Should I use a grammar book this year or not? Will my students be able to understand and use the conditional clauses? Is there something else that I can do to help them use the modals more often when they speak English?
The above questions are just an indication of the concerns and the dilemmas EFL teachers face when they need to make decisions regarding teaching grammar effectively and meaningfully. Grammar plays a crucial role when it comes to language proficiency and successful communication, highlighting the importance for EFL teachers to adopt effective and engaging methods to impart grammatical knowledge. In this article, we will delve into some principles and practices that EFL teachers can focus on to teach grammatical points in different ways, ensuring that students not only understand the rules but also internalise them for practical usage.
Text by: Nancy Katsikari
- Grammar in context
One of the most effective ways to teach grammar is through real-world contexts. Students are more likely to grasp concepts and retain them when the target grammatical structures are presented within meaningful and relatable situations. Incorporating materials, such as news articles, short stories, or dialogues helps students realise the practical application of grammar rules.
Task idea: Picture-based Storytelling
- Choose the grammatical structure you want your students to practise with (e.g.the past simple tense).
- Select a series of pictures that students could use to narrate a story. For example, the pictures could show how some friends spent their weekend together.
- Divide the students into groups/pairs and give them a set of pictures by asking them to work together and come up with a story using the pictures and the target grammatical structure.
- When the students are ready, each group can share their story with the class. This will give students a chance to use grammar in context and receive feedback from peers.
- Taking advantage of authentic materials
Authentic materials produced for an English-speaking audience, such as websites and their content (e.g. articles, advertisements, photos etc.), videos and even menus, can prove to be a great tool for EFL students to be exposed to real-life language use. By discussing and analysing these materials, students become more aware of the nuances of grammar in practical contexts, and they can develop critical thinking skills alongside grammatical proficiency. Also, by choosing the right authentic materials according to our students’ age, interests, and previous knowledge, teachers increase the chances of keeping students engaged and motivated, making the target grammatical structure more meaningful and memorable.
Task idea: Song Lyrics
- Choose a song with lyrics that prominently feature the target grammatical structure you want your students to practice with.
- Introduce your students to the lyrics either by giving them relevant handouts or by asking them to go online, listen to the song and search for the lyrics.
- Direct your students’ attention to the lyrics that contain the target grammatical structure and guide them through its use, principles, and rules. Use the lyrics as examples.
- Have students work in pairs/groups and come up with their own examples using the target grammatical structure.
- As a follow-up activity, students can write their own lyrics using the tune of the song and the target grammatical structure.
- Mnemonic strategies
Mnemonic strategies are memory aids that use associations or visualisations to help learners remember new information and they can be used in language teaching in a variety of ways. Acronyms are one example to simplify complex grammar rules. We can help our students create memorable phrases or acronyms that encapsulate the rules and exceptions of grammatical structures. For instance, if our students find it difficult to remember the order of adjectives (Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material, Purpose), we can use the acronym "OSASCOMP”. You can also encourage your students to come up with their own ideas and apply them in different contexts, enhancing their creativity.
- Error correction codes and peer review
By taking advantage of our students’ mistakes, we can increase their awareness towards the correct usage of the English language and lay the foundations for further input. Mistakes are important components of effective grammar teaching in an EFL classroom and tasks that involve peer correction can offer great opportunities for collaboration. For example, you can introduce students to an error correction code system which will help them identify and understand their grammar mistakes. In this way, students are empowered, and they become the agents of their own learning.
- Introduce students to a set of error correction codes/symbols (e.g. T= Tense, S= Subject, P= Preposition). You can even choose a colour-coded error correction system.
- Provide students with a sample paragraph/essay containing various errors.
- Students work in pairs/small groups and they use the error correction code to spot these errors.
- In the form of a classroom discussion students discuss their findings with their peers.
- Students are asked to write a paragraph/essay relevant to the topic discussed (focusing on the relevant grammatical structure).
- Students work in pairs, and they are asked to use the error correction code to review the paragraph/essay of their partner.
- Direct students towards a classroom discussion about common mistakes found during the peer review, addressing misconceptions, and clarifying grammar rules.
In conclusion, there are numerous practical ideas to be used along with our coursebooks and grammar books to significantly transform the learning experience for our students. By embracing the ones that both reflect our own teaching style and cater for our students’ preferences and learning styles, we can help our students navigate the intricacies of grammar with confidence and fluency, ultimately fostering a more engaging and successful language learning journey.