Grammar. The very mention of the word strikes fear into the heart of the staunchest language learner. Many English EFL and ESL teachers also feel the pit of their stomach churn at the thought of preparing and giving a grammar lesson. But what are we to do? If lexis and vocabulary are the building blocks of language, then certainly grammar is the mortar or structure that holds them together. Teaching it and learning it are therefore inescapable. The only thing to do then is to make it as interesting, pleasant or at least as painless as possible. Here are some ideas to help you do just that.
Use grammar games
Both learners and teachers alike love to use games in the English EFL ESL classroom. So, make extensive use of games to teach and reinforce critical grammar points. What, you say you don’t know any grammar games? Or perhaps you’ll quip that you don’t have a good stock of them so you can’t count on regularly employing them for use in your classes? Au contraire! They abound on English teacher websites, commercial publications and in the minds and hearts of your colleagues worldwide. If you have a good game to share, post it on an ELT forum or TEFL materials / activities website. Create your own based on popular games you’re familiar with. Use pursuit and turn-taking games, card games, board games or TPR-based games to get maximum involvement of your learners. Actually, you should get in there too. Don’t be a lazy butt.
Use movie and video clips
“Go ahead, make my day.” Now who was it exactly that first said that? Yes, yes I’m sure you know. Now change it to other verb tenses. Change it to a question. Change it into different question forms. Make it imperative. You get the idea. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” If you don’t know the initial speaker of that line, three slaps with a wet noodle for you. What verb tense is there? Now change it into different forms.
Watch a three to seven minute clip from a movie scene or video. Write down what grammar forms you hear. Then have the class do it. Does everyone agree? No? What are the different forms they come up with? What’s correct? Go back, watch the clip again and check. Do it until you’re satisfied.
Use audio-only segments
Now it’s getting tougher. Listen to an audio clip. A commercial, story, dialogue or news segment. From where? The radio, cassettes, TV, CDs / DVDs, etc. Note the grammar points used. Can you change any of them? How? Why? What does the change do to the meaning? Does it become formal or informal? Imperative? Humorous? Don’t forget to have the learners practice and deliver these short dialogues aloud. (Everybody wants to be Dirty Harry or the Godfather) My learners like scenes from “Matrix” and “Frantic” with Harrison Ford. James Bond film scenes rate highly with my learners too. The ladies like to be Julia Roberts or Demi Moore from almost any of their flics. Angela Bassett and Sigourney Weaver frequently portray “strong women” with good dialogue strings and soliloquies which give the female learners character choices. It works for me and it definitely works for them.
Try it out for yourself. You’ll see. Just remember to pick an interesting clip that’s not too long. It must have snappy dialogue either between two characters or a quippy comeback on the part of one of them. You could even have the learners suggest some clips, programs and/or scenes to use.
So Bunky, don’t let the term “grammar” strike fear into the hearts of your learners (or you) ever again. Work up some grammar – teaching activities using these techniques and grammar could become your – and their – favorite lesson type.