Unit 6 Teaching Grammar Issues for discussion • The role of grammar in ELT • Grammar presentation methods • Grammar practice
6.1 The role of grammar in ELT • The value of grammar in foreign language teaching has been a focus of debate for decades, and no conclusion is in sight. • The answer to whether grammar should be taught and to what extent grammar should be taught depends on some variables in the language teaching/learning context, such as learner variables and instructional variables.
It is generally believed that • Grammar teaching is less important for children than for adults; • Grammar teaching is less important in listening and reading than in writing.
Grammar teaching can be seen in most formal classroom language teaching.
6.2 Grammar presentation methods • The deductive methodand theinductive method
The deductive method (p. 62) • The deductive method relies on reasoning, analysing and comparing. Presentation of an example → explanation (comparison may be done between the target language and the native language) → Ss’s practice (producing sentences) with given prompts
The deductive method is criticized because: • Grammar is taught in an isolated way; • Little attention is paid to meaning; • The practice is often mechanical.
However, the deductive method is not without merits. • It could be very successful with selected and motivated students. • It could save time when students are confronted with a grammar rule which is complex but which has to be learned. • It may help to increase student’ confidence in those examinations which are written with accuracy as the main criterion of success.
The inductive method (pp. 62-63) • In the inductive method, the teacher induces the learners to realise grammar rules without any form of explicit explanation. • It is believed that the rules will become evident if the students are given enough appropriate examples. • It is believed that the inductive method is more effective in that(=because) students discover the grammar rules themselves while engaged in language use.
In practice, the distinction between the deductive method and the inductive method is not always apparent.
6.3 Grammar practice • According to Ur, “practice may be defined as any kind of engaging with the language on the part of the learner, usually under the teacher supervision, whose primary objective is to consolidate learning” .(Ur, 1988:11)
Ur predicts that the following 6 factors contribute to successful practice: • Pre-learning. Learners benefit from clear perception and short-term memory of the new language. • Volume and repetition. The more exposure to or production of language the learners have, the more likely they are to learn. • Success-orientation. Practice is most effective when based on successful practice.
Heterogeneity. Practice should be able to elicit different sentences and generate different levels of answers from different learners. • Teacher assistance. The teacher should providesuggestions, hints and prompts. • Interest : an essential feature that is closely related to concentration
Mechanical practice Mechanical practice involves activities that are aimed at form accuracy. e.g. • Substitution, and • Transformation drills:
Substitute the underlined part with the proper forms of the given words: green lawn clean house pretty garden nice flowers Mrs Green has the largest house in town.
Change the following sentences into the past tense. Use the adverbs given in the brackets. • Now he lives in London. (last year, Paris) • We have English and maths today. (yesterday, music and P. E.) • He usually gets up at seven. (this morning, eight)
Questions for discussion • What is the purpose of mechanical practice? • What are the advantages and disadvantage of mechanical practice?
Meaningful practice • In meaningful practice the focus is on the production, comprehension or exchange of meaning, though the students “keep an eye on” the way newly learned structures are used in the process. e.g. After the presentation and mechanical practice of adjective comparatives and superlatives:
Pair work: Look at the table below. Rank the items on the left column according to the criteria listed on the top.
The students may come up with: • I think beer is cheaper than fruit. • No, no, I think fruit is cheaper than beer.
Questions for discussion • What are the advantages of meaningful practice? • Does it have any possible disadvantages?
A task for you • Suppose you have just presented the simple past tense to a group of Junior 2 students. Design a meaningful practice activity.
There is no clear-cut distinction between mechanical practice and meaningful practice. • e.g.
Chain of events Teacher: Now lets play a game. The first student starts a sentence with a second conditional clause. The next student takes the result of the sentence, reforms it into another condition and suggests a further result. For example, the first student says “If I had a million dollars, I would buy a yacht”. The second students says “If I bought a yacht, I would go for a sail”. …
The students may come up with: • If I went for a sail, there might be a storm. • If there were a storm, my yacht would sink. • If my yacht sank, I would die. • If I died, my parents would cry. • …
Using prompts for practice Practice based on prompts is usually meaningful practice. • Using picture prompts. • Using mime or gestures as prompts. • Using information sheet as prompts. • Using key phrase or key words as prompts. • Using chained phrases for story telling. • Using created situations.
Using information sheet as prompts Teacher: What about you? Tell your neighbour.
Using created situations: for simulative communication • Your are a stranger in this town. You want to buy some fruit, you want to post a letter, and you also want to see a movie at night. Ask about the places.
There was a robbery yesterday in the neighbourhood. A policeman is asking some questions to three of the neighbours, A, B, and C. A: at work; came back at 6:30 p.m.; did not see anybody. B: a student; came back at 4:30 p.m.; saw a young man going upstairs… C: an old man; stayed at home; heard some strange noise at 5:00 p.m.; came out to find a tall young man…
Summary of Unit 6 • Perhaps there will never be a solution to the debate on the value of teaching grammar, because language teaching and learning contexts vary so greatly. • It should be noted that learning itself is not the ultimate goal of learning English. • The understanding of how to teach grammar is as controversial as that of the value of teaching grammar. • We believe that both mechanical practice and meaningful practice are necessary.
Some suggestions about teaching grammar • Teach only those rules that are simple and typical. • Teach useful and important grammar points. • Teach grammar in context. • Use visible instruments such as charts, tables, diagrams, maps, drawings, and realia (pl. of realis) to aid understanding; • Avoid difficult grammatical terminologies as much as possible. • Allow enough opportunities for practice. • Live with the students’ mistakes and errors.
End of Unit 6 Thank you!