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How to Teach Grammar

These guidelines on how to teach grammar are for intermediate to advanced English, as it assumes
that the students already have some understanding of English grammar.

Grammar lessons do not in any way need to be tedious or boring. If the material you use is of
interest to the students (e.g. something about themselves), and they are actively involved in the
lessons, then much fun can be had by all.

This is the general structure that I follow when teaching grammar:

1. Elicit an example of the grammar point


2. Present the grammar structure
3. Drilling
4. Controlled practice
5. Free practice
6. Error correction

General Guidelines
Before I go into the specifics of how to plan your own lessons, here are some general principles on
how to teach grammar ....

give the students clear rules and explanations. These are useful and easy to remember
don't overwhelm the students with too much information. Rather teach fewer points
thoroughly, than skim over lots of rules that the students will never be able to remember how
to teach grammar
don't feel that you need to cover all the grammar rules for every grammar point - once
again, too much information will overwhelm and discourage them
if you are following a coursebook, supplement the activities with extra free practice
exercises in order to make the lessons more interesting and re-inforce the grammar points
wherever possible elicit information from the students, including example sentences and
grammar structures

Elicit an Example of the Grammar Point


When you are teaching a grammar point, you must have a sentence or two that demonstrates that
point. What you definitely don't want to do is just give it to the students. That would be boring, and
you will have lost the interest of the students at the very onset. They need to be involved! And it's
also a great opportunity for you to assess how well they already know the grammar. Here are some
ideas on how to elicit an example of grammar: how to teach grammar

after doing a reading the students need to extrapolate examples of that grammar point from
the text e.g. phrasal verbs, past perfect
ask the students questions, so that the answers will be in that particular grammar point e.g.
present simple - 'What do you do straight after you get up in the mornings'
tell the students what the grammar point is, and ask them to give you some examples e.g.
passive - ask the students to give you a normal sentence of something that they did earlier in
the day, then get them to give you the same sentence in the passive, and then get them to
give it to you in different tenses in the passive, I made coffee at 10 o'clock. The coffee was
made at 10 o'clock. The coffee has been made. The coffee will be made etc etc
give the students the first part of the sentence which they then need to complete e.g. modals
- 'I can ......', 'I must .......', 'I should ......'

It's easier for the teacher to have pre-prepared sentences and hand-outs, because then they won't
be surprised or confused by some unexpected answers that the students come up with that might
not fit the pattern exactly.

If this happens to you, explain to the students that you are not sure but will let them know at the next
lesson. Despite this being a potential problem, I still think it's well worth getting the students to give
the example sentences, beause the students will be so much more involved. It's important that the
teacher fully understands the grammar point themselves though - a definite potential pitfall for
native speakers!

Present the Grammar Structure


Once you have established a sentence, or two, or three that demonstrate the grammar point, do a
grammar presentation with them, eliciting the grammar structure from the students. Write the
sentences and grammar structure on the board (distinguish them by using different colours). Your
end result should look something like the grammar presentation that I have done for the Past
Perfect.

When the students understand the grammar structure, you also need to make sure that they
understand how the grammar point works and what it means. When doing tenses, for example,
make sure that you have as many sentences as required to demonstrate all the different uses of that
tense that you want to teach at that point. Make sure that the students really do understand by
getting them to draw timelines (here are some examples of timelines) or ask them some concept
questions (yes/no questions that verify whether they have understood the meaning of the sentences
eg. I get up at 6am. 'Do you get up every day at 6am?' or 'Do you often get up at 6am?').

Drilling
Once the students understand the grammar structure and the meanings of the sentences, you can
practise some pronunciation with them. You must always do pronunciation after explaining the
sentences and never before, because you don't want the students to be saying things that they don't
understand. Practising pronunciation is particularly important when there are contractions (I'll, he'd,
would've, wouldn't've) in sentences, as English students find these more difficult.

Demonstrate to the students how to pronounce the sentences and then get them to repeat it. how to
teach grammar

Controlled Practice
Build up the students' confidence by getting them to practice the grammar structure in the easiest
possible way - with gap fill exercises,rewriting sentences, putting words in the correct order,
completing unfinished sentences etc etc
Don't finish with these activities though, as you need to take it up a level, so that the students can
learn to use the grammar in every day speech as well....

Free Practice
In order to be able to use the grammar in every day speech, they will need to practise using it in real
conversations as well. These are exercises where the students have more freedom to talk and
express their opinions. Types of activities are quizzes, picture games, activities where the students
move around etc. For some ideas on how to do this, have a look at some of the ideas I have put in
my Grammar Lessons.

Error Correction
Despite the fact that you have diligently taught the students the grammar and practised it ad
nauseum with your students, the chances are still fairly high that they will still continue to make
mistakes (they have made these mistakes for so long it's difficult for them to adjust). Don't give up on
them, but be particularly vigilant during the lessons following, to pick up on the fact when they make
errors with regards to that particular grammar point. EIther point out the mistake when they make it
(but get them to correct it), or take notes during the lesson and go through them with the students at
the end of the lesson.