Presenting and Explaining Grammar
Theoretical Survey of the Process of Teaching Grammar. The Difficulties Pupils Have in Assimilating English. Teaching Techniques and Activities on Presenting New Grammatical Structure in the 8th Grade. Experimental Analysis of the Theoretical Approach.
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Republic of Moldova
Ministry of Education
“Ion Creanga” State Pedagogical University
Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature
English Philology Department
Guidelines on Presenting and Explaining a New Grammatical Structure in the 8th grade
Ph.D., associate professor
Chapter I. Theoretical Survey of the Process of Teaching Grammar
1.1 The Importance of Teaching Grammar
1.1.1 The Psychological Characteristics of Grammar Skills
1.2 Main Dimensions in Teaching Grammar
1.3 General Principles of Grammar Teaching
1.4 The Difficulties Pupils Have in Assimilating English
1.5 Guidelines on Giving Effective Explanations
1.5.1 Presenting and Explaining Grammar
1.5.2 A General Model for Introducing New Language
1.6 Grammar Presentation and Practicing Techniques
Chapter II. Teaching Techniques and Activities on Presenting New Grammatical Structure in the 8th Grade
2.1 Various Grammar Teaching Techniques
2.1.1 Presenting Grammar Using Charts and Graphs
2.1.2 Explaining Grammar Using Objects
2.1.3 Clarifying Grammar Using Maps and Other Simple Drawings
2.1.4 Teaching Grammar through Dialogues
2.1.5 Teaching Grammar Using Games
2.1.6 Teaching Grammar Using Songs
2.2 Types of Exercises for the Assimilation of Grammar
2.2.1 Recognition Exercises
2.2.2 Drill Exercises
2.2.3 Creative Exercises
Chapter III. Experimental Analysis of the Theoretical Approach to Presenting and Explaining Grammar in the 8th Grade
3.1 Description of the course of the experimental work
3.2 Results of the experiment
The diploma paper is devoted to the topic “Guidelines on Presenting and Explaining a New Grammatical Structure in the 8th grade”. This investigation is from the field of methods of teaching foreign languages.
The aim of the foreign language teaching is primary to develop pupils` skills and understanding English speech and participating in conversation based on the topics covered. Robert Lado wrote that language functions owing to the language skills. A person who knows a language perfectly uses a thousand and one grammar lexical, phonetic rules when he is speaking. Language skills help us to choose different words and models in our speech. Grammar is known to be an important component of the language as a system. Communicative skills without regular using grammar are limited. Grammar gives the ability to make up sentences correctly, to reproduce the text adequately (the development of practical skills and habits). The knowledge of the specific grammar structure helps pupils point out the differences between the mother tongue and the target language. The knowledge of grammar develops abilities to abstract systematize plural facts. The best way to form grammar skills is to use a lot of training exercises and individual approach in teaching grammar. The pupils' ability in the correct use of grammar depends mainly on their speaking skills and vocabulary, that's why it is necessary for teachers to be better informed of the ways of presenting and practicing grammar.
The reason for which this theme has been chosen is the necessity of knowing the difficulties and problems we can have in using grammar, or just come across them in different kinds of activities or even in speech. It is very important and useful to know opinions of different scholars on this theme and of course the means, proceedings and methods used by various scholars, in order to identify, analyse and understand easier and better the English grammar. Taking into account all these things we will be able to teach and explain it to others in the most accessible and easiest way including the most efficient methods and techniques for the best understanding.
The aim of this diploma paper is to present the most accessible and important information about teaching English grammar and, of course, the best and worthiest opinions of various scholars from various sources. The main objectives of the present diploma paper are the following:
1. To analyse theoretical works of various methodologists about teaching grammar and to select the most useful ones.
2. To reflect the usage of teaching grammar by means of grammar teaching techniques selected.
3. To point out the characteristics of grammar presentation and explanation.
4. To carry out an experiment in the school concerned with the different types of grammar activities.
5. To reveal the most effective techniques of teaching grammar.
To realize all the objectives of the paper, the following methods of investigation were used:
1) Contrastive analysis
5) Experimental analysis
The diploma paper consists of: Introduction, three Chapters, Conclusion, Summary, Bibliography and Appendix.
In the Introduction the aim, the objectives of the paper and the methods of the research are stated.
Chapter I contains the theoretical data on what grammar is and presents a brief survey of different approaches to teaching grammar selected from the consulted sources.
Chapter II comprises a number of teaching techniques relevant to the first chapter. They can be used as a basis in a teaching context or for individual learning.
