This article review three stages of teaching and learning of the new structures: presentation, practice, production.
Presentation is the stage at which students are introduced to the form, meaning and constructed, they learn what it means and how it is used. As a whole at this stage they learn how to put the new syntax, words and sound together. So it is very important for the presentation to be a good one.
In Teaching and Learning Grammar, Jeremy Harmer enumerates the characteristics of a good presentation which should be : clear, efficient, lively and interesting, appropriate for the language that is being presented and last but not least productive.
During the Presentation stage the purpose is that of recognition : hearing, reading and understanding. Students must hear the structures correctly. That is why the teacher can check by repetition, questions/answers or translation ( very limited ) and the students are supposed to understand the structure only roughly.
Some ways of presenting grammatical structures and functions are:
- Modelling: meaning that the teacher gives a clear spoken model of the new language, with normal speed, stress or intonation. The teacher can give this model a number of times then ask students to repeat it, both in chorus and individually.
- Isolation: teachers frequently isolate parts of the sentences they are modeling in order to give them special emphasis. This might be done for more complicated structures, such as the conditionals.
- The use of visuals: teacher uses cards for grammatical items.
- The use of fingers.
- Discovery techniques: students are given examples of language and asked to find out how they work.
- Drawings: for young learners.
This is the stage at which students use the new grammatical item to say things which really mean something to them or to apply the new knowledge to their situation: if the students have been presented with the present simple, the personalization stage is where they say general things about themselves, what they do, where they live, they speak about their daily programme and so on. It is often a chance offered to the students to sue the new language for themselves. Sometimes presentation takes place using personalization immediately as the first stage. The teacher uses the students and their lives to introduce the new language.
Irrespective of the technique the teachers choose for their presentation of the new grammatical item they should relate it to the students’ ages and levels of English and to the text of the lesson in the textbook.
Some techniques and types of exercises appropriate for the stage in which the students practice the grammatical items are:
– Repetition under the form of repetitive drills with the whole class or with the students pairs. The teacher is able to get students to ask and answer questions quickly and efficiently. This technique has both advantages and disadvantages. The chief advantage of this kind of technique is that the teachers can correct any mistakes that the students make and can encourage them to concentrate on difficulties at the same time. The problem with drills is that they are often not very creative. Teachers make sure that they are not overused and that they do not go on for too long.
– Substitution under the form of drills gives the students more freedom of choice even if it remains very controlled language practice.
– Single-word Prompts is a technique related to drills.
– Prompts on the Blackboard may be organized and written under the form of charts or simply in a sequence of words like : 8 o’clock – get up – breakfast.
All these activities are fairly mechanical ways of getting students to demonstrate and practice their ability to use specific language items in a controlled manner.
There are also other activities more meaningful and more enjoyable designed so that students work together , exchange information in a purposeful and interesting way. One of the ways of doing this is by using:
– Interaction Activities . They are of different types : information gaps, charts and games.
– Multiple Choice: students have to choose the correct answer from a number of alternatives.
– Knowledge Quizzes. They can be used to practice various grammatical items but the most common ones are those based on comparisons: What is the highest mountain in the world?
Students answer the questions either orally or in writing, preferably in complete sentences like : Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
They can be put into pairs or groups and do the quiz with a time limit. This kind of practice can take the form of a contest, thus becoming more enjoyable and motivating.
– Questions / Answers using a structure/ a picture/ a situation/ text.
– Sentence writing . Students are asked to write their own sentences for practicing different structures ( sentences about a picture using a particular verb tense or sentences to finish the conditional sentences).
Irrespective of the activities the teacher chooses for the production stage they should be oriented from controlled to less controlled or freer practice so that the students are able to ‘ grammaticize’ when they communicate in English.
• Cameron, Lynn and McKay, Penny, Bringing Creative Teaching into the Young learner classroom, Oxford University Press, 2010.
• Harmer, Jeremy, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, 2002.