Why Grammar Shouldn't Be Scary for Both Students and Teachers?
The word ‘grammar’ is often feared by students and teachers alike. It has an image of being difficult to comprehend and hard to teach. However, with planning and a positive approach to the lesson, it can be a fun and interesting way to improve English skills. Also, students can often feel a true sense of accomplishment by being able to use the vocabulary and sentences structures that they have learned.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Janet K.
So where do we start? How to use verbs and the study of tenses is a perfect first step. By dividing the tenses into three sections, present, past and future, and then again into the simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous forms, we can start to show the students that there are similarities and patterns within the tenses.
Even though students often start with the present simple, the use of don’t/doesn’t in negative sentences and questions, and the addition of s to the base form of verbs in the third person singular, means that it is not so ‘simple' and these are common mistakes in both written and spoken English. In addition, when to use a specific tense can be confusing.
Choice of activities
So how can we make these lessons both easy to understand and fun? After introducing situations when we use each tense and studying how to form them, we can then use activities such as ‘find someone who…’, questionnaires, guessing games and role play to give the students lots of practice in usage. Also, the present perfect tense is often avoided by students, but as we use it a lot in conversation it deserves to be the main section in any curriculum that includes grammar. “Have you been…” or “Have you seen…?’ etc. are questions that are used frequently to ask about experiences and it is important that students can use and answer such questions confidently.
One area of difficulty that occurs when studying irregular verbs in the past tense is learning the simple past form and the past participle. Again, there are groups of verbs with similar patterns that we can teach to make remembering them easier and card games, such as memory pairs or fish are enjoyable and help students to learn and remember in a fun way.
The language level
Most students think of the future tense as easier than the present or past, however, from a grammatical point of view, it is one of the most complex areas of the English language. It is more suitable for higher level learners to examine all of the different or more complex forms. Overall, the correct use of verbs is vital to being able to communicate effectively in any language.
Apart from tenses the students also need to be aware of modal verbs and phrasal verbs. These are used commonly and can be confusing as the difference is often very subtle. Charts can clearly show the different uses of modal verbs and there are many kinds of role-play situations that lend themselves perfectly to this, for example, a doctor-patient situation where the doctor is offering advice is interesting and a perfect way to practice modal verbs such as should, must, need to, etc.
Phrasal verbs are challenging and teaching the difference between intransitive and transitive separable can be confusing for the students. Keeping a record of phrasal verbs that have been taught or included in various materials is a good way to use them naturally during uncontrolled practice.
Jokes work best
The passive voice is interesting for the students and they enjoy changing comical sentences into the passive, using a chart to check how to change the verb in a variety of sentences. Cutting up various active and passive sentences and matching them often produces funny answers and the students enjoy this kind of activity.
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Overall there are many areas of grammar that need to be introduced as the students progress with their English learning. The use of articles reported speech, conditionals, and prepositions all present challenges, but with a clear explanation, some thorough studying time and then lots of fun activities and practice the students can enjoy studying grammar and feel pleasure as their English becomes more accurate and easier to understand.
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