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Friday, May 30, 2008

How to Teach Grammar to Young Learners


Long before it was thought that solid grammar instruction is what students need to become good language speakers and writers. The grammartranslation method was the trend in teaching languages. Nowadays, the opposite seems to be true. Many people even believe that formal grammar instruction may be detrimental to young learners' acquisition of language, since it wastes good time that could be spent on other language skills such as reading and writing. Slaterly and Willis stated, "You don't teach grammar to very young learners but you can help them discover meaning." This is absolutely true. It's due to the characteristics of very young learner that they are unable to learn grammar through direct instruction. Weaver, in his book Teaching Grammar in Context, supported the ideas that adults can't directly teach young children the grammatical rules and that the children abstract these rules from the comprehensible input in the environment.According to, him, young learners unconsciously formulate the rules when exposed to rich meaningful language. Their language evolves when their formulated rules govern the production of language. The children's competence in grammars is acquired gradually. So it is not the matter of when the teacher decides to teach grammatical rules but when the students are developmentally ready to learn and acquire them. What teachers can do to facilitate children's learning of language rules (and thus evolve their language competence) is to expose them to many listening and reading activities and to give them the chance to interact and engage in meaningful language tasks. In fact, very little is learned through direct instruction of grammatical rules. As many educators say, we should spend less instructional time on instruction.

As with older learner, it is possible that teachers teach formal rules of the language but in context. The best way to do so is the deductive method where the students themselves deduce the grammatical rules. The teacher's role is helping them internalize them and use them correctly. The teacher must give many communicative exercises to bridge the gap between knowing grammar rules and using them.

LISTENING ACTIVITY - Objective: Students should able to use the wh-question words correctly. Pre listening: - Students look at a picture showing a woman giving a present to her friend and answer these questions: Where are they? What's the occasion? (prediction) What is a perfect gift for an old person (relate to background knowledge).Students predict what the listening be about.

Listening: - Students listen to the conversation between Lulu and her friend Bertha. (Maybe before asking students to write the 3 questions, students should listen for the main idea first and derive basic meaning. The teacher should probably check general comprehension of the input first. This can help students to understand the questions better. Focus on meaning before form. This continues the topdown process.) - Students write at least three questions that Lulu asked. - Students identify the question words used.

Post-Listening: - Teacher gives questions with missing question words. Each student has a card on which a specific question word is written .Teacher reads questions with missing question words. Students with the correct question word card hold it up and show it to their friends. - Students sit in pairs and complete a telephone conversation using what, where, and who. - Teacher divides the class into two groups. Students from different groups ask each other personal questions using where when and how.(conversing) In this activity both top down and bottom up techniques were used. Top down techniques were used when the students related the text to their personal experience and raised the correct whword card. The bottom up technique was used when the students had to complete the telephone conversation with who, what and where. Checking understanding was done through conversing when the students asked each other personal questions using who, what, and where. It was also done by choosing when the students had to choose the correct wh-word and raise it up. Reference: Teaching English in Context-Constance Weaver -Heineman. Posted by Ghina Al-Badawi at 8:18 PM