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Teaching Grammar

Firoozeh Shojaee, M.A., Kazeroon Azad University

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A grammar lesson can be divided into three phases: Presentation, Practice, and Production. First, this article tries to present some guidelines regarding the presentation of grammatical structures. Then, this article also presents some suggestions and techniques that can be used in three phases of a grammar lesson. Finally a task -based lesson plan that covers all stages of teaching a grammatical point is presented as a guide.

The first step in preparing a grammar lesson is to consult a variety of grammar reference books and ESL texts in order to establish how a structure is formed, when it is used, and whether there are any particular rules or exceptions governing its use. Grammar lessons are usually composed of three phases: Presentation, Practice, and Production. One of the best ways of helping students to reach the objectives of the lesson is to introduce the new language well in the first phase of the lesson:

this is the Presentation phase. Then, students need to have plenty of activities to help them to practice the new language: this is the Practice phase. Lastly, the students need time to use the new language they have learned in order to communicate with each other: this is the Production phase.

The first and the most important stage in teaching grammar is presentation. Therefore, teachers should pay attention to some guidelines regarding the way of the presentation of grammatical structures. Rod Ellis (1997) believed that learners can acquire a new grammatical structure only very gradually and slowly. It can, in fact, take several months for them to master a single grammatical structure. For this reason, grammar instruction, no matter how well designed, is unlikely to achieve immediate success. This suggests that grammar teaching needs to emphasize awareness of how grammatical features work rather than mastery. Learners who are aware of a grammatical structure are more likely to notice it when they subsequently encounter it. Thus, awareness can facilitate and trigger learning. According to Ur (1996) on the whole older learners will benefit more from the use of terminology, or calling the structure by its grammar book name. In general the structure should be explained in a combination of the students mother tongue, and the target language. Teachers explanation should cover the great majority of instances learners are likely to encounter; obvious exceptions should be noted, but too much detail may only confuse. As a rule, simple generalization is more helpful to learners than a detailed grammar book definition. The teacher should speak clearly and appropriately during the presentation phase. The teacher should also decide whether to elicit the rule from the learners on the basis of examples (inductive method or indirect method) or to present the rule and invite them to produce examples (deductive method or direct method). Ur (1996) believed that the choice between these two ways depends on many things. If the learners can perceive and define the rule themselves quickly and easily, it is better to use indirect method. One advantage of using this method is that students discover something, which is most likely to be remembered later. Another advantage of using an inductive approach during the

presentation phase is that it allows teachers to assess what the students already know about a particular structure and to make any necessary modifications in their lesson plan. But if they find it difficult, the teacher may waste a lot of valuable class time on frustrating guessing, or on misleading suggestions; in such case it is better to use direct method. Doff (1990) believed that in dealing with the complexity of grammar there are two aspects that must be dealt with in the presentation phase of the lesson. He believed, When we present a structure, it is important to: show what the structure means and how it is used, by giving examples; show clearly how the structure is formed, so that students can use it to make sentences of their own. (P, 33) According to Ellis (1997), current second language acquisition theories view grammar learning as best accomplished when learners are primarily focused on meaning rather than form. However, these theories also claim that some attention to form is necessary for learning to take place. For this reason, they need meaning-based tasks that also allow them the opportunity to process language as form. In the presentation phase students should be first required to process a text for meaning and then, afterward, to attend to how a particular grammatical form is used in the text. According to Lindsay Clandfield (2005) one approach to teaching language that has attracted a lot of attention over the past twenty-five years is a task based approach to learning and teaching. In task-based approaches, the focus of classroom activities is on the task, and ultimately on meaning. In a flexible model for task-based learning, learners begin by carrying out a communicative task, without specific focus on form. After they have done the task, they report and discuss how they accomplished this, perhaps listening to a fluent speaker doing the same task. Only at the end is there a specific focus on features of language form. Below are some ways of presenting grammatical structures. They are divided into two parts. Some present the structure directly and some indirectly. It is noteworthy that direct ways of presenting grammatical structures are mostly form based and indirect ways meaning based. In designing a lesson plan for

grammar, first teachers should use indirect or inductive ways, and at the end of the presentation they can focus on form by using direct or deductive methods.