Chapter III deals with the description of the experiment and its results.
The Conclusion contains the results of investigation on the topic.
The Summary illustrates the content of the present Diploma Paper.
The Bibliography presents the list of sources that deal with the problem of teaching grammar.
The Appendix shows several examples which are not presented in the research.
This research is quite useful and can have practical value for teaching and studying English as a foreign language.
Chapter I THEORETICAL SURVEY OF THE PROCESS OF TEACHING GRAMMAR
§1.1 The Importance of Teaching Grammar
The teaching of grammar has always been a central aspect of foreign language teaching. For centuries, in fact, the only activity of language classrooms was the study of grammar. The nineteenth century, especially the last half, has changed all that dramatically.
Grammar is a system of rules governing the conventional arrangement and relationships of words in a sentence. Grammatical competence occupies a prominent position as a major component of communicative competence. Grammatical competence is necessary for communication to take place, but not sufficient to account for all production and reception in language. Grammar gives the form of the structures of language themselves, but those forms are literally meaningless without meaning/semantics and use/pragmatics. In other words, grammar tells how to construct a sentence (word order, verb and noun systems, modifiers, phrases, clauses, etc.). Semantics tells us something about the meaning of words and stings of words or, meanings, because there may be several. Then pragmatics tells us about which of several meanings to assign given the context of a sentence. Grammar is a reality. It is one of the components of language together with the sound system and vocabulary. A command of the structure of the language of the pupil ensures hearing, speaking, reading and writing. [8, pp.347-348]
In order to understand a language and to express oneself correctly one must assimilate the grammar mechanism of the language studied. Indeed, one may know all the words in a sentence and yet fail to understand it, if one does not see the relation between the words in the given sentence. And vice versa, a sentence may contain one, two, and more unknown words but if one has a good knowledge of the structure of the language one can easily guess the meaning of these words or at least find them in a dictionary.
No speaking is possible without the knowledge of grammar, without the forming of a grammar mechanism. If learner has acquired such a mechanism, he can produce correct sentences in a foreign language. Paul Roberts writes: “Grammar is something that produces the sentences of a language. By something we mean a speaker of English. If you speak English natively, you have built into you rules of English grammar. In a sense, you are an English grammar. You possess, as an essential part of your being, a very complicated apparatus which enables you to produce infinitely many sentences, all English ones, including many that you have never specifically learned. Furthermore by applying the rule you can easily tell whether a sentence that you hear is a grammatical English sentence or not.” Grammar assumes its logical role as one of several supporting foundation stones for communication. [56, pp.149-150]
A command of English as is envisaged by the school syllabus cannot be ensured without the study of grammar. Pupils need grammar to be able to aud, speak, read, and write in the target language.
Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English, but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences - that is knowledge of grammar. And knowledge of grammar offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity. Teaching grammar is a central concern in English language teaching. [21, pp.18-22] We often talk about `knowing' the structure of a language. This can mean two things. First, it can refer to the unconscious ability to use the structure of a language to convey meaning. Secondly, `knowing' the structure of a language may refer to the information that has been acquired through studying structural descriptions. We call these two types of knowledge `unconscious' and `acquired.' This distinction is important, because it is relevant what the student needs to know and what the teacher needs to know. The student needs to be able to produce correct sentences automatically. Teachers cannot presume to have taught students a particular structure by getting them to memorize the rules. [13, pp.78-88]
1.1.1 The Psychological Characteristics of Grammar Skills
To develop one's speech means to acquire essential patterns of speech and grammar patterns in particular. Children must use these items automatically during speech-practice. The automatic use of grammar items in our speech (oral and written) supposes mastering some particular skills - the skills of using grammar items to express one's own thoughts, in other words to make up your sentences.
We must get so-called reproductive or active grammar skills.
A skill is treated as an automatic part of awareness. Automatization of the action is the main feature of a skill.
The nature of Automatization is characterized by that psychological structure of the action which adapts to the conditions of performing the action owing frequent experience. The action becomes more frequent, correct and accurate and the number of the operations is shortened while forming the skill.
The character of awareness of the action is changing, i.e. fullness of understanding is paid to the conditions and quality of performing to the control over it and regulation.
To form some skills is necessary to know that the process of the forming skills has some steps:
- Only some definite elements of the action are automatic.
- The Automatization occurs under more difficult conditions, when the child can't concentrate his attention on one element of the action.
- The whole structure of the action is improved and the automatization of its separate components is completed.
What features do the productive grammar skills have?
