particular problem understanding a certain grammar rule, then this would be the time to do a more structured grammar lesson.
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2. Observing Rules in Real Life
Another way students can pick up on the grammar is by allowing them to notice the grammar rule before a full explanation is given. This is done by giving the students examples without telling them the grammar point. They listen and discover their own understanding of the meaning. By having them listen to the grammar point in context, it allows the students to figure it out by themselves first instead of being taught a grammar point out of context and therefore making no link.
3. Interactive Learning
Using games and other interactive activities such as song, to teach grammar points, engages the students and helps them to remember what they have learned. It is also a lot of fun and this contributes to the students retaining the information the teacher wants them to learn.
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4. Structured Approach
When you do need to teach grammar more traditionally, I believe there should be a structure for this method. Teach first the parts of speech, such as what is a noun, adjective, verb, etc...The next step is to teach sentences. This is particularly important because you cannot say anything sensible if you can’t speak or write a complete sentence. I always tell my students that verbs are very important to learn because, without verbs, you cannot have a complete sentence. The verb is the action word in a sentence. I also like to include phrases and clauses when I teach my older students grammar because this helps them learn English the way natives speak it.
5. Students’ Age
Finally, I have to conclude that while grammar is important to learn and not the easiest to teach, you must always remember how best to teach it. What I mean by this is, teaching 5-year-old grammar points in a boring way will not help the child to learn, it is best to teach through songs and games. By contrast, teaching working adults, it would be best to teach grammar in a more structural way, which tends to be more boring but for the way adults learn, it is the most effective because they understand and pick up rules. When teaching grammar to teenagers, they also need the structure of grammar rules, but at the same time, it needs to be presented in a way that will capture their interest, for example reading stories that interest them.
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