Indirect or Inductive Presentation

Scrivener, J (1994) as cited by Adrian Tennant (2005) suggested using the discovery technique as an implicit way of presenting grammar. The discovery technique aims to lead students towards a generalized grammar rule or pattern. The idea is that students will discover the grammar through a series of steps (these might be tasks, language awareness activities, pictures, questions etc) and will deduce both the form and the meaning from the context(s). An example Level: Intermediate/Upper Intermediate Grammar point: 3rd Conditional Function: Speculating about past possibilities (what might have happened). Materials: magazine pictures (optional) or board drawings. Procedure Setting the context Use the following story to set the scene & try to elicit the form. This is John (show a picture of a man looking unhappy) Question: Does he look happy? (Elicit the response No) Q: Why do you think hes unhappy? (Elicit a few ideas) Well, John was going to meet his friend (show a picture of a woman) Jane. Q: What do you think happened? (Elicit that John didnt turn up) John didnt wake up until (Elicit a time, and draw a clock) ____ Because he woke up late he missed (show a picture of a bus) John tried to phone Jane but his mobile phone didnt work (Elicit that hed forgotten to charge it the previous night). Jane waited for (elicit a length of time e.g. an hour) and then she left.

Q: Where do you think she went? (Try to elicit nightclub & show a picture). In the club Jane met (show a picture of another man & elicit a name). Jane & _____ (try to elicit fell in love) and they (try to elicit got married) Note 1: You can build on this story. Note 2: Use ideas elicited from your students BUT make sure that you keep the story on track (it is quite easy to go off on a tangent). Looking at the meaning Now you can ask questions based on the story to try to elicit the structure (you will be surprised how many students already know the structural form of a grammatical item but are not necessarily aware of its use). Start by asking questions that focus on the events: e.g. Did John meet Jane? No. Why not? Because he missed the bus. Imagine John had caught the bus (try to elicit the sentence: If John had caught the bus, he would have met Jane). If you elicit the sentence ask the following questions: Did John catch the bus? No. Did he miss the bus? Yes. Did he meet Jane? No. Why? Because he missed the bus. You can focus on each event in the story by asking a similar set of questions. e.g. Did John try to phone Jane? Yes. Did he manage to call her? No. Why not? Because his mobile phone wasnt working. Why? Because he had forgotten to charge it. (Try to elicit the sentence: If John had charged his phone, he would have been able to call Jane.) etc. Note: re-focussing on the meaning, use and structure is key to the discovery technique. Below are some techniques of presenting grammatical structures implicitly that are suggested by Baker (2003):

Visual Aids: The simplest and clearest way is to show the meaning by using things the students can see, for example, objects, the classroom, the teacher, the students, and pictures. For example: In order to teach Present Continuous the teacher walks in the middle of the classroom and says, I am walking. Then, s/he points to one of the students and says, she is talking She points to another students and tells, She is laughing 2. Actions, too, can make meaning salient, for example, the teacher wants to teach imperative form. S/he can conduct a Total Physical Response sequence where students act out a series of commands along with the teacher involving the placement of objects in various parts of the room. For example: Put the book under the desk. Put the pen on the shelf. Open the door. Close the window.

3. Situations: The teacher can show the meaning of grammatical structures indirectly through an imaginary situation. In this approach, the teacher does not draw the students attention to any specific grammatical information. Lets look at some examples of how we can do this. We can present a grammatical structure by presenting it through a situation. The teacher either tells a simple story or draws a series of pictures, which give an outline of a situation. Grammatical structure is: He should have done / He shouldnt have done Example: Last week a friend came from England. He was very tired after his flight. It was very hot and sunny. At 10 in the morning, my friend put on his swimsuit and sat in the garden reading his book. After half an hour, he went to sleep. The sun came out and the temperature was 35(C. At two oclock, he woke up. He was badly burnt and felt very sick. When we put him to bed he was shivering and feverish. What did he do wrong? Sometimes, one or two students will already know the right phrase, but if they do not know it the teacher has to tell them. He should have worn a shirt students should then be able to think of other things the friend should or shouldnt have done in order to practice using the phrases.