During our speech the reproductive grammar skills are formed together with lexis and intonation, they must express the speaker's intentions.
The actions in the structural setting of the lexis must be learnt.
The characteristic feature of the reproductive grammar skills is their flexibility. It does not depend on the level of Automatization, i.e. on perfection of skill here mean the original action: both the structure of sentence, and forms of the words are reproduced by the speaker using different lexical material. If the child reproduces sentences and different words, which have been learnt by him as “a ready-made thing” he can say that there is no grammar skill. Learning the ready-made forms, word combinations and sentences occurs in the same way as learning lexis. [11, pp.12-24]
The grammar skill is based on the general conclusion - the grammar action can and must occur only in the definite lexical limits, on the definite lexical material. If the pupil can make up his sentence frequently, accurately and correctly from the grammatical point of view, he has got the grammar skill.
Teaching grammar at school using the theoretical knowledge brought some critics and led to confusion. All the grammatical rules were considered to be evil and there were some steps to avoid using them at school.
But when we learn grammatical items in models we use substitution and such a type of training gets rid of grammar or “neutralizes” it. By the way, teaching the skills to make up sentences by analogy is a step on the way of forming grammar skills. It isn't the lexical approach to grammar and it isn't neutralization of grammar, but using basic sentences in order to use exercises by analogy and to reduce number of grammar rules when forming the reproductive grammar skills.
To form the reproductive grammar skills we must follow such steps:
- Selection of the model of sentences.
- Selection of the form of the word and formation of word forms.
- Selection of the auxiliary, words, preposition, articles, and etc. and their combination with principle words.
The main difficulty of the reproductive (active) grammar skills is to correspond to the purposes of the statement, communicative approach (a question an answer and so on), words, and meanings, expressed by the grammatical patterns. In that case we use basic sentences, in order to answer the definite situation. The main factor of the forming of the reproductive grammar skill is that pupils need to learn the lexis of the language. They need to learn the meanings of the words and how they are used. We must be sure that our pupils are aware of the vocabulary they need at their level and they can use the words in order to form their own sentence. Each sentence contains a grammar structure. The mastering of the grammar skill lets pupils save time and strength, energy, which can give opportunity to create. Learning a number of sentences containing the same grammatical structure and a lot of words containing the same grammatical form isn't rational. But the generalization of the grammar item can relieve the work of the mental activity and let the teacher speed up the work and the children realize creative activities.
The process of creation is connected with the mastering of some speech stereotypes whose grammatical substrat is hidden in basic sentences. Grammar is presented as itself. Such a presentation of grammar has its advantage: the grammar patterns of the basic sentences are connected with each other. But this approach gives pupils the opportunity to realize the grammar item better. The teaching must be based on grammar explanations and grammar rules. Grammar rules are to be understood as a special way of expressing communicative activity. The reproductive grammar skills suppose to master the grammar actions which are necessary for expressing thoughts in oral and written forms.
The automatic perception of the text supposes the reader to identify the grammar form according to the formal features of words, word combinations, sentences which must be combined with the definite meaning. One must learn the rules in order to identify different grammatical forms. Pupils should get to know their features, the ways of expressing them in the language. We teach children to read and aud by means of grammar. It reveals the relation between words in the sentence. Grammar is of great important when one teaches reading, speaking, writing and auding.
The forming of the perceptive grammar and reproductive skills is quite different. The steps of the work in mastering the reproductive skills differ from the steps in mastering the perceptive skills. To master the reproductive grammar skills one should study the basic sentences or models. To master the perceptive grammar skills one should identify and analyse the grammar item, so training is of great importance to realize the grammar item. [12, pp.263-269]
§ 1.2 Main Dimensions in Teaching Grammar
By grammar one can mean adequate comprehension and correct usage of words in the act of communication, that is, the intuitive knowledge of the grammar of the language. It is a set of reflexes enabling a person to communicate with his associates. Such knowledge is acquired by a child in the mother tongue before he goes to school. This `grammar' functions without the individual's awareness of technical nomenclature, in other words, he has no idea of the system of the language; he simply uses the system. The child learns to speak the language, and to use all the words-endings for singular and plural, for tense, and all the other grammar rules without special grammar lessons only due to the abundance of auding and speaking. His young mind grasps the facts and `make simple grammar rules' for arranging the words to express various thoughts and feelings. [7, p.138]
It is not helpful to think of grammar as a discrete set of meaningless, decontextualized, static structures. Nor it is helpful to think of grammar solely as prescriptive rules about linguistic form, such as injunctions against infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions. Grammatical structures not only have (morphosyntactic) form, they are also used to express meaning (semantics) in contexappropriate use (pragmatics). In order to guide us in constructing an approach to teaching grammar that strives to meet this definition, it would be helpful to have a frame of reference.
