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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread May 1st, 2006, 09:49 pm
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Default If you couldn't use grammar, how would you teach?

This is all I can think about recently.
Well... when I'm teaching or lesson planning anyway.

Do you think you could teach without grammar explanation?

The reason I ask is most of the time problems students have or things they don't understand are usually a product of the teacher trying to work with grammar. We are taking the language out of context and trying to work with it.

sentence -->> question
sentence -->> negative
passive -->> active
as well as article+s+be+gerund+...

I'm finding context is lost causing loss of understanding and also we get a lot of unnatural combinations for the sake of working with grammar. Also, using grammar allows students to make language they can't understand (well, make it using the template we went over today.) Thus they may be able to form it correctly today, but because they don't understand the usage they don't retain it.

I haven't done all the research needed to really present the model for grammarless instruction, but...

If you couldn't use grammar, what would you do?
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Unread May 2nd, 2006, 07:22 pm
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Default Re: If you couldn't use grammar, how would you teach?

Some thoughts:

If L1 is very similar to L2 (like Dutch, German to English), the grammar will feel very natural to the students. If L1 is quite different, such as Vietnamese, they will find it much harder. In particular, English is a chronological language, placing importance on time, and this is an issue many students will find hard to grasp if their L1 doesn't have a similar concept.

So what I'm saying is that it helps to give learners the big picture. This helps adults anyway. In the case of young learners, maybe they can pick up the grammar more naturally. They'll have years of English classes at school to sort it out, anyway.

And there are many ways to teach without grammar. Try a functional syllabus, for example. Or if you look at a text like Headway, grammar plays an incidental part (aimed at European students, I guess)
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Unread May 20th, 2006, 12:46 pm
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Default Re: If you couldn't use grammar, how would you teach?

Grammar is not essential in teaching English I feel. I don't think that students learn how to speak if they know the names of tenses. Teach them however that they need this specific form to say this specific thing and they'll retain it.
For example when I teach the Present Continuous/ Progressive I give them the name of the tense when students can already use it. Theycan answer for example the question "What's the weather like?" with "It's raining."In this example I ask them which is the verb(oops, is this grammar?) , we put "rain" in a box and then draw a heart around"'s" and another heart around "ing" and say that this is the tense and We use it to show that something is happening now.
Later when someone says something like " I am play the piano" I simply ask what's missing and the class answers the second heart and the person who made the mistake can correct themselves.

I also make students remember that this is how we say it in English. For example I get students to remember how to answer questions like> What is the environment made of? What can be recycled? What is the environment polluted with? without giving them the slightest explanation about the passive voice. Yes I translate to make them understand what these questions ask
but then they have to learn how to answer those questions and I revise them each class in the beginning until almost everybody can manage an answer.
I also teach and practise all those small talk questions about where people live, what they do, what star sign they are, how tall they are, if they have a brother or sister, what their names are, if they have pets....
In this way by the end of the year they have a stock of questions and answers in their memory that hopefully will enable them to start a conversation with someone and keep it going.
I also teach them a lot of traditional songs. In this way they memorise structures and vocabulary. If I have taught can for ability, then I also teach them the Scottish song Billy Boy. (Where have you been all the day Billy Boy?
I've been walking all the day with my charming Nancy Grey, And my Nancy tickles my fancy, Oh my charming Billy Boy. Can she cook a bit of steak? She can cook a bit of steak Aye and make a girdle cake. etc" Through the song they also practise the correct rhythm and intonation, stressing the verb and not "can", pronouncing can with an open a in the question and with a schwa in the line "she can cook".
The beginning of the song includes examples of present perfect and present perfect progressive which of course have not been taught yet but they get retained in the students memory through the song and later when they get to learn the use of those tenses they have a reference point when they learn to
get the forms of the new tenses right.
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Unread May 20th, 2006, 06:48 pm
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Default Re: If you couldn't use grammar, how would you teach?

A few of the things I do are still grammar based even though I don't explain the grammar. Those fall into my gray area, for example trying to work with singular/plurals. Or trying to work with anything for that matter. There are things I still feel I need to 'teach' but I haven't worked out how to do it all yet. My biggest issues deal with fundamentals or fundamental chunks. I deal with them isolated right now and it seems very grammar-like to me. The matrix-less instruction deals more with putting those together to form more complex sentences without grammar. I'm finding with no grammar explanation in the begin (gray or not) the students take the second part much better without grammar and understand better than the grammar groups.

When I learned Japanese, I found the grammar explanation so confusing that I just stopped bothering with grammar. I later decided to teach how I learned. Now, I was in Japan so I had a lot more input than L2 learners but I still think it's the best way to learn either way. That may not be true for languages where the grammar is similar. And maybe not even true in Japan... It's just what works for me.

Well, it actually started like emily said. I know the young students are going to get 6-10 years of grammar and relatively no speaking. I decided to counter balance that, I was going to do the opposite to ready the students for an all grammar school system. However, I found they made equal progress to the school system in a third of the time and mostly without homework. They seem to understand better, be able to use the language better and retention was higher. Their writing ability is very poor but that's an issue with time here. I only see them once a week for an hour and just can't afford to waste time writing. We later go back and do writing. They also get to write more than they ever wanted to in JHS and HS.

Sometimes I just have to teach grammar-translation because I work in Japan and my JHS and SHS students are going to have to know it, not English, for the their tests. Some of my adult students expect it. It's much easier to teach grammar but the reason I'd like to go the other way is that it appears to be better in the long run for my students.
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