Learning to speak English as a second language is challenging for non-native speakers, especially when the lessons involve grammar. But syntax is a necessary component of correct English, so it is important to make these lessons as interesting and meaningful to students as possible. The following approach works well with language learners from elementary grades up through college levels.
Introduce the Lesson
Every lesson should be clearly introduced to inform the students of what to expect. The grammar principle should be placed in context between previous lessons and future ones.
For example, you can explain that the current focus on adjectives provides ways of modifying basic sentences that use the subject-verb structure. An example could be as simple as “The dog crossed the street.” Adjectives will help to explain the situation further: “The small dog crossed the busy street.”
When students understand the type of speech being used and where it typically appears in a sentence, they will be prepared to deepen their grasp of the concept.
Use Pop Culture Examples
To supplement grammar handbook usage, look for popular culture examples that students can readily relate to. Television, radio, or online ads for products that interest students of various ages, like snack foods, fast food, cars, or movies often use slang instead of correct grammar to promote their products.
You can show ads like these and ask students to identify the part of speech being taught in class as they are more likely to take interest in familiar and attention-grabbing ads than a potentially dry textbook exercise.
Deconstruct the Grammar Samples
Ask students to deconstruct or map the sample ads’ verbiage on the whiteboard or in prepared worksheets. Individually and collectively, guide their efforts to break down sentences or statements in an outline format that is easy to visualize and grasp.
A lesson on imperative or interrogative voice, for example, can be used to identify whether ad viewers are being asked about the product: “Are you craving a fresh, fruity snack?” They can also indicate whether the ad is using imperative voice to request or demand, facetiously perhaps, that viewers buy the product: “Buy these athletic shoes before they sell out!” Associated grammar concepts might include tone and vocabulary, for example, “athletic shoes” instead of “sports gear” to help students think about English language options and choices.
Sample ads or sentences can be literally taken apart in paper segments and placed in piles according to usage, such as verbs, nouns, etc.
Reconstruct the Samples for Varied Meanings
As students begin to understand the building blocks of English, they can experiment in creating their own new sentences from the stacks of sentence parts they deconstructed from ads or TEFL grammar activities.
As they reconstruct new sentence types, provide explanations and samples of other ways to say the same thing. For example, the original sentence of “Are you craving a fresh, fruity snack?” could be reassembled as “You are craving a fresh, fruity snack” in the simple sentence framework.
Students can also be given access to additional words to embellish the sentence in slightly different ways. For example: “Could you be craving a fresh, fruity snack?” This provides the opportunity to explain the use of modals without sounding so technical. Discuss with students the difference in tone and meaning between the reconstructed sentence types.
Reaffirm the Grammar Rule
After working through TEFL grammar lessons and handbook exercises, ask several students to restate the grammar rule for the day in their own words. Then ask them to write sample sentences of their own representing the rule usage for that lesson. You can have them work in pairs or small groups to help each other as some students may master the concept more quickly than others. Peer learning has been shown to improve learning rates in students who individually tend to be weaker in certain academic disciplines.
Practice Grammar Activities
Add the current lesson to past grammar lessons to expand students’ learning foundation. Use activities created for grammar for English language teachers to combine the parts of speech exercises introduced thus far in the class to encourage students to practice with the elements already learned. An activity that reinforces this type of learning is to ask students to teach a grammar mini-lesson of about two or three minutes to the class demonstrating their knowledge of the principle.
Teaching strengthens and externalizes through practice the material that has been absorbed by students to ensure it is correctly understood and can be applied effectively. True-and-false worksheets and homework exercises enable students to continue practicing newly-learned grammar skills to develop English language proficiency.
TEFL learners are among the most motivated students to learn English grammar. Make good use of their enthusiasm by introducing creative cultural grammar lessons that will help them quickly learn to speak correct English.