You are on page 1of 21

Grammar & Language Learning

Grammar and Its Teaching: Challenging the Myths


Diane Larsen-Freeman, School for International Training (VT)

1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it need not be taught.


2. Grammar is a collection of meaningless forms.

3. Grammar consists of arbitrary rules.


4. Grammar is boring. 5. Students have different learning styles. Not all students can learn grammar.

6. Grammar structures are learned one at a time.


7. Grammar has to do only with sentence-level and subsentence-level phenomena.

8. Grammar and vocabulary are areas of knowledge. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the four skills.

9. Grammars provide the rules/explanations for all the structures in a language.

10. "I don't know enough to teach grammar."

History of methods The University of Choice of grammar teaching

Grammar Translation The Direct Method Audiolingualism Communicative Language Teaching Functional Notional 5. Task-based Learning 6. Process based (Procedural 1. 2. 3. 4.

Covert grammar teaching means that grammatical facts are hidden from the students- even though they are learning the language. Students may be asked to do any activity where a new grammar is presented or introduced, but their attention will be drawn to this activity not to the grammar. Overt grammar teaching means that the teacher actually provides the students grammatical rules and explanations-the information is openly presented. With overt teaching grammatical rules are explicitly given to students, but with covert teaching students are simply asked to work with new language to absorb grammatical information which will help them to acquire the language as a whole.

Discovery Learning is a method of inquiry- based instruction and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seyour Papert. Although this form of instruction has great popularity, there is some debate in the literature concerning its efficacy (Mayer, 2004). Discovery Learning takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his own experience and prior knowledge and is a method of instruction through which students interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments.

Grammar teaching should be implicit In the early 20th century, Jespersen, like Boas, thought grammar should be studied by examining living speech rather than by analyzing written documents. By providing grammar in context, in an implicit manner, we can expose students to substantial doses of grammar study without alienating them to the learning of English or other foreign language. I also agree with this implicit approach of teaching grammar. The principal manner in which I accomplish this is by teaching short grammar-based sessions immediately followed by additional function-based lessons in which the new grammar / structure is applied in context.

Acquisition vs. Learning: The hypothesis is that adult language students have two distinct ways of developing skills and knowledge in a second language, acquisition and learning. Acquiring a language is "picking it up" i.e., developing ability in a language by using it in natural, communicative situations. Learning language differs in that it is "knowing the rules" and having a conscious knowledge of grammar / structure. Adults acquire language, although usually not as easily or as well as children. Acquisition, however, is the most important means for gaining linguistic skills. A person's first language (L1) is primarily learned in this way. This manner of developing language skills typically employs implicit grammar teaching and learning.

Grammar teaching should be explicit This does not exclude explicit grammar-teaching entirely, however. In cases where features of English grammar are diametrically opposed or in some other way radically different from the manner of expression in the student's L1, explicit teaching may be required.

An exclusive approach using either implicit or explicit methodologies is not as effective as utilizing one or the other of these approaches as required. There is no one best way to introduce and provide practice in them. Young learners have more natural facility in acquisition, while adults may benefit substantially from more "formal" language learning. Learning styles and intelligence strengths are also a significant factor.

In a CLT classroom, the teacher pays more attention to enabling students to work with the target language and communicate in it. The following is the typical procedure of a grammar lesson according to a CLT author- Adrian Doff (1981). 1.The teacher uses visual aids to present the grammar structure to be taught. 2.Students deduce the meaning, the form and the use of it. 3.The teacher checks students understanding by asking yes/no questions focusing on form, meaning and use. 4.The teacher gets students to practice the structure through Repetition and Substitution Drills, Word Prompts, and Picture Prompts. The teacher provides maximum practice within controlled, but realistic and contextualised frameworks and to build students confidence in using the new language. The teacher provides students with opportunities to use new language in a freer, more creative way. The students can integrate new language with the previously learnt language and apply what they have learnt to talk about their real life activities.

Classroom activities used in CLT Role play Interviews Information gap Games Language exchange Surveys Pair work Learning by teaching However, not all courses that utilize the communicative language approach will restrict their activities solely to these. Some courses will have the students take occasional grammar quizzes, or prepare at home using non-communicative drills, for instance

Grammar for Beginning Level: Regardless of the fact that the recommended text is functional, communicative or structural, grammar and grammar sequencing is in issue.

The scheme would be simple to complex. Typically it deals with very simply verb forms, pronouns, articles, singular and plural pronouns in a progression. For EFL learners, if L1 is same, teacher may use L1 for explanations.
In an ESL classroom, where teacher must rely on English language only, grammatical explanation of any complexity will overwhelm the learners. An inductive approach with suitable examples and patterns will be more effective.