4. Students knowledge: Another way of presenting grammatical structure indirectly is by using the students knowledge to present grammar. For example: Teacher asks: Is Shiraz big or small? Students reply: Big Teacher says: Yes, it is big, but Tehran is very big. Tehran is bigger than Shiraz. Then the teacher can use familiar situations and give students practice on this structure.

Direct or Deductive Presentation

1. Repetition: In order to make the students familiar with the way the structure sounds and to give them according to Doff (1990) the feel of the structure the teacher can use this method. By giving a clear model and asking the students to listen and repeat two or three times. For example: It is too heavy to lift. It is too heavy to lift 2. Writing. The teacher writes the structure clearly on the board. Then, s/he presents rules and explanations by using colored chalk or underlining important parts.

3. Direct Explanation: The teacher explains directly how to make a particular grammatical structure. For example he or she tells the students to make questions in the present tense by using can. The teacher explains "You must invert the subject of the sentence and the modal auxiliary. This inversion is then followed by the bare infinitive of the verb to play. This is a direct presentation of the form of grammatical structures. For example, to teach the question form: The sentence: He can play the guitar. The question: Can he play the guitar? 4. Story: Another way of presenting the form of grammatical structures directly is by asking the students to underline particular grammatical points in the text. Students have to find a grammatical rule. Students can do this by discussion in pairs or groups. Example:

Yesterday, I studied English. I learned many things. I worked on past tense. I finished my work then I washed the dishes. The teacher asks the students how do you think the past tense is formed. 5. Comparison: A way of presenting the grammar directly is that the teacher writes two similar grammatical structures on the board. Students must discuss the difference in form. Example: My sister lived in Kampala for three years. My sister has lived in Kampala for three years. This technique is particularly useful when comparing different tenses.

We next need to plan the second or practice phase of the lesson. We will need to select an activity that encourages meaningful repetition of the pattern, not verbatim repetition. According to Ur (1996) the activities should be planned in such a way that begins with controlled activities and move toward less controlled activities and freer ones.

Mechanical Practice
At this stage of the lesson the teacher gives students practice in forming the structure. Techniques should be controlled kind of practice that would be done very quickly. Exploiting texts for grammar practice: This useful way of practicing grammatical structure is suggested by Tim Bowen (2005) and can be used immediately after presentation. Authentic reading texts can be used in order to practice grammatical points. The teacher will have to identify a structure that is both useful and challenging for the class he or she is teaching and then decide how best to exploit that particular structure for further work. It is highly likely that he or she will have to go beyond the actual text and produce an exercise related to the example or examples in the text in order to give substantial practice of the chosen structure. At the basic observational level, when using an authentic task to illustrate a grammar point, the teacher might ask the students to find (underline, highlight) an example or examples of a particular structure in the text, for example:

In paragraph 1, find an example of a passive sentence. Underline all the passive sentences in the text. How many different tenses can you find expressed in the passive voice in the text? Find a passive sentence in the present continuous tense. When looking at the meaning and use in more depth, the teacher might ask questions like these: Why does the author use the passive voice here? Could the author use the active voice? If so, what would the sentence be like? The advantage of focusing on a structure or structures in an authentic text such as a newspaper article is that it enables the students to see these structures functioning in an authentic context. In order to give further practice of a particular structure. It will almost certainly be necessary to prepare some kind of exercise based on the structure (perhaps using the same context as the text). There are several choices for exercise type here that are suggested by Doff (1990): 1. Repetition: The easiest way to practice the structure would be to do a repetition drill. The teacher presents different examples and the students repeat them. For example: The teacher has just presented the present continuous structure. S/he writes different examples on the board. T: I am teaching You are listening The students repeat in chorus: Ss: I am teaching you are listening 2. Substitution: The students have to fit in the structure. For example: T: You are listening. Ss(( We are listening.)) T: You are studying. Ss(( We are studying.)) T: You are playing. Ss: ((We are playing.))

