Teaching grammar may be the most daunting part of your TESOL job, especially if you have to teach grammar to young learners. The problem that most teachers face is that they don’t know how to teach grammar using the Communicative Approach, so they follow the textbook or present the grammar point on the board. Those who take their TESOL certification course with OnTESOL know that the grammar lesson does not have to be boring! The purpose of a communicative grammar class is to use activities that go beyond the generation of correct language. Teaching grammar in context is a key principle of the Communicative Approach. Playing is the natural state of children, as games are the way kids relate to their friends and family in a meaningful way. Hence, ESL games permit meaningful utilization of the language in context and children are more inspired to learn grammar with games.
This article on teaching grammar focuses on “functions”, what this word means in methodology jargon, and how we can identify functions through context. I would also like to introduce the connection between function and structure and how these concepts are combined in a Communicative Approach lesson.
The word ‘function’ is a term we use from the time the Notional/Functional syllabus was born and it continued to be used in Communicative Language Teaching. When we say something, we say it to communicate that particular thought to the listener. Every single sentence – and sometimes single words- has a function (i.e. meaning that the speaker is trying to convey). Even the word “yes” with falling intonation expresses detachment, non-involvement. Or, a word like ‘Tea?’ with rising intonation may mean an offering.
Why do we need to understand the concept of functions and exponents as English teachers? Well, when we teach grammar communicatively, we teach our students how to express what they want to say, and how to combine words to express those intentions.
Traditional stories, famous tales, personal experience stories and personal imagination stories are a powerful source to develop language learning skills at all levels and ages.
There are good reasons to use stories in the ESL classroom:
- Stories attract the students’ attention
- They are fun
- They are a wonderful tool to practice speaking, listening, reading and writing skills
- They provide a meaningful context for the new vocabulary or grammar topic to be presented or reviewed
- They are good to practice pronunciation, sounds, intonation, and sentence stress.
The education levels that a person attains in South Korea can have an enormous impact on his/her job prospects, so getting into a good university can open doors to job opportunities that simple do not exist for less educated people. This translates to a culture that puts pressure on students as young as 6 years old to perform well in school.
Rote Memorization – TESOL South Korea
What exactly are the students learning in these incredibly competitive classes? They learn facts. The Korean education system is based on a decades old system of rote memorization that is applied to every subject. Math, Society, Korean, History, Geography; all of the ten or so subjects that a student must take in elementary and middle school are taught by rote memorization.
There are many strategies in the Communicative Approach that ESL teachers could employ to teach language and culture at the same time. What’s important to keep in mind is that the two should be taught simultaneously and at all levels of learning. Learners begin by becoming familiar with the new culture, progressively moving toward comparisons between cultures, and eventually gaining an in-depth knowledge of both (Sellami, 2000). The classroom activities described below teach language and culture simultaneously; however, all language lessons have an element of culture in them.
Teaching culture is an integral part of teaching a language. They are intricately woven together. In order to communicate clearly and effectively in any language, learners must have knowledge of the language’s vocabulary, grammar, when and how to use them appropriately (function), and the corresponding body language. Students also need to be able to read and make accurate assumptions about the other person’s meaning by evaluating his/her verbal and non-verbal cues. When one is gauging the appropriateness of language and behaviour, culture must be considered. It would be impossible to explain, for example, how to talk to a potential employer without talking about both the language and its culture.
In the communicative classroom, teaching listening skills should be approached in the same way as the other skills – with a communicative purpose. Often, listening is taught with a linguistic purpose first and foremost – to improve and develop listening skills in the target language (this applies to other language skills as well). This is, of course, a key goal of most listening lessons; however, in the “real world,” how often do we listen with this goal in mind? Do your students go to the shopping mall on the weekend to buy a cell phone, and then listen to shoppers and store workers intent on improving their listening? In the shopping mall we listen because we need to get certain information, whether that information includes specific prices and options on a cell phone, or another shopper telling you why she prefers shopping at one store instead of another.
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