Yesterday, I met with Ieva from Simply Ieva on Instagram live. And surprise! We were matching and not on purpose! Ieva was one of the first ESL teachers I met on Insta, back when I thought we were the only ones. I soon found out there were so many more and the rest has been history! The learning has not stopped.
We talked mostly about grammar and how to not drill and kill with worksheets. However, we did both agree that worksheets may have their place, but it shouldn't be the only way to deliver and practice grammar. Some of my favorite ways are to pre-teach and practice with a mini-lesson (template here) and in context with content using a language dive template.
According to Ieva, grammar has gotten a bad reputation, but reading The Grammar Answer Key by Keith Folse helped her understand that teaching it is essential and gave her some research-backed ideas to introduce it. It also inspired her grammar teaching sequence checklist.
Here are some of the key takeaways from our Saturday chat:
1. There's a sequence, but it isn't exactly linear. I know, not really what a new teacher or a content teacher may want to hear. When we're new, we want someone to just tell us what to teach! It isn't exactly that cut and dry, teacher friends. If you follow a sequence, you may start with the present tense form. That doesn't mean that you skip other things like using demonstrative adjectives "this" or "that". If you are teaching the present tense of "be", you know you'll have to review adjectives since "be" is a linking verb. So, just by teaching the present tense form of "be", you are also teaching articles such as "the", demonstrative adjectives, and regular adjectives!
2. There are fun ways to engage students in speaking with the grammar focus.
We talked about using information gap and interviews. For these exercises, students may not even realize that they are practicing grammar! Interviews can be a quick icebreaker or you can role-play as someone in the text you are reading. Wouldn't it be fun to have students role-play Romeo and Juliet but with your targeted grammar focus?? Or interview classmates as if they were Romeo or Juliet?
For example, if you were having a student interview Juliet as if she had just met Romeo and you were also reviewing the irregular past tense, you could have them ask questions like, "Where did you meet Romeo? What drew you to him? Why didn't you like the prince?" Students would have to answer, "We met...I didn't like..." And the key is getting students so engaged and having fun that they don't even know they are learning.
3. When they're not ready to write, add scaffolds. For those of you who teach an ESL class that supports a content-area class, if students are writing thesis statements (or whatever they are doing! This is the example we talked about), your beginners may not be ready for it. And that is okay. Getting students writing with the grammar focus doesn't have to be having them write essays or even thesis statements by themselves. It does mean you can give them scaffolds such as sentence or paragraph frames with a word bank. Maybe you give them the structure you have been focusing on and let them fill in their own ideas.
For example, and yes, this example is another high school one about Romeo and Juliet because that is what we are doing right now in my classes! This example might be for if we were reviewing present tense of "be" with my beginners and analyzing how the characters change:
________ (Romeo or Juliet) ____ (form of be) a complicated character who ______ in the story from _______ to _______.
There are so many creative ways to get students engaging with grammar. How do you make grammar fun? What other things do you do than give worksheets for grammar practice? Comment and share below!
To learn more about teaching grammar and strategies for the sentence level of language, check out my course, My EL Mentor: Creating a Language-Rich Classroom!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.