Single word prompt: The teacher gives a word as a prompt and the students give examples.

For example: T: Teaching Ss: We are teaching T: playing Ss: We are playing T: Studying Ss: We are studying Picture prompts: The teacher shows a picture as a prompt and the students make sentence based on the picture. For example: The picture shows a person who is swimming. The students make sentences: He is swimming 5. Free substitution: Students make their own sentences based on the model that is presented by the teacher. For example: I am writing. I am talking. I am speaking.

B: Meaningful practice:
Students should also be provided with meaningful practice. According to Doff (1990), It is obviously more useful to give students practice in which they [students] have to think, in which they understand what they are saying, and in which they express meaning. (P 73) Followings are meaningful activities that are suggested by Doff (1990): 1. True sentences: The teacher can ask students to say real things about themselves by using the structure. First the teacher provides a model and asks students to follow it. For example: Ann likes tea, but she doesnt like coffee. Say true sentences about yourself. I like tea. I dont like coffee. I like music. I dont like cartoon

Situation: The teacher can provide a situation in which the students have to use the structure under study. For example: T: You are a stranger ask about places in the town. Ss: Is there a caf near here? T: You want to see a film. Ss: Is there a cinema near here? T: You want to post a letter. Ss: Is there a post office near here.

Adding Something: The teacher can ask questions and let the students add something of their own. For example: T: Where are you going? Ss: I am going to the station. T: Why? Ss: I am going to the station because I want to buy a train ticket.

4. Choosing the best sentence: The teacher should provide students with practice activities which give students an opportunity to choose from two or more forms the one most suitable for the context. Giving students the practice with situations in which a contrast between two tenses is likely to arise may sensitize students to the usage differences. For example: I am in the middle of teaching, what should I say? I am teaching English. I teach English. Talk about real life: The teacher can ask students to talk about real life. The teacher should get response from individual students. For example: T: What are you doing. Please tell me. Ss: I am talking. I am listening. I am taking note. I am studying. I am answering your question.

Imaginary situations: The teacher can ask students to imagine a situation that is not real. The teacher can get responses from the students individually. For example: T: Imagine you are at home now in the middle of doing something. Tell me about your activity. Ss: I am sleeping. I am watching television. I am playing tennis. I am reading a novel. I am reading newspaper.

The teacher should involve the whole class in the practice. If the class is small, the students could respond individually. In case of large classes the teacher should get response from individual students and then get the whole class to repeat in chorus. The teacher can also divide the class into pairs or groups and let the students practice the structure.

In the communicative phase, less control over grammatical structure is exercised than during the practice phase. The aim during this phase is to have students use the structures they have been practicing in as natural and fluid a way as possible. Followings are some communicative activities that are suitable in this stage according to Larsen-Freeman (1990) as cited in CelceMurcia ( 1991): A. Reply to a letter: A communicative activity that would fit with the lesson on the pragmatics of using modals for giving advice would be having students write a reply to a letter addressed to a newspaper columnist whose advice was being sought for some personal problem. B. Report: Another communicative activity that would be relevant to a lesson on reported speech might be to have students report what transpired at a press conference they had been assigned to listen to or to watch. C. Discussion: Learners can hold a discussion or write a passage according to a given task. According to Baker (2003) Learners can be directed to use the structure in a kind of role-play, guessing game, in an interview, group work and pair work. For example, for practicing the grammar of asking and responding to questions with different auxiliary verbs, the teacher thinks of an animal. The students must ask questions to find out what animal it is. Student A: Does it eat people? Student B: Has it got a tail? Student C: Does it live in forest? Then the activity can be done in a kind of group work so that

