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CLT: The Best Way to Teach Grammar

CLT: The Best Way to Teach Grammar | ITTT | TEFL Blog

“The role of grammar is perhaps one of the most controversial issues in language teaching” (Richards and Renandya, 2002, p.145). From the past to the present, there have been so many changes in methodologists’ views on which grammar items should be taught and how to teach them.

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Traditional Approach


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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Man C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Traditional Approach

In the past, in a traditional classroom, grammatical competence and explicit knowledge of language rules were emphasized. Grammar teaching held such an essential part in language teaching that other aspects became either ignored or downplayed. People assumed that if the grammatical rules of a language were mastered, the success of communication in that language was ensured. Therefore, at that time this assumption required learners to pay much attention to grammar rules, sentence structures, and forms.

Although a pupil has known all the grammar rules, he or she still makes the most elementary mistakes in grammar. Moreover, increased knowledge in grammar does not help students to increase the ability to use English correctly. If learners just spend years learning only the formal properties of the language, they cannot exchange information, express ideas or feelings. To be able to communicate, they must learn grammatical rules in real communication. That is the reason why though students can do excellent exercises after studying grammar lessons, their ability to speak may not be improved. It is traditional grammar teaching that led to failure in communication.

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It is suggested that the traditional way should be replaced by Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), functional grammar and consciousness-raising mainly focused on how to use it communicatively. Students first become aware or conscious of the new language, then recognize and distinguish it, then produce it. Learners will develop explicit knowledge of the grammar of the language which facilitates their ability to communicate. Learners may also be led to grammatical rules implicitly. Nevertheless, this method has its limitations. Because this method requires thinking much, it may not be appropriate for young learners and beginners, or others who prefer learning by practicing to thinking may dislike it. Also, the aim of this method is helping learners to know about the language and it does not emphasize immediate language use. Consequently, it may take a long time for the learners to be able to communicate in L2 spontaneously.

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Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) mainly focused on the communicative process and the negotiation of meaning between participants. Learners need to know not only forms but also meanings and functions. Meaningful tasks which involve real communication such as language games, picture strip story, role play, etc. Though this is an effective approach to teaching grammar communicatively, it is believed to fill the gap in the traditional grammar between forms and used indirectly. The reason is that it does not necessarily deal with grammar systematically. When communicative approaches are adopted, they are often represented as a combination of traditional grammar with communicative enhancements.

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In today's classroom, though there are many methods for teaching grammar, some teachers still prefer traditional grammar because it does not require much of their language competence beyond the textbook. This method is also supported by public attitudes. People assume that in public high schools teachers will teach good grammar for student success. Therefore, traditional grammar teaching is still widely accepted. Others believe an integrated method may be a good choice. In sum, until now there is no conclusion which is the best method in teaching grammar and methodologists are still doing research to find as many effective ways as possible.

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