Our framework takes form of a pie chart. Its shape helps us to make salient that in dealing with the complexity of grammar, three dimensions must concern us: structure or form, semantics or meaning, and the pragmatic conditions governing use. Moreover, as they are wedges of a single pie, we note further that the dimensions are not hierarchically arranged as many traditional characterizations of linguistic strata depict. Finally, the arrows connecting one wedge of the pie with another illustrate the interconnectedness of the three dimensions. Thus a change in any one wedge will have repercussions for the other two.
Despite the permeable boundaries between the dimensions, it is useful to view grammar from these three perspectives. A teacher of grammar might begin by asking the questions posed in the three wedges of the pie for any given grammar point: How is it formed?
What does it mean?
When/Why is it used?
Let us consider an example. A common structure to be taught at a high-beginning level of English proficiency is the 's possessive form. If we analyse this possessive form as answers to our questions, we would fill in the wedges as below.
Form. This way of forming possessives in English requires inflecting regular singular nouns and irregular plural nouns not ending in s with 's or by adding an apostrophe after the s' ending in the sound /s/. This form of the possessive has three allomorphs: /z/, /s/ and /z/, which are phonetically conditioned, /z/ is used when it occurs after voiced consonants and vowels, /s/ following voiceless consonants, and /z/ occurs after sibilants.
Meaning. Besides possession, the possessive or genitive form can indicate description (a debtor's prison), amount (a month's holiday), relationship (Jack's wife), part/whole (my brother's hand), and origin/agent (Shakespeare's tragedies).
Use. Possessions in English can be expressed in other ways - with a possessive determiner (e.g. his, her and their) or with the periphrastic of the form (e.g. the legs of the table). Possessive determiners are presumably used when the referent of the possessor is clear from the context.
While books will often say that the `of the' possessive is used with nonhuman head nouns and 's with human head nouns, there are certain conditions where this rule does not apply. For example, native speakers often prefer to use the 's even with inanimate head nouns if the head nouns are performing some actions (e.g. the train's arrival was delayed). Finally, students will have to learn to distinguish contexts in which a noun compound (table leg) is more appropriate than either the 's form or the of the form.
Teachers would not necessarily present all these facts to students, recognizing that students can and do learn some of them on their own. And certainly no teacher would choose to present all these facts in a single lesson or on one occasion. Nevertheless, distributing the features of the target grammatical structure among the three wedges of the pie can give teachers an understanding of the scope and multidimensionality of the structure. In turn this understanding will guide teachers in deciding which facts concerning the possessive will be taught and when and how to do so. All three dimensions will have to be mastered by the learner (although not necessarily consciously). [26, pp.252-254] [22, pp.6-10]
§ 1.3 General Principles of Grammar Teaching
Teaching grammar should be based upon the following principles:
1. Conscious approach
This means that in sentence patterns teaching points are determined so that pupils can concentrate their attention on some elements of the pattern to be able to use them as orienting points when speaking or writing the target language. For example, I can see a book. I can see many books.
The teacher draws pupils' attention to the new element in the sentence pattern. The teaching point may be presented in the form of a rule, a very short one, usually done in the mother tongue. The rule helps the learner to understand and to assimilate the structural meaning of the elements. It ensures a conscious approach to learning. This approach provides favourable conditions for the speedy development of correct and more flexible language use. However it does not mean that the teacher should ask pupils to say this or that rule. Rules do not ensure the mastery of the language. They only help to attain the practical goal. If a pupil can recognize and employ correctly the forms that are appropriate, that is sufficient. When the learner can give ample proof of these abilities we may say that he has fulfilled the syllabus requirements.
Conscious learning is also ensured when a grammar item is contrasted with another grammar item which is usually confused. The contrast is brought out through oppositions. For example:
I get up at 7 o'clock.
It's 7 o'clock. I am getting up.
He has come.
He came an hour ago.
Give me a book (to read into the train).
Give me the book (you have promised).
I like soup (more than any other food).
I like the soup (you have cooked).
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should realize difficulties the sentence pattern presents for his pupils. Comparative analysis of the grammar item in English and in Romanian or within the English language may be helpful. He should think of the shortest and simplest way for presentation of the new grammar item. The teacher should remember the more he speaks about the language the less time is left to practice. The more the teacher explains the less his pupils understand what he is trying to explain, this leads to the teacher giving more information than is necessary, which does not help the pupils in the usage of this particular grammar item, only hinders them.
