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Teaching Grammar but Building Confidence, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 585

Essay

Publishers release piles upon piles of teaching books with highly idealistic tips and situations-specific wisdom about how to handle tricky lessons or challenging situations. From the moment that the page flipped and revealed “How NOT to Teach Grammar”, readers gain a sense that the well-meaning philosophies and tips will be equally balanced by tough love, especially in the evolving science of proper grammar usage.

Grammar, PPP, and New Ways

Ironically, Thornbury recommends against the very process which the majority of teachers select for grammar instruction (2006, pp. 251-253). The traditional method became known as the PPP method and followed the sequence of presentation, practice, and production.  As research continues to expand teachers’ understanding of diverse learning styles and multiple intelligences, it seems unbelievable that teachers usually favor such an oversimplified method. As the author mentions at the end of Chapter Seven, the techniques and procedure tend to overwhelm the potential of the lesson and usually emerges in dry examples and constant drilling. In this model, accuracy trumps fluency, but the natural use of language follows a set rhythm and tone which makes fluency more useful in the wider range of language. The Direct Method resembles natural language acquisition, but first language learners also receive constant feedback and practice in a wide range of settings (pp. 51-52). Second language learners may acquire new languages in a bubble of small numbers of staff, students, and the local cultural community- if it exists and maintains a presence nearby. Proximity and confidence together build the learner to  level of comfort with the second language being acquired.

As teachers, one of the biggest lessons to learn concerns the difference between almost perfect and wrong. In other words, nit-picking at the smallest details often becomes the focus of the lesson in place of building student confidence through encouragement and mastery of smaller grammatical components. For example, the use of ‘the’ or ‘a’ before a noun, as a quantitative modifier, often eases students into the more complicated aspects of sentence construction. For a crash course in what really matters, teachers do well to begin with the conclusion on page 126. Furthermore, Thornbury (2006) explains that these errors happen as a natural part of language acquisition. With this in mind, student experimentation with grammar- even when it produces minor errors- shows a growing acquaintance and confidence with complex sentence structure. However, the author also warns that ignoring these minor errors will damage linguistic development, so the supportive acknowledgement of these errors is crucial and best accomplished in a supportive, positive method. Perhaps the most interesting detail of these chapters comes in the discussion of rule-governed creativity and discovery learning (p. 51). Rules, discovery, and creativity interact to unleash the creative side and still develop skills through self-discipline, and this balance includes aspects learning even from the earliest phases of language, which depend upon phonics and survival vocabulary.

Conclusion

The author includes some of the expected examples of non-traditional grammar instruction. The examples of situational context teaching clearly target high school students as they discuss pensions; ideas on the opposite page propose an interactive experience with the children wherein the teacher illustrates tense as they walk through the classroom, their speech following the natural rhythm of their steps (p.50). Increasing numbers of upper-grade students do not acquire sufficient grammar and are expected to include these concepts without much comprehension of full mastery. Comprehension ought to be the goal of any unit not focusing on critical thinking and abstract logic.

References

Thornbury, S. (2000). How to Teach Grammar. Pearson Education ESL. Print.

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