Teaching grammar 1: Some Dos!

I’m sure most of us agree that teaching grammar is one of the most challenging areas of EFL teaching. It often feels that getting our students to use grammar correctly is like trying to climb to the top of Mount Everest and finally not getting there! The way I see it, some of the main problems are the following:
a) students can’t relate grammar to their everyday life.We all have students who really excel at grammar exercises and can explain why they’ve chosen this over that, but really struggle to use structures correctly in their speaking and writing. I think that’s because grammar tends to be seen as a separate part of teaching and we tend to overlook how students can actually use structures in their everyday life.
b) translation of terms. Unfortunately, there are books which still feature the Greek “translation” of tenses and other structures.
c) students find it boring. For most students, learning grammar is nothing more but rules and never-ending, gap-filling exercises.

So, what should we do?
1) Explain the concept of time. Most of the times, I start by asking them if they ever think about time or what time is to them. Then I draw a timeline and explain to my students that people in different countries perceive time in a different way. There are similarities and there are differences. This way it is easier for them to understand why there are 2 present tenses for what we would call “Ενεστώτας” etc.
2) Use realia as much as you can! Show your students that grammar is essential to engage in everyday interaction, to understand words in the news, even to cook. Depending on your needs try to bring in the class as many everyday objects as possible.For example, showing them headings of newspaper articles is one of the best ways to understand how passive voice is used and why.
3) Draw! Try to simplify teaching grammar. I often draw when I have to explain grammar rules to my students. It’s easier for them to understand how simple certain confusing rules are.
4) Explain how your students can benefit from what they learn. Prepare a short checklist featuring all the things your students will be able to do by the end of the lesson/lessons. Learning for example the Present Simple can help them talk about their hobbies, the things they do at school everyday, they can even understand the stages of cooking a dish!
5) Incorporate writing/speaking. Relate the different writing/ speaking tasks to what the students are currently being taught. I am not a fan of drilling exercises and I think that most students don’t find them interesting, so instead of drilling I try to use telephone conversations where students have to ask questions about different members of their classmates’ family/ friends.

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