Many teachers find it difficult to teach grammar from various reasons which may range from lack of experience to lack of knowledge regarding some simple steps related to this issue. After consulting a variety of grammar reference books in order to establish how a structure is formed, when it is used and whether there are any particular rules or expectations governing its use, the teacher can actually start teaching the grammar lesson and by following the stages of a comprehensive grammar lesson it can become a rewarding experience.
This stage means introducing the grammar structure, inductively or deductively. The techniques and resources that can be used during this step are various. Selection should be made according to the teacher’s strengths, student preferences and the nature of the structure.
The necessity of presentation lies in the fact that before learning something new the students need to perceive and understand it. The teacher’s job is to mediate such new material so that it appears in a dorm that is more accessible for initial learning. This kind of mediation is called ‘presentation’.
Raw, unmediated new input is often incomprehensible to learners; it does not function as ‘intake’ and therefore does not result in learning. Given the limited time and resources of conventional foreign language courses, as much as possible of this input has to become also ‘intake’ at first encounter. Hence the necessity for presenting it in such a way that it can be perceived and understood. Another contribution of effective teacher presentations of new material in formal courses is that they can help to activate and harness learners’ attention, effort, intelligence and conscious (‘metacognitive’) learning strategies in order to enhance learning – again, something that does not necessarily happen in an immersion situation.
A teacher might point out how a new item is linked to something they already know, or contrast a new bit of grammar with a parallel structure in their own language.
Sometimes, presentations may not occur at the first stage of learning; they may be given after learners have already engaged with the language in question, as when we clarify the meaning of a word during a discussion, or read aloud text learners have previously read to themselves.
The ability to mediate new material or instruct effectively is an essential teaching skill; it enables the teacher to facilitate learner’s entry into and understanding of new material, and thus promotes further learning.
An effective presentation also requires the learner’s attention, perception, understanding and short-time memory. The learners focus their attention on the teacher and on the material to be learnt, and they are aware that something is coming that they need to take in. The teacher has to make sure if learners perceived the material accurately. A right perception can be achieved if the learners see and hear the material clearly.The learners also need to understand the meaning of the material being introduced, and its connection with other things they already know. A response from the learners can give the teacher valuable feedback on how well they have understood: a restatement of concepts in their own words.
Presentations also require short-term memory. The learners need to take the material into short-term memory: to remember it until later in the lesson. That depends on the impact the original presentation has. We should take into consideration the type of learner we address to: some learners base on their visual, some on their aural or kinaesthetic skills.
2. Focused practice
In this stage the learner manipulates the structure in question while all other variables are held constant. The purpose of this step is to allow the learner to gain control of the form without the added pressure and distraction of trying to use the form for communication. The teacher should not proceed to the next phase until most students have mastered at least the form of the structure.
Practice should be considered as the rehearsal of certain behaviours with the objective of consolidating learning and improving performance. Language learners can benefit from being told, and understanding facts about the language only up to a point: ultimately, they have to acquire an intuitive, automatized knowledge which will enable ready and fluent comprehension and self-expression. Such knowledge is normally brought about through consolidation of learning through practice.
Organizing language practice is one of the most important things the teacher does in the classroom. This contributes significantly to successful language learning and therefore that is worth devoting some thought to what factors contribute to the effectiveness of classroom practice.
Practice is usually carried out through procedures called ‘exercises’ or ‘activities’. ‘Activity’ implies rather more learner activity and initiative. Exercises and activities may relate to any aspect of language: their goal may be the consolidation of the learning of a grammatical structure or the improvement of listening, speaking, reading or writing fluency, or the memorization of vocabulary. The characteristics of effective language practice are:
- teacher assistance
3. Communicative practice
The learning engages in communication activities to practice the structure being learned. A communicative task should incorporate the actual process of communication; the more of these features an exercise incorporates, the more communicative it is. At this stage, the learners show if they can master the structure for communicative purposes.
4. Teacher feedback and correction
Although this is usually considered a final step, must take place throughout the lesson. The teacher correction strategy should change according to the phase of the lesson. When practicing, correction should be predominantly straightforward and immediate whereas when communicating, the teacher should not interrupt the learners. Instead, the teacher should take note of errors and deal with them after the communicative exercises.
The element which should remain constant; regardless of when correction is made, is that the teacher feedback should always attempt to engage the student cognitively rather than to simply point out the error and provide the appropriate target form.
All in all, the success of a grammar lesson is based on taking into account these aspects which are absolutely necessary when teaching to any level.
1. Aitken Rosemary-Ideas for teaching and practicing tenses in English, Thomas Nelson LTD 1992
2. Marianne Celce-Murcia, Sharon Hilles-Techniques and resources in teaching grammar, OUP 1988
3. Edwards Woods, Nicole McLeod- Using English Grammar, PHI LTD 1990
4. Mark Nettle and Diana Hopkins – Developing Grammar in context, CUP 2003
5. Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers- Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, CUP 1986
6. Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik- A Communicative Grammar of English, Longman 1994
7. David Nunan- Language teaching methodology, Prentice Hall International LTD 1991