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How to Seamlessly Integrate Grammar in your TEFL Class
How to Seamlessly Integrate Grammar in your TEFL Class
Admin - Dec 21 2015
Grammar represents one of the language aspects that are least emphasized in teaching English as a second or foreign language. As is the norm, grammar is superseded by vocabulary building and oral articulation in many ESL/EFL classes, reflecting the stronger focus of educators on the communicative proficiencies of language learners compared with their focus on English’s formal syntactic rules. In fact, in many classrooms where English is being taught as a foreign or second language, teachers show a slight reluctance in tackling grammar, given its highly technical nature and the difficulty in introducing and reinforcing its rules on non-native English speakers.
While the aversion to teaching English grammar is understandable, complete avoidance is simply impossible and clearly wrong. Grammar is an integral part of English, the awareness and application of which is critical in helping students speak and write using organized sentence structures that are readily understandable by both native and non-native English speakers. Without the appreciation of grammar, learners will find it difficult to become effective communicators in the future.
Teaching Grammar with Grace
A grammar-focused syllabus could be such a tall order for most ESL and EFL classes but any balanced English language curriculum should include grammar concepts. Greg Cossu, an English language teacher in Japan, suggests the teaching of grammar using a two-step approach. This method involves the introduction of the statement form using a related question, which not only helps highlight key correlated elements in both sentences but also presents the learning concept in practical dialogue format. For example, a grammar lesson with pets as the overarching theme may use the question form, “What is Dan’s pet?” The corresponding statement form could be “Dan’s pet is a goldfish.”
In this simple sentence pair, corresponding verbs, proper nouns and common nouns are present for further exploration. This helps students more easily understand grammar, giving attention to both the sentence and the statement forms. The use of this method also encourages learners to ask questions, a skill that is very important in starting and maintaining a meaningful conversation. To reinforce the skill, teachers should form students into pairs and create different scenarios where asking questions and directly answering them is the key to achieve activity goals.
Given the technical nature of grammar, ESL and EFL classes can easily fall into a learning pit, especially when educators teaching the subject stubbornly stick with the tedious chalk-and-board approach. To spike up learner enthusiasm, grammar-focused games, group activities, contests and other approaches should be adopted. For example, when teaching subject-verb agreement, an educator can use a game called “How Much is Many,” the mechanics of which is outlined here:
Prepare flashcards in sets of three: A) numbers 0 to 9, B) objects C) colors and other concepts that easily represent adjectives or descriptive phrases.
Form the class in groups of three (3).
For each game session, each group should take three flashcards and then construct a grammatically correct sentence using the flashcards they have picked. For example, a set of flashcards showing the number 2, a bear, and a tree could generate a sentence like “Two bears climbed a tree.”
The game could have five or more sessions.
The group with the highest number of correctly constructed sentences wins the game.
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