June 16, 2000
June 16, 2000
When I ask teachers what language items they teach their students, grammar is usually the last item to be mentioned. It comes in last place to items such as vocabulary building, dialogues, phonics, songs and games. There seems to be an aversion to the word 'grammar'. I think our perspective on grammar is very important. Teaching grammar doesn't mean we have to have a grammar-based syllabus. It doesn't mean we do grammar drills for the entire class. I think that grammar is one part of a balanced curriculum. We can do games and songs and also have fun teaching grammar.
Perhaps the goal of teaching grammar is to help our students speak with organized sentence structures in order to make themselves understood. If our students learn proper speaking habits while they are young, this should help them become good communicators in the future. I like to teach grammar with a two-step approach. The statement form is introduced first, followed by the related question form. For example, "He's my brother" is taught first followed by "Who's he?" This helps students learn grammar more easily and gives EQUAL attention to both the statement form AND the question form.
In my experience as a teacher, it seems to me that students are good at answering questions but struggle when it comes to asking questions. Have you ever had a conversation using only statements? As teachers, I believe it is important for us to help our students become good QUESTIONERS. If we can help our students learn to ask questions, this opens the door of discovery and also makes communication a two-way street. To have fun with grammar and to help students practice the language in context, use communicative pair-work activities, games and grammar songs. Can you sing songs now that you learned when you were a child? Grammar songs help students remember the grammar points in a fun way.
Some Grammar Games: 'Picasso' and 'Bye Bye'
I would like to share a couple of activities that are popular with my students. The first activity is called the Picasso Game.
For example, I want to practice the structure That's a ______. I would divide the class into two teams. I would have one student from each team come to the front of the room. I would show them a picture of a target word and the two students then draw the item on the board. The first team to guess the word using the structure That's a ____ gets one point. I then have two different students come to the board and draw a different item. The team with the most points is the winner. This activity involves the whole class and students always enjoy drawing on the board.
Another activity my students like is the Bye-Bye Game. The purpose of this
activity is to help students answer the question What did you learn today?
It is done at the end of class. When we teach children, we do lots of activities in
class and the Bye-Bye Game helps students to focus on the key point(s) of the
lesson. Let's take the structure. I go to/play (activity) on (day of the week). I would
have the students line up by the door. I would use flash cards of the target language
or point to the target items in the textbook. For example, I would show one student an
activity card such as 'go to piano class' and another student a day of the week card.
When it comes to teaching grammar, if we keep the perspective and the goal in mind, as teachers we can feel successful teaching grammar and our students can enjoy learning grammar. In the future may we see students who are confident in both asking and answering questions!
Greg Cossu has been teaching in Japan for over twenty years, the last fifteen years of which have
been teaching children. He currently teaches at his own school in Takarazuka where he teaches both
children, JHS, SHS, and adults. He is the co-author of the popular series for elementary school
students, SuperKids, published by Longman