Review ~ Teaching English Grammar

An engaging and comprehensive set of lesson ideas
Reviewed for Teflnet by Saul Pope
Teaching English Grammar

Teaching English Grammar

When offered the chance to review a book by Jim Scrivener, I jumped at it. When I first started in this industry Learning Teaching was my roadmap – he seemed to be able to explain fairly complex concepts very clearly, giving me the confidence to go out and teach and, perhaps most importantly, experiment. I can see Teaching English Grammar helping new teachers in exactly the same way with what is (for native speaker teachers at least) the hardest part of EFL teaching.

The book starts with a brief introduction in which the author sets out his aim to “save you time, energy and stress and help you to feel more confident, well-informed and one step ahead of your students”. There is then a brief section on key terminology, including useful potted guides on the use of timelines and finger contractions. This is a brief section mostly aimed at new teachers, but even an old-timer like myself found a useful tip – that teachers spend too long worrying about making lessons fun, when the real aim should be to make them engaging.

The main part of the book is split into seventy grammatical areas, each covering a different structure. After explaining the structure for the teacher, Scrivener suggests simple ways to present and practice it. This is complemented by concept questions and typical problems students encounter with each structure. Sounds all rather ordinary? Well, in a sense it is. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but that isn’t the aim. I have used a variety of the presentation and practice suggestions to teach grammar at various levels, and all have worked well. They are simple, well-explained and engaging for students.

This is a book that experienced teachers will find it most useful just to dip into. I have tended to just use the presentation suggestion, or perhaps one of his practice ideas. It has been very helpful in saving me time, as the activities are explained clearly and tend not to need much preparation. With our Cert TESOL trainees, the book has been excellent for their teaching practice in helping them to plan for each stage of a grammar lesson, as well as preparing for the aforementioned problems students are likely to have.

One criticism of Teaching English Grammar is that it doesn’t engage new technology. Many of the activities rely on a visual aid to start the presentation. The pictures here are line drawings that are, to be honest, pretty ropey, and if drawn on the board then the most time-consuming aspect of the presentation. I know every teacher isn’t lucky enough to have access to IT in the classroom, but this aspect feels a little weak when compared to the rest of the book, and does let down those new teachers who might wonder about this.

However, this is a fairly minor glitch in what is a useful title for both trainees and experienced teachers. Scrivener writes in an engaging and straightforward manner. His ideas are easy to use in lessons, yet comprehensive enough to make you sure that your students will have every confidence in your teaching.

Reviewed by Saul Pope for TEFL.net April 2011

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