Grammar for Intermediate level: 1. Student can benefit from short, simple explanations of points in English. 2. Overt attention in grammar can be exceedingly helpful at this stage. E.g: she can kept her child. A student, when referring to past He must paid the insurance. tense, used to say things like. 3. A simple explanation from his teacher about modal auxiliaries cured him. 4. Grammar explanation must be minimum. But it should not be dominant focus of student attention. Grammar for Advanced level: 1. At this level grammar teaching is linked with functional forms, sociolinguistic and pragmatic phenomena. 2. Deductive grammar has its place at this level.

Teaching Grammar to Young Learners


Presenting the grammatical structure in a child's context, with humour Practising the grammatical structure Drawing and writing on the board Story telling Songs and chants Rhymes and poems Total Physical Response

Goals and Techniques for Teaching Grammar The goal of grammar instruction is to enable students to carry out their communication purposes. This goal has three implications: Students need overt instruction that connects grammar points with larger communication contexts. Students do not need to master every aspect of each grammar point, only those that are relevant to the immediate communication task. Error correction is not always the instructor's first responsibility.

Developing Grammar Activities For curricula that introduce grammatical forms in a specified sequence, instructors need to develop activities that relate form to meaning and use. Describe the grammar point, including form, meaning, and use, and give examples (structured input) Ask students to practice the grammar point in communicative drills (structured output) Have students do a communicative task that provides opportunities to use the grammar point (communicative output) For curricula that follow a sequence of topics, instructors need to develop activities that relate the topical discourse (use) to meaning and form. Provide oral or written input (audiotape, reading selection) that addresses the topic (structured input) Review the point of grammar, using examples from the material (structured input) Ask students to practice the grammar point in communicative drills that focus on the topic (structured output) Have students do a communicative task on the topic (communicative output)

Using Textbook Grammar Activities Textbooks usually provide the following three types of grammar exercises. Mechanical drills: Mechanical drills are the least useful because they bear little resemblance to real communication. They do not require students to learn anything; they only require parroting of a pattern or rule. Meaningful drills: Meaningful drills can help students develop understanding of the workings of rules of grammar because they require students to make form-meaning correlations. Their resemblance to real communication is limited by the fact that they have only one correct answer. Communicative drills: Communicative drills require students to be aware of the relationships among form, meaning, and use. In communicative drills, students test and develop their ability to use language to convey ideas and information. - Recognizing Types -Supplementing

Why to acquire mastery over past perfect? The past perfect tense is one way to put actions in order. As has been mentioned, it would feel quite unnatural to repeatedly refer to the time something happened. In addition, and especially when speaking, the speaker may forget to tell some information or other information may need clarification. As a result, the past perfect plays an important role. Look at the following: Dave: Yesterday was an absolutely awful day! Ken: Really? Dave: Yeah! I woke up late. By the time I got out of the house, I had spilled coffee on my shirt and realized I didn't have any clean ones. So I put on a shirt that I had worn a few days before. On the way to the station, I realized that I had forgotten to lock the door, so I ran back home. At work, my boss yelled at me because I hadn't finished the report for the 10:00 meeting with the head of marketing. And that was only the morning...

Present Perfect Tense: Answer key We havent seen Jamal for ages. I do not know what has happened to him. I didnt see Ahmed in the office yesterday. Do you know where he was. Theyve known each other since they were at school together. Theyve always been very good friends. Ive had this dress for ages. Ive worn it many times. I bought it when I went to Lahore I a few years ago. I love his books. Ive read them all several times. A friend gave me his first book and since then, Ive bought them all. I studied Sindhi in school but Ive forgotten most of it now because Ive never had the chance to practice it.

Past Perfect Tense: Answer Key I'm sorry I left without you last night, but I told you to meet me early because the show started at 8:00. By the time I finally left the coffee shop where we were supposed to meet, I (have) had had five cups of coffee and I (wait) had been waiting over an hour. I had to leave because I (arrange) had arranged to meet Amjad in front of the theatre. When I arrived at the theater, Amjad (pick, already) had already picked up the tickets and he was waiting for us near the entrance. He was really angry. He said he (give, almost) had almost given up and (go) gone into the theater without us. Amjad told me you (be) had been late several times in the past. He mentioned that he (miss) had missed several movies because of your late arrivals. I think you owe him an apology. And in the future, I suggest you be on time!

Parallelism means that words used in pairs or groups should all have the same gram-matical form (verbs and verbs; nouns, nouns, and nouns; gerunds and gerunds, etc.) When using words or phrases with coordinating conjunctions or in a series, make sure that they follow the same grammatical structure. For example, Terry likes swimming and to dive. (Incorrect: not parallel Terry likes swimming and diving. (Correct) Terry likes to swim and (to) dive. (Correct) I'm taking history, math, and chemical. (Incorrect) I'm taking history, math, and chemistry. (Correct) Sometimes repeated words, such as auxiliary verbs, can be deleted in parallel constructions. I have been to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower. (Incorrect) I have been to Paris and have seen the Eiffel Tower. (Okay) I have been to Paris and seen the Eiffel Tower. (Better) Is she coming to the party or go to a movie? (Incorrect) Is she coming to the party or going to a movie? (Correct)