Getting Grammar Out Of The Boring Basket
I don't know about you, but when I went through school we never explicitly learned English grammar. English was, simply, English. Which of course meant that learning German in Year 8 was a complete switch-off as soon as Mrs Young mentioned past participles and articles. Huh??
This is the same Mrs Young who allowed me to write a Year 10 German assignment on the Australian band 1927... because the lead singer, Eric Wiederman, had a German name... anyway....
Trust me - teaching (and learning) grammar doesn't have to be boring.
I can see by the slight glazing over of your eyes that I'm going to have to work hard to convince you.... alrighty then...
Here's how not to do it... in my first lesson at a wee language school in Chemnitz I had to teach Reported Speech. That particular lesson has haunted me since then; I had no idea what on earth I was doing. So, I did it by the book - excruciatingly dull drills such as this:
A - "I am going to Chemnitz on Saturday."
B - "She said she was going to Chemnitz on Saturday."
A - "Peter eats corn flakes."
B - "She said Peter ate cornflakes."
Boring, right? In my defence, at that time I simply didn't know better. And here's where it all came undone -
A - "My grandma is in hospital."
B - "She said her grandma is in hospital."
A - "was - was in hospital."
B - "But if your grandma is still in hospital, then I can use is."
A - "But we aren't reporting on the action, simply on what I said and when I said it, which is in the past."
B - "But your grandma is still in hospital."
A - "Yes, she is."
B - "Ah, so I can say is."
A - "No, you can't. You have to say was."
B - "I don't understand" (audible sighs of frustration)
A - "Actually, me neither." (audible sympathetic sighs of frustration)
Have you been in a similar situation? I've met many TESOL trainers who've admitted to not knowing a thing about the grammar they're required to teach, spending hours prior to the lesson first learning it themselves and then structuring a lesson.
It's no fun. But the fun of ESL training comes after the hard work.
So you're going to have to learn grammar. In and out. There're no two ways about it. Until you know what it's all about, you're not going to be a successful teacher, and certainly not have a rewarding time.
But that said - how on earth does one learn grammar without falling into an endless sleep? Learning by doing. Read Murphy, go online, teach and try and fail and scratch your head until it just suddenly, simply clicks. You'll have this Eureka moment where it makes sense. You'll follow that conscious competence curve and relax into unconscious competence.
What, did you think I was going to make it easy for you?
What I can do, is make teaching grammar easy and fun.
So I'll focus on that in the coming days and weeks and months, as well as provide tips on particular grammar points (not boring, promise).
I absolutely love my job, because those eureka moments I had? I get to see them on my students' faces, I get to witness their language develop and through that get to have not only awesome conversations but also get that sense of satisfaction when their learning goals are reached and surpassed.
More to follow. Have fun learning!