Dec 24, 2008

how we teach grammar

taken from "SpeakYourMind: an Introduction and Practical Teaching Guide."

"You can’t communicate successfully without grammar but you certainly can without knowing about it. Everyone probably knows instinctively (but possibly doesn’t believe) that mistakes in grammar are much less serious than mistakes in words. Which mistake is ‘worse’: ‘Your husband look great!’, or, ‘Your husband looks gross!’?
Nonetheless, grammar is an integral part of communicative competence, and an inadequate grasp will often leave learners stranded in their attempts to communicate. With communicative competence as the overall aim of the course, teaching grammar has a fundamental role in SyM. Learning major grammatical structures is set as a prime general objective of the course and more specific grammatical accuracy is a constant aim and as such, the presentation of ‘correct’ target language and correction of mistakes are among the teacher’s priorities in the classroom.
Learners approach learning a language with a range of preconceptions, worries and beliefs about grammar. Some may hate its very mention and switch off the moment they hear something like ‘preposition’, ‘article’ or ‘past tense’. Others are convinced that a clear and complete knowledge of a set of abstract rules, together with the specialised terminology, are indispensable. Many people are in awe of ‘grammar’ even if they know or remember very little about it. It’s also true that many learners arrive in the classroom with their heads full of wrong or half-remembered ‘rules’ that often cause a real obstacle to learning."

"Just as words are always presented in context, new grammar is presented in easy-to-grasp contexts and is usually contrasted with existing related structures or notions in order to allow learners further opportunities to recognise and understand when and how to use it.
Grammar, like vocabulary, is not mastered as it is met, but is incorporated into the learner’s own English over time. Whereas memorising vocabulary can be, in many cases, a relatively straightforward process, the learning of grammar is far more unpredictable.
Although many learners memorise rules or memorise examples, ‘grammar’ is not memorisable in the same way that words (‘blue’, ‘book’, ‘big’) or lexical chunks (‘by the way’, ‘at the moment’, ‘knife and fork’) can be, even though memorised chunks can be useful indicators or clues as to how underlying grammar works, (‘I don’t know’, ‘I’ll see you later’, ‘How do you say?’)‘.
Grammar is usually less translatable than ‘words’. While it’s possible for learners to find a roughly direct translation in their own language for words like ‘shoe’, ‘write’, ‘tomorrow’ or ‘slowly’, or, less directly, for chunks (which is often more useful) ‘strong wind’, ‘hang on a moment’ or ‘have you got a light?’, learners who look for equivalents in their own grammar may make wrong assumptions."

"SyM adopts a mixed approach when dealing with grammar and structures. While many structures are learnt implicitly through frequent contextualised use, other grammatical features are presented explicitly, in terms of ‘guidelines’ (‘we usually say’), or where applicable, ‘rules’ (‘we have to say this when ……’)."
"Some learners may benefit from grammatical instruction but all learners benefit from regular exposure and use. Whenever grammar is taught explicitly, the syllabus is designed to place new grammar in a rich learning-opportunity environment. Preceding material may anticipate the need or usefulness of new grammar and, since 'words’ more than ‘grammar’ make language interesting to learners, the following sections that present new vocabulary will provide plenty of scope for relevant practice.


George Machlan said...

If your target audience is the intellectual elite, you are doing fine. On the other hand, I find some of your ideas intriguing but rather verbose. I don't want you to stop thinking great thoughts but if we are to have a conversation it will need to be in smaller bites and possibly a little commic relief once in a while.

SpeakyourMind said...

Thanks for your comments, George; and I accept all your points. This is taken from our teaching guide, so it needs to go into some depth: an awareness and understanding of overall approach and course design will help teachers teach well. In the context of a training programme, I hope it's not only going to be relevant to an intellectual elite.
Anyway, it is too long, so I'm going to trim it down a bit.

George Machlan said...

Hey guys I am now ready to start cross blogging, here is my blog

I still think that video blogging may be the larger part of future collaboration.

p.s. here is where my web portal will be:

George Machlan said...

I am about half way through "Learning Another Language Through Actions" By James Asher (TPR) and I will admit that I am very far behind the curve. It seems that Realia (?) is tied into this method, so I guess my question is, do you deliberately use TPR techniques in your method to actively engage the right brain for vocabulary acquisition? And/or do you deliberately try to block left brain functions to allow for right brain internalization?