Goals and Techniques for Teaching Grammar
The goal of grammar instruction is to enable students to carry out their communication purposes. This goal has three implications:
Overt Grammar Instruction
Adult students appreciate and benefit from direct instruction that allows them to apply critical thinking skills to language learning. Instructors can take advantage of this by providing explanations that give students a descriptive understanding (declarative knowledge) of each point of grammar.
An important part of grammar instruction is providing examples. Teachers need to plan their examples carefully around two basic principles:
Relevance of Grammar Instruction
In the communicative competence model, the purpose of learning grammar is to learn the language of which the grammar is a part. Instructors therefore teach grammar forms and structures in relation to meaning and use for the specific communication tasks that students need to complete.
Compare the traditional model and the communicative competence model for teaching the English past tense:
Traditional: grammar for grammar's sake
Communicative competence: grammar for communication's sake
At all proficiency levels, learners produce language that is not exactly the language used by native speakers. Some of the differences are grammatical, while others involve vocabulary selection and mistakes in the selection of language appropriate for different contexts.
In responding to student communication, teachers need to be careful not to focus on error correction to the detriment of communication and confidence building. Teachers need to let students know when they are making errors so that they can work on improving. Teachers also need to build students' confidence in their ability to use the language by focusing on the content of their communication rather than the grammatical form.
Teachers can use error correction to support language acquisition, and avoid using it in ways that undermine students' desire to communicate in the language, by taking cues from context.
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