2. Practical approach
It means that pupils learn those grammar items which they need for immediate use either in oral or written language. For example, from the first steps of language learning pupils need the Possessive Case for objects which belong to different people, namely, Mike's textbook, Ann's mother, the girl's doll, the boys' room, etc. The learner masters grammar through performing various exercises in using a given grammar item. Teachers should teach correct grammar usage and not grammar knowledge.
3. Structural approach
Grammar items are introduced and drilled in structures or sentence patterns.
It has been proved and accepted by the majority of teachers and methodologists that whenever the aim to teach pupils the command of the language, and speaking in particular, the structural approach meets the requirements.
Pupils are taught to understand English when spoken to and to speak it from the very beginning. This is possible provided they have learned sentence patterns and words as a pattern and they know how to adjust them to the situations they are given.
In our country the structural approach to the teaching of grammar attracted the attention of many teachers. As a result structural approach to grammar teaching has been adopted by our schools since it allows the pupil to make up sentences by analogy, to use the same pattern for various situations. Pupils learn sentence patterns and how to use them in oral and written language.
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should furnish pupils with words to change the lexical (semantic) meaning of the sentence pattern so that pupils will be able to use it in different situations. He should assimilate the grammar mechanism involved in sentence pattern and not the sentence itself.
4. Situational approach
Pupils learn a grammar item used in situations. For example, the Possessive Case may be effectively introduced in classroom situations. The teacher takes or simply touches various things and says: This is Nina's pen; That is Sasha's exercise-book, and so on.
Rule for the teacher:
The teacher should select the situations for the particular grammar item he is going to present. He should look through the textbook and other teaching materials and find those situations which can ensure comprehension and the usage of the item.
5. Oral approach
Grammar items pupils need for conversation are taught by the oral approach, i.e., pupils aud them, perform various oral exercises, finally see them printed, and write sentences using them. For example, pupils need the Present Progressive for conversation. They listen to sentences with the verbs in the Present Progressive spoken by the teacher or the speaker (when a tape recorder is used) and relate them to the situations suggested. Then pupils use the verbs in the Present Progressive in various oral sentences in which the Present Progressive is used. Grammar items necessary for reading are taught through reading.
Rule for the teachers:
If the grammar item the teacher is going to present belongs to those pupils need for conversation, he should select the oral approach method for teaching.
If pupils need the grammar item for reading, the teacher should start with reading and writing sentences in which the grammar item occurs.
While preparing for the lesson at which a new grammar item should be introduced, the teacher must realize the difficulties pupils will meet in assimilating this new element of the English grammar. They may be of three kinds: difficulties in form, meaning, and usage. The teacher thinks of the ways to overcome these difficulties: how to convey the meaning of the grammar item either through situations or with the help of the mother tongue; what rule should be used; what exercises should be done; their types and number. Then he thinks of the sequence in which pupils should work to overcome these difficulties, i.e., from observation and comprehension through conscious imitation to usage in conversation (communicative exercises). Then the teacher considers the form in which he presents the grammar item - orally, in writing, or in reading. And, finally, the teacher plans pupils' activity while they are learning this grammar item (point): their individual work, mass work, work in unison, and work in pairs, always bearing in mind that for assimilation pupils need examples of the sentence pattern in which this grammar item occurs. [56, pp.155-159], [40, pp.14-20]
§ 1.4 The Difficulties Pupils Have in Assimilating English Grammar
§ Tenses - English has a relatively large number of tenses with some quite subtle differences, such as the difference between the simple past "I ate" and the present perfect "I have eaten." Progressive and perfect progressive forms add complexity.
§ Functions of auxiliaries - Learners of English tend to find it difficult to manipulate the various ways in which English uses the first auxiliary verb of a tense. These include negation (e.g. He hasn't been drinking.), inversion with the subject to form a question (e.g. Has he been drinking?), short answers (e.g. Yes, he has.) and tag questions (has he?). A further complication is that the dummy auxiliary verb do /does /did is added to fulfill these functions in the simple present and simple past, but not for the verb to be.
§ Modal verbs - English also has a significant number of modal auxiliary verbs which each have a number of uses. For example, the opposite of "You must be here at 8" (obligation) is usually "You don't have to be here at 8" (lack of obligation, choice), while "must" in "You must not drink the water" (prohibition) has a different meaning from "must" in "You must not be a native speaker" (deduction). This complexity takes considerable work for most English language learners to master.
