The Place of Grammar in TEFL
Grammar, more often than not, has been a subject of great scrutiny and dislike amongst students of all ages and all levels, either because they find it complicated or simply not fond about it because of the memory that the exams in school were always difficult or it was easy for the teachers to correct and put the students on the spot for being unable to differentiate between the tenses.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Roberto I. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
For myself, I believe that grammar is an important piece of oneself in their personal growth to be able to communicate properly, courteously, and professionally in any environment and with everybody. We all know about grammar even though we haven’t invested too much time on understanding it profoundly, meaning that we’ve grown engaging in conversations and reporting events that have happened on our day to day and right in the backstage of all these conversations was grammar pulling the strings, working silently helping us to speak clearly and to understand others as well. I say and believe this based on my experience working with people and recently working as a teacher of English for young Chinese students.
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And it is on this last experience which I would like to focus this piece of writing since my employer asked me to teach vocabulary to the students through drilling activities disregarding all efforts to teach grammar parallel to new vocabulary. The reason behind this was that this is the way that he had built his own English School and has been doing the same for over 12 years, which granted he had mastered his craft, but there was a flaw in this approach to teaching. The flaw, that was evident at the start of the new teaching semester, was that there was a 40% student attrition as compared to the previous year. The reason, parents are now more interested in the level of English that the students are being taught for them to take more sophisticated exams to add more value to them and just by knowing high amounts of vocabulary wasn’t enough, according to them.
Teaching younger students
Working with young learners from ages ranging 5 years up to 12 years of age, I knew that I needed to work with the parents and talk to them to understand what their expectations were for the class. I know that this is the best age in which the students can acquire the foundations of grammar and started to plan the lessons accordingly between the material I was being asked to deliver and the activities I brought to the classroom for the students to be able to repeat and practice the vocabulary but within a conversation or question structure which at the end resulted in the students being able to engage more in conversation utilizing the vocabulary they were learning and reducing their need to go back to their native tongue.
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So this experience plus the refreshers receiving during the course has been beneficial to reinforce this sense of the importance of teaching Grammar and why it should always be included in all activities and making it attractive to the students so we can move past the negative thoughts that arise from it. In the end, it’s all a matter of balance and the focus should always be to give the correct amount of each element to the students since all of them are important.
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