When asked what skill they need or want to improve the most, English language learners often answer “grammar.” Grammar is essential for fluency. We can’t speak or write in another language without it. But it’s often considered to be a tedious and boring skill. How can we make grammar more interesting?
Out with the old, in with the new
It was with this question in mind that I set out writing new lessons and revamping old ones for ESL Library’s main grammar section (Grammar Practice Worksheets) over the past few years. This section already had many lessons, but it was missing a few beginner basics such as adjectives and advanced lessons such as the subjunctive. This section has 48 lessons so far, and there are several more grammar targets I plan to write lessons on in 2016 (including more lessons on modals and quantifiers, for starters). Also, the older lessons were drill-type sheets with page after page of written grammar exercises. This is great for homework or extra practice, but doesn’t necessarily lend well to a comprehensive and engaging lesson of the grammar target. How could our new and old grammar lessons be improved?
A more communicative approach
Grammar drills have their place, but being able to produce the target in a repetitive task without any context doesn’t always mean the students can actually use the grammar target later on. A good grammar lesson, in my opinion, should include speaking and writing (as in a paragraph, not fill-in-the-blanks) exercises to show that a student can use the target correctly. Some individual tasks (find the error, fill in the blanks, etc.) are necessary to give students time to figure out the grammar on their own, but pair and group activities ensure that the lesson is interactive and engaging. Variety is key!
You’ll find that all our new and revamped Grammar Practice Worksheets have most or all of the above. There’s also a multiple-choice review at the end of the lessons (because there’s nothing worse than when a teacher has to spend their own personal time making tests because the textbook doesn’t include any—am I right?).
Another key feature to our new and revised Grammar Practice Worksheets is that these lessons begin with a grammar review. This one- to four-page review of the target structure can be used in several ways:
- Use it to present the grammar point before getting into the practice exercises.
- Try a related warm-up and/or exercise from the lesson first (to elicit the grammar through context or to see how much your students already know), and then go into the grammar explanation.
- Print out the grammar review for students to go over for homework before the lesson the next day.
- Print out the grammar review only for those students who need the extra clarification (before or after going through the lesson).
- Better yet, try all of the methods with different lessons and see what works best for you and your learners.
The grammar review includes as many things as possible to help students master a particular point, from exceptions to a rule to memorization tricks and visuals such as charts. We hope you and your students will discover that the grammar review makes the target easier to teach and learn!
Recently revised lessons
Here are some Grammar Practice Worksheets that have been reformatted and added to recently:
- Simple Future (Beg – Int)
- Direct and Reported Speech (Int – Adv)
- Count Vs. Non-Count Nouns (Int)
- Articles (Int)
- Articles (Beg)
Save a tree or three!
Because some of our grammar lessons are now up to 20 pages in length, we’d like to offer some suggestions on how you can help the environment if you plan on printing out these lessons.
- Print double-sided.
- Only print out the pages you plan on doing that day.
- Display some of the exercises on an overhead projector or SMART Board, and have students write the answers in their notebooks.
- Add a listening component! Give the instructions orally for speaking and writing activities.
- Assign some of the exercises as pair or group tasks, and only print out one page per pair/group.
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know if you have any other grammar lesson requests, and feel free to share other ways you teach grammar in your classes.
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