many students can get the chance to ask and answer questions. According to Celce-Murcia and Hills (1988) problem-solving activities provide useful opportunities for language practice. The teacher can present a problem, or s/he can ask the students to present a problem and other students try to solve it by suggesting their solutions. For example, to practice modal auxiliary, one of the students can present this problem: I want to speak English like a native speaker. What should I do? The students can suggest solutions to this problem by using modal auxiliaries like can, should. You can imitate native speakers. You should practice hard. A Sample Lesson Plan Following is a task-based lesson plan that is suggested by Lindsay Clandfield (2005). This lesson plan covers all stages of a grammar lesson and presents useful examples and suggestions. Level: Pre-intermediate Grammar Point: used to Aim: Students discuss how they were different 10 years ago. Preparation: 1. For this class you need a photograph of yourself when you were 10 years younger (or thereabouts). This works best if you look considerably different in the photo than you do now. 2. You also need to prepare a short text about how your life was different then to what it is now. In this text include at least two examples of things you used to do and two examples of things you didnt use to do. You can either record this text onto a cassette to play for the students, or practice reading it out loud until you are able to speak it comfortably in front of the class. 3. Prepare a written version of this text that you can distribute to the class. Pre task Warmer Aim: To prepare students for the task, to engage their attention. Tell the students that you are going to show them a photo of you

from 10 years ago. Ask them what they think will be different, but dont correct them at this stage (i.e. respond to the meaning of what they say, not the form). Allow time for three or four suggestions. Then take out the photo of yourself and walk around the class, showing it to the students. Ask them what was different about you then. Put the picture up on the board and ask What else was different about my life, do you think? Allow more comments and suggestions from the class, but dont tell them if they are right or wrong in their guesses. Explain that they will find this out later.

Task Aim: For students to discuss how their life was different ten years ago. Ask students to work in groups of three. Tell them to talk about their life ten years ago. Put the following questions on the board: What did you look like? What was different about your life? Did you have different likes and dislikes? Are you very different now? Explain that the questions are to help them start talking. Give them a time limit of three to five minutes to discuss this. Circulate and listen to the students doing the task, but do not correct any language at this moment. Planning Aim: For students to prepare an oral report of their task. Stop the task. Tell the students that they must work together to prepare a summary of their discussion to report to the whole class. They must write notes for this summary and be prepared to report this orally to the rest of the class. Set a time limit of five minutes for them to do this. Report Aim: For students to present their reports and find out who was most different ten years ago. When the students are ready, ask a spokesperson from each group to report the groups summary. Tell the class that they must listen to each groups report and decide at the end of all the

reports which students have changed the most in the past ten years. After all the reports, ask students who they think has changed the most. You could ask the students who have changed the most to bring in a photo of themselves at that time. Post task listening Aim: For students to hear a fluent English speaker doing the same task. Draw the students attention back to the photo of you on the board and explain that you are going to ask them to listen to you doing the same task that they did. Read or play the recording that you made. Ask the students some quick comprehension questions about what they heard (e.g. What did I say about my hair? What did I say about my job?) If the students find it difficult to understand, repeat the text again. Language Focus Aim: To raise students awareness about the target language. Choose two or three sentences from your text, which include the grammar used to and write them on the board. For example: a) I used to go to heavy metal concerts. b) I used to have long black hair. c) I used to wear tight leather trousers. d) I didnt use to do my homework. Check that students understand the meaning of the sentences. This is best done by concept check questions. For example a) above, the concept check questions would be: Did I go to heavy metal concerts in the past? (Yes) Was it a regular occurrence? (Yes) Do I go to heavy metal concerts now? (No). Explain the rules of form for used to: used to + infinitive and didnt use to + infinitive

At this point you could distribute the script of your story and ask students to find other examples of how you used "used to". Point out that in English we use "used to" to talk about states and habits that continued for a period of time in the past.

Aim: To give the students some restricted written practice in the target language. If you feel that your class needs some restricted practice in the grammar, ask them to write down three things that they used to do and three things that they didnt use to do when they were children. Circulate and monitor. Ask students to check their sentences with each other and elicit some examples to put on the board.

Aim: To give the students a chance to repeat (and hopefully improve) the task. Ask students to work with a partner that they havent worked with yet during this class. Tell them to repeat the same task as they did at the beginning of the class, but that they should try to include the target structure used to into their speaking. Once students have worked together, ask a couple to report back to the class what they talked about with their partner. Use this time to focus on accuracy, i.e. correct what they say if they make mistakes using the target language.

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