We can all agree that learners are better writers when they attain a good understanding of grammar. Students need to be effectively taught how to use proper grammar in order for them to attain, showcase, and use effective writing and communication skills in school and later in life when they graduate.
But achieving this isn’t an easy task. How do you effectively teach a subject seen by many students as a very dull topic?
That’s the question I have tasked myself with answering. I have packed this post with the teaching methods that will typically produce good results and those that aren’t as effective.
First things first, let’s discuss the importance of teaching grammar before we look at the methods that bring out the desired results.
Why Is It Important to Teach Grammar Correctly?
The gains from improved grammatical competence are plenty. The impact on teaching and learning includes improved reading and writing skills, listening, and speaking.
But these gains extend to the students’ post-graduate life as students who have attained a high degree of grammatical competence tend to exhibit communicative proficiency.
Grammatical Structures Form the Chassis for Speech
Can we speak without utilizing syntax and morphology? What do you think?
I think so too.
You could argue that it is possible to do that but not fluently. Without grammar, we’d be able to understand one another, but at the same time, the lack of it would provide a hindrance to good communication.
Therefore, to improve the learners’ spoken and written communication skills, we need to improve their fluency by effectively teaching grammar.
Grammar is a Valuable Tool
In the classroom, grammar might just seem like a boring lesson. But once the learner leaves the campus, it is more than an ordinary lesson. It gives them a better chance of getting a job and study opportunities.
And by boosting your communication, grammar also improves the student’s social skills and self-confidence.
In addition, once the students leave school, grammar can help them attain a good reputation. The thing is, there’s this positive stereotype attached to good grammar; if a person speaks or writes using good grammar, people tend to hold them in higher esteem and assume that they are professionals and an authority in their field.
Is Teaching Grammar Easy or Difficult
For some educators, teaching grammar is difficult. But honestly, the jam is usually self-imposed and mostly stems from the lack of appreciation for modern pedagogy methods.
The teaching methods employed by teachers contribute greatly to the learners’ willingness to learn and, consequently, the success of the grammar lessons. Teaching grammar is easier when the methods employed are student-centered and ones which invoke an appreciation of grammar rules from the student.
The student needs to know that he is at the center of the lesson and that the lesson has been planned in a way that makes it natural to grasp the intricate rules of language.
Different Methods of Teaching Grammar
Teaching Through Writing
This method—which is popular with educators in the U.S. and Canada—involves supporting students to explore language using creative writing. The students are encouraged to write, read, and discover aspects of good grammar as they go.
Research has shown that students learn better when lessons are delivered using interactive teaching compared to methods that encourage memorization. So, it is prudent for teachers to place more emphasis on language acquisition rather than language learning.
The learners should be given creative or personal writing exercises and should, at times, be allowed to proofread, edit, and revise their own work.
Teaching grammar through reading
This is one of the best grammar instruction methods because the students hear and learn correct grammar directly from the teacher.
The teacher has to read aloud to students to demonstrate to them the proper way of incorporating grammar into their speech and writing. The students should also be given the opportunity to read and write to see if they have grasped the basics presented in the lesson.
Very efficient methods of teaching grammar involve incorporating interactivity into lessons. By utilizing games to teach grammar, the teacher engages students and the process helps the learners to retain a lot of the content that they’ve learned.
This method also affords teachers the opportunity to tailor their lessons to the several learning styles of their learners.
This method of teaching grammar involves introducing a couple of examples that give the learners a picture of a specific concept and from which learners can observe how that concept works.
The concept is not elaborated beforehand, and the teachers expect the students to inductively pick up the rules of grammar whilst reading and writing.
This way, the teacher helps the students to learn more naturally by discovering grammar and visualizing how these rules work.
The advantage of inductive learning is that the students retain more than they could by using memorization since learning is more natural than this way.
Unlike the previous method, the deductive method of teaching grammar places emphasis on giving instruction before practice.
As a teacher, you have to furnish the learners with an in-depth explanation of grammatical concepts before they come across them on their own. After introducing the concepts to them, the learners have to mechanically practice using worksheets and exercises.
Although this method is one of the most common ways of teaching, it has become apparent that it isn’t efficient. High school students who have gone through an education system which religiously follows this method of teaching (especially those from regions where English is a second language) show little signs of improved literacy skills.
