Is it possible to teach grammar?
Thu, 12 Aug 2010 5:14 pm
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Fri, 20 Aug 2010 1:51 pm
Jim, you may have been teaching English for a long time but reading your editorial made me wonder if you really understand how the adult brain functions. Psycholinguistic studies show that putting information into the adult brain and expecting immediate results is unrealistic. The adult brain takes in the info, reinforces the info with practice and only when the context is right does the info come out the way you want it to. The purpose of teaching adults is not so they can regurgitate the enormous effort you have put in, at will. It comes layer on layer and comes out when it's ready not when your ready. It is something I see with many of the English language teachers I train. It's like a dog, teach it to sit and it does. Adults brains are more like snakes they strike when they need to not when you ask them to.
I believe you can teach grammar, not in isolation but in context or should I say contexts as that is how relevence is established for understanding and regurgitation. My students love grammar, I don't use games, I don't use tricks, I simply use enthusiasm. I love it and so do they and they always look forward to the grammar/language part of the lesson. I watch their eyes light up and they actually ask for more.
Relevance is the key and of course practice.
Thanks for your article it was interesting to read, if not a little frustrating at times, it was thought provoking.
Sat, 21 Aug 2010 12:03 pm
I loved Jim's article and my feeling is that it is ESSENTIAL to teach grammar. How can we expect students to progress without knowledge of the building blocks of the language? It can be argued that small children learn a language naturally without such information but once students are of an age when they start to question why things are said or written as they are then it seems madness to me not to give them chapter and verse.
I have come to language teaching later in life, having passed my half-century, and now thoroughly enjoy teaching older teenage/ young adult students on a one-to-one, home-immersion basis. These students are all at the intermediate/upper intermediate level and I have been very impressed with their grammatical knowledge (which, once or twice, has left me desperately trawling the recesses of my brain to answer a technical question.) I am convinced that they would not have been able to achieve more than a basic level of proficiency without studying grammar.
I have also returned to school as a cover supervisor and have been absolutely horrified by the way in which languages are now taught (with a distinct lack of grammatical content). As far as I can see, children are drilled to pass exams by learning the answers to standard questions without having the faintest understanding of how these answers are arrived at. If they were asked to change either the tense or person of the verbs in their sentences, most of them wouldn't know where to start.
I think we are doing our own young people a great dis-service by teaching them in this manner. Let us not make the same mistake in our teaching of students wishing to learn our own language.
Fri, 10 Sep 2010 3:29 pm
I think it's important to teach grammar. I'm tired of administrators -and even English teachers -using pronouns (me, myself, or I?) incorrectly and seeing errors in newsletters that go out to parents. It's embarrassing. People now use 'myself'' frequently because they are confused....is it 'me' or 'I'? I'll simply crash land somewhere in between!
I teach what I think they really need to know, and I try to not attach complicated labels. Students, for example, can recognize the difference between a compound and complex sentence simply by looking at a series of examples of each. I don't care whether they know the name for them. My goal is to get them to use them and use them correctly. I don't believe we need to spend hours and hours on grammar and do 'drill and kill' work as in the past. It is important, though, that they know simple rules of the language. I wish more teachers would adopt a more balanced approach to this and not simply dismiss grammar as irrelevant. I suspect many do so because they simply do not have the tools themselves.