teaching grammar based on what our students actually SAY

A big share of my students is represented by people who have a long string of English learning experience,  especially learning grammar, and not all of this experience is always positive. That’s why I usually try to minimize all the usual things like reading the rules, answering the questions, doing the gap-fills…or at least, I try to move these (definitely useful) things to a later point in time. Because first a need for that should be established. If such need appears,the grammar work will (hopefully) not become just another topic from the student’s curriculum, but will be something meaningful to them personally. And after that there is time and space for grammar exercises, reviews and explanations.

That’s why I love making notes when my students speak, and then starting grammar review from their very own phrase.

Today in the morning I was lucky.. and here is how:

I have long known my morning student’ s problem with Present Perfect/ Past Simple choice, and we even tried once to work with it, but he still makes mistakes, although his theory seems just fine.

Last lesson we were reading about the BBC show “I’ve never seen star Wars”, and so today I asked him if he still remembered what the idea of the show was like. Part of his answer was “They ask them to do something they didn’t do before“. I noted it down and continued (happily;-) listening to him. “ahha”, I thought. So now I had the material that I could base all my grammar explanations on.

the good thing about such “personalised grammar approach” is that if I just told my student that he was having some problem with the 2 tenses and that’s why we were going to spend some time on “doing grammar”, he wouldn’t be too excited. He would probably think something like “oh, I’ve heard both of the tenses names hundreds of times, I seem to use them more or less successfully, so why bother, again?”. But in this case, as I was starting with something he has just said, he was willing to find out why it was wrong and what he should have said instead.

I know we are not always that lucky to catch our students to say exactly what we need them to (so that it corresponds to the next grammar topic in the plan/book/ our heads), but it might just mean we should focus more on what they say and not on what the book says…

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About Svetlana Urisman (Englishteachingnotes)

I am an ADOS and an English teacher (and materials writer) in a language school in Moscow. I have been an ADOS and a teacher trainer for almost a year now and a teacher for about 5 years. I am keen to share some ideas and materials I've developed in order to take them further and not to forget or lose them You are welcome to use any materials represented in this blog, and I will be happy to get your feedback afterwards if you take them to your classroom! ;-)
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2 Responses to teaching grammar based on what our students actually SAY

  1. Thank you for putting it so well. I use the same principle in my work. It always feels good to read a post by a like-minded teacher.

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