Review ~ Grammar

This new third edition of the Oxford “Grammar” series will take your young students from Starters to Flyers.
Reviewed for Teflnet by John Grant

Grammar One (part of the Oxford "Grammar" series for children)

The Grammar series of student books from Oxford neatly deals with the thorny issue of how to teach grammar to young learners in a communicative way. The series can be used as class books to prepare for the Cambridge ESOL Young Learners English Tests or as supplemental material to illustrate a specific grammar point. It all begins with Grammar Starter and Grammar One, which correspond with the Starter exam and then towards Movers. Grammar Two prepares young learners for the Movers tests and on towards Flyers. Finally the last of the series is Grammar Three, which works on the Flyers test and beyond. So you can use these as the main exam preparation book for your young learner classes for many different levels and grades.

Each book covers around twenty distinct grammar items that relate to the appropriate Cambridge exam. The item is presented in a short text or written dialogue to illustrate the meaning. The grammar explanation is on the same page in a boldly-coloured box, so we don’t have to go searching for the explanation at the back of the book. On the opposite page are simple controlled practice activities to practice the form of the grammar. For example in Grammar Two, there are a simple series of action pictures and the students are asked to write what each character was doing. On the following two pages, the exercises become steadily more challenging. This could be quite useful if you have mixed ability or lower level classes as you can use the exercises appropriate to your students’ level. Finally, each section ends with a communicative activity in pairs, teams or as a class. After five or six of these items there is a review section. This format holds true for all of the books in the series. So if you decide to use these books as your main course book over the years, the continuity makes them easy to navigate.

The characters in the books also continue throughout the series. In Grammar Starter, we are introduced to two siblings, Jenny and Nick from Merton, England. They have a dog Chip and a mischievous green alien from Triglon named Trig. The simple colour drawings of these four characters in different situations neatly demonstrate the specific grammar points without being distracting. Luckily the little green alien largely disappears by Grammar Three where he might be seen as a little childish for students studying for their Flyer exam.

The books come with a pronunciation guide CD, which my students found very enjoyable as they are always interested in hearing other English voices. For teacher’s notes and additional activities, you can find these online on the dedicated Trig page on the Oxford Press website (but you have to register, for free, for the site). On the website there is a massive amount of teacher’s notes, worksheets and online games to supplement the course books. This is perfect for a nice blended learning (computer and classroom based) course where students like a lot of different activities.

In fact there might be too much on the website. When I tried to get my class of thirty-five students all on to the same online game, they became much more interested in exploring the website and the different games and activities on it. So perhaps the website is best used for self-study periods. I found my students responded much better to the traditional exercises in the book and communicative activity at the end of the class.

I think that the Grammar series deals with a missing area in exam preparation. We needed consistent and easy to use grammar textbooks for students that are working towards their Cambridge Young Learner exams. It also heads in the right direction as far as blended learning goes, with a lot of support for teachers and students alike.

Reviewed by John Grant for Teflnet February 2012
John Grant has been teaching English around the world for over fifteen years. He now resides in Japan and is always looking for new ideas to make his classes enjoyable and his life a little easier!

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