7 Tips for Teaching Grammar

Altiné looks at how you can make learning grammar more enjoyable and effective.

What if I tell you that everything you have learned about teaching grammar is wrong? Yes, the old-fashioned way of teaching grammar does not work. 

You might wonder then what works? Well, I am glad you ask. Fellow these 7 Tips for Teaching Grammar to take your teaching to the next level.

In addition, you will make your classes engaging and extremely enjoyable for both you and your students (we all know how boring and painful old-fashioned grammar classes can be). 

1. Understand grammar before teaching it

Understanding grammar requires preparation. My first tip is to be well prepared before you teach a grammar lesson and get your head really clearly around the rules. It will make your teaching much better. 

In addition, being well prepared will increase your ability to break down grammar rules and provide relevant examples (more on this later see tip 2) for your students, and make your class more enjoyable. 

Side note: remember you can’t know everything. Whenever a student asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I just say, “Let me look that up after class and get back to you” (but you must follow through). 

2. Don’t try to teach grammar rules explicitly

In the old-fashioned way of teaching grammar, teachers regularly use this kind of explanation: “We use the present perfect  for an action or situation that started in the past and continues in the present.” 

In my view, using grammar rules to teach does not work and only leads to confusion and frustration – I know from experience!

Instead of trying to teach grammar rules explicitly, use lots of examples, talk about situations and context and get your students to notice patterns and differences. That is why understanding grammar will come in handy. 

However, some students do need structure and clear-cut rules, at least at the beginning, before they begin to get the nuances of the language. 

3. Offer lots of relevant, accurate examples

Teaching grammar can be tedious for both you and the students. But you can change that. The key is to have a good lesson plan that makes grammar relevant to real life along with a few fun activities or games to practice using it.

Making your lesson relevant to your students facilitates comprehension. When students realize that what they are learning is relevant to their lives, their interest in the topic will automatically increase.

Know your students’ interests, relate all your examples to their interests, and teach English within a context and not just as bland grammar. 

For instance, in one of my classes, most students like basketball, so when teaching the second conditional, a relevant example will be “What would you do if you were drafted in the NBA?”

4. Make the sentences funny and attention grabbing

The truth is that both teaching and learning grammar can be very challenging, but a good teacher strives to make it as painless, fun, and accessible as possible. 

Making your sentences funny will capture your students’ attention. 

One time, I was reviewing a lesson on verbs and adverbs. I started with an example that involved something bad happening to a cute baby animal. 

I wrote “The tiny gangly baby giraffe,” and suddenly the students said, “oh no, Mr. Altiné, what are you doing to the baby giraffe!” and then they started fighting to give me verbs and adverbs. It kept the class engaged and interested. 

5. Use games

Using games and puzzles is an excellent way to get your students engaged, and it will also add a little competition in the classroom.

You can use countless games in your grammar classes to review both vocabulary and grammar and encourage conversa­tion.

An alternative game is to create teams or pairs of students and give them post-it notes and get them to write answers and run to you with the correct answer.

Students are generally super competitive, and creating teams or pairs of students leads them to work as a group and help one another.

6. Put students in the role of the teacher

Give your students the freedom to create their grammar lessons, instructional videos, or grammar worksheets. I did this, and I was pleasantly surprised by the creative ideas my students came up with. 

I gave them time to work out their lesson, do a presentation on it, and create some assignments.

In addition, putting students in the teacher’s role will teach students time management, presentation, and leadership. 

7. Have your students write extensively

Having your students write extensively is one of the methods that I adore as it provides the best results. After writing, I ask them to read aloud what they wrote. Students usually notice their own mistakes, and then I have them practice editing. Having your students write extensively also teaches them to organize their thoughts and learn the correct spelling of words and subject-verb agreements.

Written by Altiné Mni for TEFL.net August 2021
Altiné is from Toronto, Canada, and currently teaches mathematics at a high school in Guangzhou, China. He has a master's degree in International Economics and Finance from Ryerson University in Canada and is passionate about helping people worldwide through his blogs. He writes about TEFL Teaching and Health and Fitness. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, traveling, and anything that allows him to experience the beauty of nature. You can find him at altinify.com.

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