Deductive teaching methods are mostly teacher-centered approaches and tend to neglect the learner’s specific language needs.
Are Worksheets Considered “Bad Teaching”?
I don’t think worksheets should be considered bad teaching, nor do I think using worksheets qualifies as “good teaching.”
There are pretty helpful worksheets that are fairly self-explanatory. Excellent worksheets help students (especially younger ones) organize the thoughts and use them to create something new. Worksheets are a huge step in the process of developing the minds of younger students for higher-order thinking.
On the other hand, we have bad worksheets which confuse the learners instead of helping them learn.
Using worksheets as teaching tools is completely ineffective. Rather, teachers should:
- Use worksheets as learning tools.
- They should make sure they have provided young students adequate guidance to complete the worksheets.
How Do I Teach Grammar?
The thing about teaching is, everyone is learning.
E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. You can’t really trust someone to give you a perfect blueprint for teaching because they’re also constantly evolving as teachers.
But you can still solicit helpful advice from fellow educators to help you teach grammar effectively.
Luckily for both of us, I happen to have stumbled upon some “rules of thumbs” sometime back, and I’ll gladly share them with you.
The Rule of Context
You should almost always teach grammar in context. If you happen to have deliberately taken something out of context with the objective of drawing attention to it, make sure that that particular item is re-contextualized after serving its intended purpose. In addition, you should tie up grammatical forms with their meanings.
The Rule of Use
When you teach grammar, the objective should be to grease the learners’ comprehension and production of language.
Your learners should be able to incorporate the grammar they’ve learned into their speech and writing to communicate fluently with readers and listeners alike. The goal is to equip the students with a valuable communication tool.
The Rule of Economy
Being economical with presentation time helps the students accomplish the rule of use. With less time spent on presentation, the students are afforded more time to practice.
The Rule of Relevance
Emphasize only teaching tailor-made lessons to teach only the aspects of grammar your students have problems with.
There’s a need for you (the teacher) to find out what your students have already learned and understood. You can plot your lesson plans from there.
The Rule of Nurture
Teaching alone doesn’t guarantee learning—your students might, or they might not learn even after you’ve taught them. But as a teacher, you need guarantees (to some extent), so you have to create appropriate conditions for grammar learning.
Does Teaching Grammar Improve Writing?
Grammar helps improve writing; we all know that. But we kind of expect grammar lessons to help the student more than the teacher, and that’s not necessarily the case.
Even grammar teachers have aspects of their writing that need polishing. The repetitive process of preparing and delivering grammar lessons or consultations with fellow educators is also a learning experience for the teachers. During this process they go through a lot of literature, picking up one or two things which might improve their writing.
What Does Not Work When Teaching Grammar?
Let me list a couple of methods that won’t work when teaching or learning grammar:
- It isn’t effective teaching grammar in isolation from writing. As subjects, they should be taught as one.
- Likewise, studying grammar in isolation does very little to help learners reduce the amount of grammatical mistakes in their writing.
- Just learning to finger parts of speech does little to improve the quality of the learner’s writing.
- There’s a reason why teaching grammar by diagramming sentences disappeared a couple of decades ago. That’s because learners don’t learn anything about the use of grammar using this method.
- Lessons filled with teaching grammar without allocating time for reading and writing are very ineffective.
A Good Understanding of Grammar Will Help You Write That Book Better
Grammar is like the glue that holds your writing together. Writing without grammar would be analogous to building a wooden cabin without nails, screws, or glue—just piling one log on top of the other.
It certainly wouldn’t hold, would it?
It would fall to pieces, and that’s exactly what would happen to your book if you wrote it without a good grasp of grammar and its intricate rules. However, if you have a good understanding of grammar, you have both the adhesive and the condiment of your story. A good grasp of grammar also gives you confidence during the writing process, and to the reader, you come off as a diligent individual and one that has an eye for detail.
I always say that language is art. And… grammar is at the heart of this artistry.
When you’re teaching a group of artists, you don’t just throw a heap of meanings and useless data on them, nope.
You introduce concepts and let them explore. Once they encounter a hiccup, they come back to you for guidance, and then they discover more—it’s a process that swings back and forth.
The same concept applies when teaching grammar. Teaching Grammar involves teaching students to think from creative angles. It consists of making it possible for the students to construct powerful messages by organizing words, phrases, and sentences.