Unqualified Native Speaker

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Unqualified Native Speaker

Unread postby Vivienne » 27 Aug 2012, 16:08

Hi Lucy

This is a wonderful site and very useful, thank you.

I'm a native speaker (British/South African) and I've been teaching conversation for almost two years. I recently got a new job which requires teaching more grammar and I find this very difficult. I usually prepare myself in advance, so that I'm clear on the grammar point in context of the lesson. The problem is, is that my students tend to ask me questions about grammar as they arise in their minds, and I, not wanting to divert from the planned lesson or ignore their questions, get into a mild panic because I don't always have the answers available at the tips of my fingers. I tend to rather teach grammar points by example rather than in a technical way.

Is there any advice you can give me? Would a formal qualification help?

Another thing I find is that my students love grammar when it's in a multiple choice questionnaire and they usually score full marks, but when it comes to using the grammar in conversation they mix it up completely and it's confusing for them.

I sincerely love what I do and I have been quite successful, so I really want to beat this fear I have about teaching grammar.

At the moment I'm teaching from Cambridge's Let's Talk, which is my employer's standard curriculum. What's your professional opinion of this course?

Thank you for your time.
Vivienne
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Re: Unqualified Native Speaker

Unread postby EnglishClick » 29 Aug 2012, 10:07

Hi Vivienne,

I hope you don't mind me replying even though the post is addressed to Lucy, but I too have fears of teaching Grammar.

Like you, I always plan ahead for grammar lessons/sections and find it difficult if a student asks a grammar related question that I cannot give an in depth answer to. But I must say that I've learnt that if you try your best to answer the question and then back it up by saying "let me take a note of your question and do a little more research so that I can give you the best answer possible" most students find that very satisfying because they know their teacher is interested in what they have to say and that they want to help their students progress.

Never be afraid to divert from your lesson plan, as you can never predict what problems/questions will arise. That's something I have learnt recently and once I realised it was ok, it has made things a lot easier. Just make sure you write yourself a little note as to why you diverted from the plan and what bits you haven't managed to complete. There's always next lesson :)

You mention that your students love multiple choice grammar questions but have difficulty when using the grammar point in a conversational activity. This is often the case as I have found that many students learn a grammar rule by heart so that they can easily identify it and write it down, but when using it in a speaking activity they tend to struggle as they cannot "see" the grammar (I hope I'm making sense). In this case it is always good to encourage more speaking and less writing once they have understood a grammar point.

Others may not agree with me, but these are just my views on what I have experienced and observed over the past 3 and a half years.

I hope my post has been of some use to you. :D
Best wishes,
Rhia
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Re: Unqualified Native Speaker

Unread postby Lucy » 29 Aug 2012, 16:44

Hi Vivienne,

Thanks for your positive comments about the site; we’re glad you like it.

I’ll answer your questions here and respond to Rhia’s comments later.

You say that you are an unqualified native speaker teacher and I think that the area of teaching grammar is something you have never studied. In fact, most native speakers of English have never studied grammar of any sort and that is why many of us find it difficult to explain grammar to students. Given your new role, you will need to improve your knowledge of grammar. I suggest you read a good grammar book. Michael Swann’s Practical English Usage is excellent but may be too technical for you at this point. Raymond Murphy has written grammar books aimed at students but they are also very helpful for teachers who need to brush up on their grammatical knowledge. You could read his English Grammar in Use or Advanced Grammar in Use. I’m afraid this is a topic that you have to know if you wish to continue teaching.

You ask about a formal qualification but I don’t know of one that focuses on grammar for teachers. Knowledge of grammar and teaching grammar are 2 different subjects; you may be able to find a short course on teaching grammar but it won’t help you with those on-the-spot questions.

Your idea of teaching grammar point by example is excellent; it’s an excellent way for students to encounter the language in context. You may also want to supplement it with explanations.

Your comment about students knowing grammar in formal exercises and not in conversation is a very common concept. When students are speaking, they need to think about what to say, the language to use, vocabulary, as well as responding to their classmates input. This is a lot for a person to do and it is very common for students to make mistakes with language that they know well. The way around this is to always point out the error. If the error is serious and being repeated by many students, you should correct immediately. If not, you can make a note of it and point it out after the communicative activity. With time, it will be enough for you to make a sign when students make a mistake and they will try to self-correct. If you want more ideas on this, just write in again.

Good luck with this and I am sure you will get over the fear of teaching grammar.

Lucy
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Re: Unqualified Native Speaker

Unread postby Lucy » 29 Aug 2012, 16:51

Hi again,

I’m using a separate post to respond to Rhia’s comments.

I agree entirely about deviating from your lesson plan; that is absolutely fine.

Regarding grammar, as I said in my post above, it is essential for teachers to know the structure of the language they are teaching. I don’t agree that a teacher should “try their best to answer the question”. I think they should give an accurate description or no explanation at all. I have seen inexperienced teachers have a go at explaining grammar, only to get it wrong and confuse the students; even worse, the student may understand and learn an explanation that is not correct. I think it is far better to make a note of the question, do the research and explain the point later (as Rhia also suggests). If you want to save face, you don’t have to explain to students that you don’t know, just do it. Depending on the culture you are teaching in, it may not be acceptable for a teacher to say that they don’t know the answer.

Lucy
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Re: Unqualified Native Speaker

Unread postby Vivienne » 29 Aug 2012, 17:25

Thanks a lot. That helps and your reply is encouraging too.
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