§ Idiomatic usage - English is reputed to have a relatively high degree of idiomatic usage. For example, the use of different main verb forms in such apparently parallel constructions as "try to learn", "help learn", and "avoid learning" pose difficulty for learners. Another example is the idiomatic distinction between "make" and "do": "make a mistake", not "do a mistake"; and "do a favor", not "make a favor".
§ Articles - English has an appreciable number of articles, including the definite article `the' and the indefinite article `a, an'. At times English nouns can or indeed must be used without an article; this is called the zero article. Some of the differences between definite, indefinite and zero article are fairly easy to learn, but others are not, particularly since a learner's native language may lack articles or use them in different ways than English does. Although the information conveyed by articles is rarely essential for communication, English uses them frequently (several times in the average sentence), so that they require some effort from the learner. [41, pp.63-70]
The chief difficulty in learning a new language is that of changing from the grammatical mechanism of the native language to that of the new language. Indeed, every language has its own way of fitting words together to form sentences. In English, word order is more important than in Romanian. The word order in Tom gave Helen a rose indicates what was given (a rose), to whom (Helen), and by whom (Tom). If we change the word order and say Helen gave Tom a rose, we shall change the meaning of the sentence. In Romanian, due to inflexions, which are very important in this language, we can say the same sentences without changing the meaning of the sentence, as the inflexion in the words indicates the object of the action.
The inversion of subject and finite verb in Are you… indicates the question form. In speaking English, Romanian pupils often violate the word order which results in bad mistakes in expressing their thoughts.
The English tense system also presents a lot of trouble to Romanian-speaking pupils because of the difference which exists in these languages with regard to time and tense relations. For example, the pupil cannot at first understand why we must say I have seen him today and I saw him yesterday. For him the action is completed in both sentences, and he does not associate it in any way with today or yesterday.
The sequence of tenses is another difficult point of English grammar for Romanian speaking pupils because there is no such phenomenon in their mother tongue. Why should we say She said she was busy when she is busy?
The use of modal verbs in various types of sentences is very difficult for the learner. For example, he should differentiate the use of can and may. Then he should remember which verb must be used in answers to the questions with modal verbs. For instance, May I go home? No, you mustn't. May I take your pen? Yes, you may. Must I do it? No, you needn't.
The most difficult point of English grammar is the article. The use of the articles and other determiners comes first in the list of the most frequent errors. Pupils are careless in the use of “these tiny words” and consider them unimportant for expressing their thoughts when speaking English.
English grammar must begin, therefore, with pupils' learning the meaning of these structural words, and with practice in their correct use. For example: This is a pen. The pen is red. This is my pen and that is his pen. [57, pp.134-162]
І The most common grammatical mistakes
§ Spelling, pupils often misspell words;
§ Pronouns, pupils often misuse them: everyone, someone, anyone, and no one;
§ Verb forms, e.g. Where did you went? I am agree. I have 11 years;
§ Use of the wrong tenses, e.g. If I will come;
§ Homonym errors, e.g. to - too, your - you're, whose - who's, principal - principle;
§ Usage error, e.g. accept - except, advise - advice, affect - effect, really - real, good - well, a lot - allot, regardless - irregardless;
§ Sentence structure, pupils often form wrong sentences, e.g. What you doing?
§ Punctuation, pupils often use inaccurate punctuation marks;
§ Apostrophes, pupils often misuse the apostrophe, e.g. your's, paper's;
§ Capitalization, pupils often do not use the necessary capital letters;
§ Irregular plurals, pupils often mix them, e.g. mens, childrens;
§ Prepositions, phrasal verbs;
§ Using the wrong prepositions;
§ Misuse of the infinitive, verbs, reported speech;
§ Un-English expressions;
§ Omission/confusion of prepositions;
§ Unnecessary articles;
§ Wrong position of adverbs;
§ Confusion of number, parts of speech.
[42, pp.74-80], [49, 50]
The amount of difficulties learners encounter while accomplishing grammar tasks can be reduced by applying some techniques and strategies. A number of efficient methods and useful tips will be described in the following subchapters.
§1.5 Guidelines on Giving Effective Explanations
You may feel perfectly clear in your mind about what needs clarifying, and therefore think that you can improvise a clear explanation. But experience shows that teachers' explanations are often not as clear to their students as they are to themselves. It is worth preparing: thinking for a while about the words you will use, the illustrations you will provide, and so on; possibly even writing these out.
