How to Teach Grammar in the EFL Classroom
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Conditionals. Adverbials. The present perfect. Uncountable nouns. Continuous tenses.
Does just looking at those terms gives us the shivers?!
Grammar is one of those things that can strike fear into the hearts of both students and teachers. Students, as you can imagine, may have had bad experiences with mind-numbingly boring grammar lessons. Teachers, on the other hand, are afraid of teaching those very same mind-numbingly boring lessons but they also realise they do need to teach grammar. To make matters worse, the majority of English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers don’t themselves really know the grammar they are supposed to teach! Talk about a pickle!
So let’s look at how to teach grammar in the EFL classroom.
Do I need to be a grammar fundi to teach grammar effectively?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first.
Yes, as a teacher it is necessary for you to know English grammar. But, to be quite honest, there is only so much you need to know. To be precise, you only need to know as much as your students. English grammar is a complex beast, and if you are not familiar with its complexities now, there is no way you’ll be able to learn it in a day. It takes years of experience to get to know English grammar fully.
When discussing how to teach grammar in the EFL classroom, let’s get this clear – it’s totally possible to break it down into chunks. If you are teaching your Intermediate learners the second conditional, then you need to know all about the second conditional. If you are teaching your Pre-Intermediate students comparative adjectives, then you need to know all about comparative adjectives. And if you are teaching your Advanced students inversion with negative adverbials, then you need to know all about inversion with negative adverbials.
Break it down
When we break it down like this, it becomes much more manageable, mostly because learning a particular structure is as simple as reading the student’s coursebook. In the coursebook, you’ll find simple explanations, example sentences, and practice exercises: everything you need to teach yourself. If it’s been written for your students to understand, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to grasp the subject matter quickly. And if you’re still a little confused – and remember, if you’re confused, your students will be confused! – then you can easily check a grammar reference book, do a Google search or ask for advice in the staff room.
So fear not if your grammar is a little rusty. There is no need for you to do a TEFL grammar course before stepping into the classroom. Your TEFL course should provide you with an overview of the English language system anyway and a top-up course won’t do you any harm, but you do not need to do a stand-alone English grammar course to learn how to teach grammar.
Now let’s get down to business.
Teaching grammar: approaches and methods
There are many different approaches and methods of teaching English grammar in the EFL classroom. When thinking about how to teach grammar in the EFL classroom, you’ll need to consider your students, your teaching context, and the language structure.
An age-old approach to teaching grammar: the Grammar-Translation method
Back in the day, teaching grammar through the Grammar Translation method was how it was done.
Learners would look at a text in English and compare it to the same text translated into their language. They could then look at the similarities and differences between the two texts. In this way, it was hoped they would learn the rules of English grammar and how to use them.
This method was utilised for many years, but lately, we have realised the shortcomings of this approach in teaching English grammar. For many languages, there are no direct translations of English grammatical items, so translation can be a messy business. While there is nothing wrong with using translation in the EFL classroom, we would prefer it if our students actually learned to think in English rather than think in their own language and then translate.
Read more: Using Translation in the TEFL Classroom
The deductive approach to teaching grammar
One approach is known as the deductive approach.
This is when the students are given grammar rules by the teacher. In other words, the teacher will explain the rules of the language structure, give example sentences, and ensure understanding. The students will then do a set of controlled and freer practice activities to practice the language structure.
You might recognise this as part of a PPP (Presentation, Production and Practice) lesson plan model.
Read more: What Exactly is PPP?
The inductive approach to teaching grammar
In contrast, the inductive approach requires the learners to figure out the rules for themselves. The teacher will present the target language structure along with example sentences – or in a context – and the learners must work out for themselves what the rules of usage are. The teacher may ask guided questions to help them along but doesn’t explain the rules explicitly. After the rules have been clarified, the students will do practice exercises to practice the language.
This is also known as guided discovery.
Read more: Guided Discovery in the EFL Classroom
A few miscellaneous methods of teaching grammar
There are a number of ways these approaches are realised practically in the classroom. We’ve already mentioned the PPP model.
Then there is also Total Physical Response or TPR. TPR uses physical actions to teach grammar. In practice, the teacher will give commands or directions to the learners who must respond appropriately. The actions are very good for teaching verbs and the continuous tenses. TPR works especially well with kinaesthetic learners.
If you’re a fan of the Silent Way, then you could teach grammar through the use of blocks called Cuisenaire rods. Cuisenaire rods are blocks of different sizes and different colours. They are a great way to give a visual representation of a grammatical structure and its patterns. As you can imagine, Cuisenaire rods are great for visual students.
All in all, the thought of how to teach grammar can be enough to keep TEFL teachers awake at night, but it shouldn’t be. Teaching grammar can be daunting at first but after some practice you’ll feel more comfortable. After all, once you’ve taught the present perfect once, you’ll be more prepared teaching it a second time…and you’ll be a professional when you teach it the 54th time! So don’t let teaching grammar put you off teaching English as a foreign language. All TEFL teachers are in the same boat when they start teaching, even native speakers. So trust in your TEFL training, always make sure you’re one step ahead of your students, and soon you’ll be looking forward to your grammar lessons!
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- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to Everything TEFL Ltd collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think Everything TEFL Ltd has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the Everything TEFL Ltd processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL Ltd is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the Everything TEFL Ltd.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to Everything TEFL Ltd, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.