A. Approaches to teaching grammar: <ul><li>Introduction and Rationale: </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar is crucial to the teaching and learning of ESL/EFL. Learners are often convinced that learning grammar is of value to them, and therefore expected to be an essential component of their textbooks and language courses. Yet teaching grammar carries with it various and controversial views as far as the methods to adopt in order to teach effectively. Some ESL/EFL practitioners associate the word “grammar” with fixed series of rules that govern different linguistic forms. Others, however, see grammar not as meaningless forms or rules but as a self-sustained system that involves three dimensions of morpho-syntactic (= form): semantic ( = meaning), and pragmatic (= use) in nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Those practitioners who see “grammar” as a set of forms and rules tend to teach it explicitly and / or in an isolated or de-contextualized way. They explain the forms and rules and then contrive situations to drill learners in a mechanical, somehow meaningless and repetition-based way. This follows in exhausted, bored or dissatisfied learners who can produce correctly stringed words and sentences on exercises and tests, but rarely are they able to produce meaningful and appropriate chunks of language. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Other practitioners believe that learners acquire the foreign language in the same way as their first language. They think that learners acquire grammar rules “ unreflectingly” when they are involved in highly communicative simulated or real-life context (i.e. listening, speaking, reading and witting). This “acquisition-based” view tends to deprive learners from benefiting from their active understanding of what grammar is and how it functions in the foreign language. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The standards- based-approach is based on communicative principles and bridges the gap between these above described approaches to the teaching of grammar. One of the tenets of the standards-based approach is that grammar is a vital part of language that needs to be taken care of. The second tenet is that grammar is not a simple accumulation of linguistic entries where mastering the whole bits would mean mastering the language in its totality. The third tenet is that any grammar learning activity should demonstrate means necessary to achieve the 5 Cs (= communication/culture: comparison/ connection/communities) and learner autonomy. The fourth tenet is that teachers should not hold rigidly to a single approach, i.e. eclecticism is needed. The fifth tenet is that learners are very different as far as their learning styles, strategies, and preferences; that is, not all learners learn grammar in the same way. Some of them are communicative, i.e. they learn by listening, talking to friends, using any opportunity available to use the language, etc. others are analytic because they learn by studying grammar and finding out mistakes. Others are referred to as being authority learners because they learn through explanations, taking notes, studying grammar, etc. teachers should, therefore, adopt a “pragmatic” approach in teaching grammar. They should have learners carry out specific communication tasks where grammar explanations and analysis as well as the teaching of grammatical forms and rules are embedded. Within this approach, learners will be expected, as far as grammar is concerned, to demonstrate the ability to: </li></ul><ul><li>- recognize correct and incorrect instances of language use; </li></ul><ul><li>- generate instances of correct and culturally appropriate usage; </li></ul><ul><li>- manifest their knowledge of the language system in the main language skills; </li></ul><ul><li>- discover the linguistic system by experiencing authentic language discourse; </li></ul><ul><li>- state familiar rules when needed; </li></ul><ul><li>- uncover the pragmatic intent of a sentence/ statement through its use (s) </li></ul>
There are two types of grammar: descriptive grammar and generative grammar: a/ descriptive grammar: is defined as a grammar which « provides a precise account of usage », and is often contrasted with prescriptive grammar which « attempts to establish rules or the correct use of language in society ». (Dictionary of Languge and Languages, 1992: 159). In other words, prescriptive grammar prescribes the rules of how educated people « ought to »speak and write , whereas descriptive grammar describes the knowledge people must have in order to speak and understand the language. b/ Generative Grammar: is a grammar which defines « the set of grammatical sentences in a language. Chomsky(1966) advocates that sentences are not learned by imitation and repetition, but « generated » from the learner’s underlying « competence . » Grammar pracice activities should then involve meaningful language use, and learners should be encouraged « to use their innate and creative abilities to drive and make explicit the underlying grammatical rules of the language » (Richards, 1986,60).
