When we teach English Grammar, choosing the right teaching methods may be one of the most important decisions. Before we do that, we have to consider who our target population is:
1. Elementary School
I don’t think Grammar should be taught explicitly at this level. Students may not be interested and even fail to understand abstract rules. Implicit Grammar instruction should be part of the communicative approach that most teachers have already adopted. By being exposed to many examples in short stories and various oral and writing activities, basic Grammar will be partly absorbed. At this point, fluency is more important than accuracy. Systematic, explicit teaching of Grammar may be left for later stages of the language acquisition.
What do I mean by implicit Grammar instruction?
e.g. The teacher introduces himself saying:
My name is Eyal. What is your name?
I am a teacher. Are you a teacher?
In this conversation the teacher has actually introduced the Verb Be without mentioning any Grammatical terminology.
2. Junior High
Students at this age should be taught Grammar explicitly and systematically since they are already able to understand Grammatical rules. You may be surprised, but based on my experience, I can assure you that many of them enjoy Grammar exercises if the structure is understood.
The following principles should be observed:
Every grammatical structure should be taught in context.
We may wish to start by using the structure we intend to teach in a class conversation.
Then we should move to a short text.
We have to choose a suitable text that includes many examples of the structure we intend to teach and expose the students to the new structure.
Reading the text should be followed by a writing activity that requires using the new structure
We have to encourage students to talk using the new structure by creating many oral activities such as role plays, dialogues and debates.
We may sum up the lesson by encouraging students to formulate the rule behind the new structure. By eliciting the rule from the students we turn them into partners in the learning process. The rule becomes an integral part of their knowledge and is reinforced by intensive practice and continuous review.
And last but not least, we should assign homework requiring practice of the new structure in context.
Some issues to be considered
How deeply should we go into every structure?
The decision depends on the level of the class, but remember, too much is too little! Do not overburden students with too many rules or exceptions which may only lead to chaos and confusion. Teach only what they need to speak and write correctly. Any structure that is not very often used should simply be avoided. The students will acquire those relatively rare structures at a later stage of their language acquisition.
Use appropriate texts that include many examples of the structure we intend to teach.
For example: a biography in order to teach the Past Simple, the weather forecast in order to teach the Future Simple, a set of instructions in order to teach the Imperative.
Is the order / sequence of the structures taught important?
I think it is very important.
We cannot teach Condition 3 if students don’t know the Past Perfect. We should not teach the Adverb if they don’t know what an Adjective is.
No point in teaching the Passive structures if they are not familiar with the Active structures.
And that’s all for today. In my next post I will discuss different issues related to Teaching Grammar in High School and Grammar Instruction for Adults.