2. Make sure you have the class's full attention
In ongoing language practice learners' attention may sometimes stray; they can usually make up what they have lost later. But if you are explaining something essential, they must attend. This may be the only chance they have to get some vital information; if they miss bits, they may find themselves in difficulties later.
3. Present the information more than once
A repetition or paraphrase of the necessary information may make all the difference: learners' attention wanders occasionally, and it is important to give them more than one chance to understand what they have to do. Also, it helps to re-present the information in a different mode: for example, say it and also write it up on the board.
4. Be brief
Learners have only a limited attention span; they cannot listen to you for very long at maximum concentration. Make your explanation as brief as you can, compatible with clarity. This means thinking fairly carefully about what you can, or should, omit, as much as about what you should include. In some situations it may also mean using the learners' mother tongue, as a more accessible and cost-effective alternative to the sometimes lengthy and difficult target-language explanation.
5. Illustrate with examples
Very often a careful theoretical explanation only `comes together' for an audience when made real through an example, or preferably several. You may explain, for instance, the meaning of a word, illustrating your explanation with examples of its use in various contexts, relating these as far as possible to the learners' own lives and experiences. Similarly, when giving instructions for an activity, it often helps to do an actual demonstration of the activity yourself with the full class or with a volunteer student before inviting learners to tackle the task on their own.
6. Get feedback
When you have finished explaining, check with your class what they have understood. It is not enough just to ask `Do you understand?'; learners will sometimes say they did even if they in fact did not, out of politeness or unwillingness to lose face, or because they think they know what they have to do, but have in fact completely misunderstood. It is better to ask them to do something that will show their understanding: to paraphrase in their own words, or provide further illustrations of their own. [44, pp.16-17]
1.5.1 Presenting and Explaining Grammar
Grammar acquisition is increasingly viewed as crucial to language acquisition. However, there is much disagreement as to the effectiveness of different approaches for presenting vocabulary items. Moreover, learning grammar is often perceived as a tedious and laborious process. There are numerous techniques concerned with grammar presentation.
However, there are a few things that have to be remembered irrespective of the way new lexical items are presented. If teachers want students to remember new grammar it needs to be learnt in the context, practiced and then revised to prevent students from forgetting. Teachers must take sure of that students have understood the new words, which will be remembered better if introduced in a “memorable way”. Bearing all this in mind, teachers have to remember to employ a variety of techniques for new grammatical presentation and revision.
We suggest the following types of grammar presentation techniques:
1. Visual techniques. These pertain to visual memory, which is considered especially helpful with the grammar retention. Learners remember better the material that has been presented by means of the visual aids. The visual techniques lend themselves well to presenting concrete items of grammar. They help students to associate the presented material in a meaningful way and incorporate it into their system of the language units.
2. Verbal explanation. This pertains to the use of illustrative situations connected with the grammar material studied.
It is surprisingly difficult to present and explain a foreign-language grammatical structure to a class of learners. The problem is, first, to understand yourself what is involved in `knowing' the structure (its written and spoken forms, its nuances of meaning), and in particular what is likely to cause difficulties to the learners; and second, how to present examples and formulate explanations that will clearly convey the necessary information. This is a place where clear thinking and speaking are of paramount importance, although you may elicit suggestions from the learners and encourage their participation in the presentation, it is essential for you to know to present the structure's form and meaning in a way that is clear, simple, accurate and helpful. There is, often, a conflict between `simple' and `accurate'; if you give a completely accurate account of a structure, it may be far from simple; if you simplify, you may not be accurate. One of the problems of grammar presentations is to find the appropriate balance between the two.
v Introducing New Grammar Structure and Meaning
We will consider ways in which children can be introduced to new language structure. When we present grammar through structural patterns we tend to give students ordered pieces of language to work with. We introduce grammar, which can easily be explained and presented. There are many different ways of doing this, which do not (only) involve the transmission of grammar rules.
It is certainly possible to teach aspects of grammar - indeed that is what language teachers have been doing for centuries - but language is a difficult business and it is often used very inventively by its speakers. In other words real language use is often very untidy and cannot be automatically reduced to simple grammar patterns. Students need to be aware of this, just as they need to be aware of all language possibilities. Such awareness does not mean that they have to be taught each variation and linguistic twist; however, it just means that they have to be aware of language and how it is used. That is why reading and listening are so important, and that is why discovery activities are so valuable since by asking students to discover ways in which language is used we help to raise their awareness about the creative use of grammar - amongst other things.
As teachers we should be prepared to use a variety of techniques to help our students learn and acquire grammar. Sometimes this involves teaching grammar rules, sometimes it means allowing students to discover the rules for themselves.
