I hope I’m not alone when I confess to having an off day in the classroom, but I think it’s forgivable if you’ve been able to achieve consistency in your teaching. Delivering quality presentations on a regular basis is partly due to knowing what ingredients make a “meal” suitable for your students’ appetite and pleasing to their palate.
1. Never put too much on their plate at one time. If you have to serve a feast, serve one course at a time. In other words, break a long presentation into shorter ones. Intersperse them with follow-up exercises, giving them time to chew on each idea.
2. Like the smell of food, your opening line will either draw your students in or turn them off. Avoid jumping into a nuts and bolts explanation: “Today’s topic is gerunds. What’s a gerund? Turn to page 12. A gerund is…” Make the effort to engage your students before giving important information. For instance, you can pose a question that incorporates the targeted grammar: “What do you think most people your age enjoy doing?” Use their answers to gauge how well they already understand and use the grammar and then select a few statements as models for your presentation.
3. Don’t be afraid to get them involved. Who says you can’t ask a dinner guest to help out in the kitchen? Likewise, who says a grammar presentation is wholly a teacher’s performance? Make the presentation interactive. Ask the students questions, elicit their examples, and allow them the chance to offer their own explanations. This doesn’t imply letting strong students do all the talking for you. It suggests that the presentation can be a shared experience, and through their contributions (albeit varied in degree), students will feel empowered.
4. Provide visual input. Think of your grammar presentation like a good dish. What you see adds to the enjoyment and ease of digesting the food. Italian dishes are known for their vibrant colors: red, green, and pasta-yellow. Japanese dishes are known for their attractive display. A grammar presentation should also be vibrant and attractive. One that consists only of words is flat and hard to assimilate. You must visually support any oral explanation. Provide useful notes on the board and keep the information concise and organized. [See my entries The Board.] Graphic organizers can be the equivalent of a Japanese bento box, or lunch box. Visual “extras” include photos, diagrams, and gestures.
5. Teach with positive energy: enthusiasm is contagious. Picture a mother pinching her nose and closing her eyes before eating vegetables. What does that communicate to the children sitting at the table? Similarly, you mustn’t convey a dislike for any grammar topic. Vegetables are nutritious and with the right preparation they can be delicious. Grammar is essential and when presented well, it is valued and appreciated by students.