Five Ideas for Better Grammar Lessons

Grammar lessons can be the favourite lessons for many teachers, when they are planned as a traditional PPP (present – practice – produce) lesson. A teacher who explains things straightforwardly will less likely to be stressful in front of a class.  However, on the learners’ side, considering the complexity of applying the new grammar subject in real life, grammar lessons are not many learners’ cup of tea.

Many students don’t like grammar lessons for various reasons such as the tedious grammar rules or understanding grammar words that make no sense in real life. Nobody likes a boring lesson. If you don’t carry out grammar lessons in harmony with your students, you can end up having classroom management problems at the end. So, how can you construct a meaningful bridge between your lessons and your learners and make them join with enthusiasm to your lesson? Here are some sound ways of introducing and conducting a successful grammar lesson.

1. Planning the board ahead of the lesson: Planning the board before a lesson is important for every lesson, but for a grammar lesson it is a must. Due to the amount of knowledge in grammar lessons, the board will be more populated than other types of lessons.

We have to design a board so that the crucial information won’t be lost somewhere on the board. I remember my boards at the end of my lessons without a board plan, they were simply a mess. You can easily end up having mixed sentences or run out of space in the middle of the lesson if you just put all the language randomly on the board. Some students couldn’t find the information and ask: “Teacher, I can’t see it on the board.” This is important because your board should be a reference point for your students in your grammar lessons. Whenever they need help for constructing a new language, they'll just look at the board. It's simple as that only if your students can find their ways in your board. It'll be a very good idea to design the layout of the board before each lesson, especially for grammar lessons. I personally follow some rules of board layout. For example, new vocabulary is put on the right, example sentences are on the upper side of the board starting from left, and the forms or uses of the grammar are put under the example sentences accompanied with colourful markers highlighting the important aspects or parts. I’m sharing the template of this board plan in the pictures below. When the students get accustomed to my board and trust it, they start to wonder in it and use it for constructing newly learned grammar. The board becomes an excellent helper in introducing a new grammar point and a very useful reference point for controlled exercises.

2. Checking the grammar before input: In grammar lessons, the subjects are more or less not new to most students. When false beginners are taken into account, most students have encountered the grammar before your actual lesson. They can get off the track easily in your lesson. Their boredom can be a real headache for you. So, what can you do about it?

At the lead-in stage of a lesson, I try to find out what students know about the subject of the lesson. This is like a pre-production stage. You can ask them questions that will lead them to answer using the grammar topic of the lesson or write some sentences on the board to analyse. You need to look at what they know about your lesson’s topic because you’ll build upon what they know. After getting information about what they know, you’ll know what to skip or what to focus on more. You’ll see the change at the engagement level of your students. This is a great technique for setting the correct rhythm of a lesson.

3. More examples more opportunities: Learners almost always react to a lesson negatively when they feel they don’t understand what’s being presented in the lesson. They feel insecure if they don’t know where the lesson is going. Moreover, they don’t wait for a second to object to the teacher to stop him/her: “Teacher, sorry but I don’t understand your lesson.” Students don’t have any idea how stressful and unpleasant that moment is for a teacher.

As you start presenting your lesson, they also start experimenting with the new grammar in their minds simultaneously. Students, apart from your explanations, look for ways to understand the target language. They play with it in their minds by using them in different ways such as negative forms, in a formal situation or just in a scenario that they make up. At the stage of presenting the new grammar subject, provide as many as examples you can. You can use my flashcards with example sentences that are accompanied with pictures that illustrate the sentences on the cards. It’ll be great for them to see the target language in various ways.

4. Exercise Race: When checking workbooks or exercises in a grammar lesson, getting the answers to exercises can make a lesson very dull. I prefer using competitions over exercises to get answers one by one.

How do you get them to race on exercises? First, I let them do the workbook tasks or exercises individually. Then either pair the students with a partner or form groups of students. They need to review their answers and discuss different answers between them and eventually, they have to give only one answer to each question. After finding a fancy name for their group, each group appoints a secretary to announce their answers. The whole class participates in checking and giving feedback to answers stage. When each group has a correct answer, they get a point. As you can guess, the winner will be the group with the most points. This exercise race really works for me especially in my large classes, and the lesson gets much more engaged than you might think.

5. Grammar Games: Most of you probably know the role of games in English classes. We all know that using games with younger students works great. If introduced correctly, they will work perfectly with adults as well. A little bit of competition will spice up your class.

The key to selecting your game for your classroom is whether the tasks in the game will help your students use your target language in a meaningful way. Besides bringing a communicative atmosphere to your class, most games involve cooperative learning. They demand more interaction between students compared to a PPP lesson. They help each other, correct each other and eventually develop themselves in learning English. From my experience, students learn and retain much more language in games when compared to teacher-led lessons or self-study hours. You can even see your most reserved student trying to make sentences in English when he/she is playing a game in your English class. For more ideas about using games in your classes, you can read my post on Noughts and Crosses in language classes.

Try to follow these tips for successful grammar lessons in your classes and please share your experiences in the comments below.

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