What do we introduce? Our job at this stage of the lesson is to present the pupils with clear information about the language they are learning.
We must also show them what the language means and how it is used; we must also show them what the grammatical form of the new language is, and how it is said and/or written. What we are suggesting here is that students need to get an idea of how his new language is used by native speakers and the best way of doing this is to present language in context. The context for introducing new language should have a number of characteristics. It should show what the new language means and how it is used, for example. That is why many useful contexts have the new language being used in a written text or dialogue.
A good context should be interesting for the children. This doesn't mean that all the subject matter we use for presentation should be wildly funny or inventive all the time. But the pupils should at least want to see or hear the information. Lastly, a good context will provide the background for a lot of language use so that students can use the information not only for the repetition of model sentences but also for making their own sentences.
Often the textbook will have all the characteristics so that the teacher can confidently rely on the material for the presentation. But the textbook is not always so appropriate: for a number of reasons the information in the book may not be right for our students in such cases we will want to create our own contexts for language use.
One of the teacher's jobs is to show how the new language is formed - how the grammar works and how it is put together. One way of doing this is to explain the grammar in detail, using grammatical terminology and giving a mini-lecture on the subject. This seems problematical, though, for two reasons; firstly - many pupils may find grammatical concepts difficult, secondly - such explanations for beginners will be almost impossible.
A more effective - and less frightening - way of presenting form is to let the students see and/or hear the new language, drawing their attention in a number of different ways to the grammatical elements of which it is made. While advanced students may profit from grammatical explanations to a certain extent, at lower levels we must usually find simpler and more transparent ways of giving students grammatical information. [43, pp.49-90]
1.5.2 A General Model for Introducing New Language
The model has five components: lead-in, elicitation, explanation, accurate reproduction, and immediate creativity.
During the lead-in the context and the meaning are introduced or use of the new language is demonstrated. This is the stage at which students may hear or see some language (including the new language) and during which students may become aware of certain key concepts. The key concepts are those pieces of information about the context that are vital if students are to understand the context and thus the meaning and use of the new language.
During the lead-in stage, then, we introduce our context (making sure that key concepts are understood) and show the new language in use.
During the elicitation stage the teacher tries to see if the students can produce the new language. If they can, it would clearly be wasteful and de-motivating for them if a lot of time was spent practicing the language that they already know. At the elicitation stage - depending on how well (and if) the students can produce the new language - the teacher can decide which of the stages to go to next. If the students cannot produce the new language at all, for example, we will move to the explanation stage. If they can, hut with minor mistakes, we may move to the accurate reproduction stage to clear up those problems. If they know the new language but need a bit more controlled practice in producing it we may move directly to the immediate creativity stage. Elicitation is vitally important for it gives the teacher information upon which to act: it is also motivating for the students and actively involves their learning abilities.
During the explanation stage the teacher shows how the new language is formed. It is here that we may give a listening drill or explain something in the students' own language; we may demonstrate grammatical form on the blackboard. In other words, this is where the students learn how the new language is constructed.
During the accurate reproduction stage students are asked to repeat and practice a certain number of models. The emphasis here will be on the accuracy of what the students say rather than meaning or use. Here the teacher makes sure that the students can form the new language correctly, getting the grammar right and perfecting their pronunciation as far as is necessary.
When the children and teacher are confident that the children can form the new language correctly they will move to immediate creativity. Here they try to use what they have just learned to make sentences of their own, rather than sentences which the teacher or book has introduced as models.
It is at this stage that both teacher and student can see if the students have really understood the meaning, use and form of the new language. If they are able to produce their own sentences they can feel confident that the presentation was success.
Notice again that if the students perform well during elicitation the teacher can move straight to immediate creativity. If at that stage they perform badly the teacher may find it necessary either to return to a short accurate reproduction stage or in extreme cases, to re-explain the new language.
When introducing new material we often need also to give explicit descriptions or definitions of concepts or processes, and whether we can or cannot explain such ideas clearly to our students may make a crucial difference to the success. [20, p.34]
§ 1.6 Grammar Presentation and Practicing Techniques
§ Charts and graphs - are visual elements often used to point readers and viewers to particular information. They are also used to supplement text in an effort to aid readers in their understanding of a particular concept or make the concept more clear or interesting. They are used to make it easier to understand new grammar structure and are useful for clarifying relationships between different parts of speech. A visual representation can often be clearer than a verbal one to introduce a tense. This is especially true where students do not have similar tenses system in their mother tongue.
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