Filling Our Students’ Toolbox: Part 1. Grammar.

One of our goals is to help students become independent learners. To achieve this we must give our students tools and offer practice using them so that the students can then carry those tools outside of the classroom and use them constructively.

Grammar and grammar terminology are two such tools. I’m a firm proponent of teaching grammar directly. Grammar can and certainly must be integrated with other skills, but without taking the time to give direct attention to structures, many students cannot fully grasp the purpose and meaning of those structures. It’s part of our job to raise students’ awareness of how parts create a whole, that is, how grammatical structures work together to allow communication. Particularly at the upper levels, students need to feel comfortable talking about grammar in order to ask questions about it. Knowledge of grammar terminology develops that confidence and eases the students’ task of finding answers to their questions. Once they leave our classroom, they can refer to books and online sources when a doubt surfaces, and knowing grammar terms will facilitate their search and help them digest the information they find.

It’s important to note that knowledge of grammar terms is something to be promoted but not graded. I wouldn’t recommend testing students on terminology unless they have plans to become English language teachers themselves. A good practice is to use terms and simultaneous paraphrase them into user-friendly language. This way a term becomes familiar to the students and they are clear what it refers to. Example: Let’s talk about conjunctions – those words that join ideas together.

More on filling our students’ toolbox later this week!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Good post. I couldn’t agree more about giving them the terminology as a tool. I even point out where there are more terms for a grammar point such as progressive or continuous tense and noncount or uncountable nouns since I am not sure what terms they were exposed to before they came to my class.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Yes, it’s true that we must think about what our students were exposed to before studying with us and what they might encounter after they leave our classroom. I think a good practice is to be consistent with your own choice of terms, but point out variations (just as you do).

      Thanks for the comment!

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