What approach to adopt for the teaching of Grammar? The approach suggested for the teaching of grammar is the iductive approach , which means that the teacher has to proceed from examples, contextualized and rich in content, to help the learner induce himself/herself the rules of the structure. By experiencing authentic language discourse, learners will discover the grammar they need to understand and communicate. It is a context-based and problem-driven approach, well-suited to hypothesis testing and to competency-based approach. However, the adoption of the inductive approach has to be corroborated from time to time by some explanations of certain grammatical structures. In fact, the combination of both approaches will certainly satisfy different learning styles.
<ul><li>Teachers should train their learners to internalize and generate grammar rules by means of: </li></ul><ul><li>-meaningful context; </li></ul><ul><li>-motivating,communicative and functional activities and tasks;etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers should avoid teaching grammar: </li></ul><ul><li>-out of context; </li></ul><ul><li>-systematically; </li></ul><ul><li>-mechanical drilling;etc. </li></ul>
It is impossible to correct every error. This is very likely to demotivate learners. Teachers, therefore, should set priorities , e.g.: -The grammatical structure focused on at the moment is the one to be primarily corrected; - Comprehensibility : errors are hierarchical, that is to say, more or less important:
a/ Global Errors : these are the important ones in the sentence that cause a lot of problems to the whole passage; b/Local Errors : these errors cause trouble within a limited sphere, eg. W.O. (=word order)/ missing things out, such as articles, verbs, etc. e.g.: « English language use much people »: 1-Much people use English language. 2-The English language uses many people. Which is closer to the correct sentence? Which category of errors is it? - Ungarmmatical Forms should also be corrected and never taught,e.g.: « He …………. the parcel last night. » a-bringed c-brung b-brought d-broughted. NB : Students should be trained in: -locating and recognizing errors in speech and in writing , then - correcting them ( self / peer correction); - justifying their corrections as far as possible.
-when dealing with remedial correction, errors should be corrected immediately and spontaneously ; -corrections that interfere with a communicative activity should be deferred so as not to interrupt the interlocutor’s interest and motivation . In this case, the teacher jots down these errors to be remedied later on = those errors that are common to most learners (e.g. in a problem-solving activity while students are called upon to carry out correcting these errors under their teacher’s guidance.) NB : In correcting students’ grammar written work, it’s advisable that teachers use a code they familiarize their students with at the very beginning of the school year , e.g.: P (=preposition) Ts (=tense) V (=verb) W.O. (=word order) Art (=artcle) Pr (=pronoun), etc.
B. Examples of tasks for teaching grammar <ul><li>Countless tasks and activities can be used to help learners achieve the standards set forth for the teaching/ learning of grammar. The tasks and activities should be compatible with the current trend to focus on communication and learner autonomy. The following sequence of tasks might be of some help to you: </li></ul><ul><li>- Listening or reading task (i.e. learners read/listen to a text that they process for meaning). </li></ul><ul><li>- “Noticing” task (i.e. learners read / listen to the same text, which is now gapped and then fill in the missing words). Learners might be also asked to notice and underline grammatical aspects in a text or statement </li></ul><ul><li>- Consciousness- raising task (i.e. learners are helped to discover how the target grammar structure works by analysing the “data” provided by the reading/listening text). </li></ul><ul><li>- Checking task (i.e. learners complete an activity to check if they have understood how the target structure works). </li></ul><ul><li>- Production task (i.e. learners are given the opportunity to try out the target structure in their own sentences). </li></ul><ul><li>- Contrast strategy (i.e. learners are given the opportunity to contrast the newly acquired forms/rules with the ones met earlier). </li></ul>
A-Bibliography: -Alexander.L.G.(1993).Longman Advanced Grammar: Reference and Practice. Essex. Longman. -Allwright and Bailey.(1991). Focus on the language classroom: an introduction to Classroom research for language teachers. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. -Dubin and Olcshtain(1986). Course Design: developing programmes and mate -rials for language learning. New directions in language teaching. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. B- Webliography: WWW.impactserries.com/ grammar / becoming.html (Oct . 5th 2006). WWW.eslpartyland.com /teachers/ nov / grammar.htlm (Oct.5th 2006) WWW.esl.about.com / cs / teachingtechnique /a/a teachergrammar.htm(Oct.11th 2006) WWW.Gabrielatos.com / Minding Our Ps.htm. 2006(Nov.18th 2006).
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