Webchat Moderator (Sarah): The pendulum regarding the teaching of grammar has swung from methods that are grammar-based to methods that say grammar should not be taught at all. Where are we now on this topic? It seems that we are back in the middle with our leaders saying that we should teach grammar, but to do it communicatively. What does that mean? Some would say that it means we teach the rules, but we do not do the old fashioned substitution and chain drills. We should give examples and activities from authentic communication. Join us in our webchat to discuss these questions and issues regarding the teaching of grammar. We look forward to your comments, suggestions, and best practices on teaching grammar communicatively. Damon Anderson: Everyone, welcome to our English Roundtable today. We will be starting in about 20 minutes. Please feel free to submit any pre-questions now. I will be back with you shortly. A few people have asked about different types of grammar. Here is a web link to a site that gives definitions of the different types of grammar: http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/a/grammarintro.htm. Check it out while you are waiting for the chat to begin in a couple of minutes. I hope this helps. Today we are talking about teaching English grammar in EFL classes at all levels. Welcome everyone. Let's begin our discussion. Please do not feel shy about submitting any questions or comments. We will try to keep the discussion threads flowing. liwei: Hello, Damon. Nice to meet you. Damon Anderson: Hello Liwei. Great to meet you too. kun herrini: I am here. Kun Herrini from Jakarta. Hi, Damon. Damon Anderson: Hi Kun. Great to have you with us! Wang Ping: Hello, everyone! Hi, Li Wei and Kun, I’m so glad that you made it here. liwei: Dear Wang Ping, I just came back from London yesterday. And I set an alarm clock to avoid I miss the discussion again. :) Wang Ping: Welcome Back, Li Wei! Hope you've had a great time at IATEFL. I saw and learned such a lot at TESOL. liwei: Wang Ping, so do I, maybe we could exchange ideas about the conference sometime. It really helps me a lot!!! Doan Ba Ngoc: Please advise how the session will be conducted? Damon Anderson: That's a good question. Just submit a question or comment and we will post it and respond to it as a community. Doan Ba Ngoc: Thanks Damon. nguyenhoa: Hi. Damon Anderson: Hi Nguyenhoa. Welcome. kun herrini: Just read the above link and learn where the word 'glamour' came from. A nice surprise. I never imagined that. Thanks, Damon. mirranda: Afternoon, Damon! Damon Anderson: Hi Mirranda. Chen Xiaoju: Hello, everyone! I hope we'll have a fruitful discussion on grammar today. My question is that do we need to pay attention to grammar in oral communication? Damon Anderson: Chen, I think you should teach grammar in an oral English class, and you should correct grammar errors when they are significant or recurring. Yara: I think this is the case for the intermediate and advanced levels and not for complete beginners liwei: Yara, on the contrary, I think for the beginners, grammar is also a teaching section which could not been avoid because language could not exist without grammar. The only thing we should do is to show grammar to young learners or beginners in the right way. This is what I think and I'd like to be the first "brick" which could induce the "jade" out. In a Chinese old saying: "Bricks induce the jade out":) Wang Ping: Li Wei, I agree. I think grammar teaching can also make sense to beginning learners. The matter is how and when in a meaningful and engaging way. kun herrini: I agree with Ping. Can anyone give us an example of a meaningful and engaging activity of teaching grammar to young learners, please? Wang Ping: An example, mmm, how about for teaching passive voice, to ask students role-play at different places to have something done, e.g. shoes repaired, hair cut, check cashed, etc. Amy: Good afternoon, Damon. I just came back from this morning's session in BIE. What do you think of explaining some grammar rules in Chinese in English classes? Damon Anderson: Amy, this is a great question for everyone! What do you all think? kun herrini: My question: When dealing with Young Learners, should we teach them grammar? liwei: kun herrini, I do think we should involve grammar in teaching young learners, but we should not teach them in a stiff way of explaining what is the rules, we should make the young learners to aware the grammar phenomenon in using the language, which could help them in their language learning. liwei: Teaching Grammar in EFL class is a very important but not a very easy section. We have to make grammar in real language situation instead of just teaching grammar rules, because grammar gives the language structure which can express feelings and meanings. ZHU Enliang: Hello, everyone! This is the first time to attend the discussion for me; I hope we have a good discussion. Damon Anderson: Welcome Zhu Enliang! liwei: ZHU Enliang! Welcome! I'm sure you will enjoy the discussion as I do. wang zhenfu: Good afternoon! Damon Anderson: Good afternoon Wang Zhenfu. wang zhenfu: Grammar is not an interesting course for both English major and non-major students. The topic here we discuss might be of help to teach college students. Anh Tuan Nguyen: I don't think that grammar should not be taught in EFL classrooms. Activities that raise students' awareness of the grammatical rules are really necessary. mirranda: In my opinion, we should say correct sentence in every day English! No sentences with many mistakes! My son is learning English now. Should I frequently correct him in grammar mistakes? liwei: mirranda, sure, I can’t agree with you more. Students will follow the teachers unconsciously. And it is very important to make the studying environment a correct one. The first impression is very important! Chen Xiaoju: For beginners, I also share the opinion of teaching grammar rules. Maybe we can explain the rule before we ask the young learners to make up an amusing story by using the mentioned grammar rule/structure? Anh Tuan Nguyen: Hi, Mirranda. What does your son need when speaking English? Well, it's the information. mirranda: How a Chinese English teacher creates an vivid situation in his class for English beginning learners? liwei: mirranda, for creates a real situation, we Chinese teachers may create a situation which focus on the grammar we study today. For example, I may tell the students I did a lot of things yesterday, and they are the interviewers or reporters who would like to know what I did yesterday or what other people did yesterday. In this environment, students could vividly know they are learning questions on past tense. We may not say the rules, but the students would know how to ask somebody about what did they do in the past during their study, and that's the most important thing in the class, to teach the students the usage of the language. ZHU Enliang: I think grammar is very important for students, and you can check the sentences with it! Alice Yan Xu: Hi, this is Alice from BNVS. One of my lesson plans is let students make a list of what they can do and which they can't but they want to learn in the future. I want my lesson to be relevant to their life. Damon Anderson: Amy, getting back to your question, I think that sometimes rules can be explained in the students' native language, but don't go overboard and use too much of the native language in class or for every explanation. hala: Do u think that will be enough without drills? Chen Xiaoju: Drills are still necessary, I think. The point is that we should try to arouse students' awareness of grammar. Some students just lack certain awareness. As a result, many careless errors just occur in their writing or speech. Wang Ping: Chen Xiaoju, I agree that drills and practices are still important, to consolidate, and reinforce structures, but would be communicative if relevant to learners and interesting to them. Damon Anderson: I think that exercises can be a spring board to grasping the grammar rules and then you can move into more communicative activities to show how to use the grammar in real-life situations. Anh Tuan Nguyen: In an EFL class, there is always L1 interference. What do you think about it, everyone? Alice Yan Xu: What does L1 mean? Damon Anderson: L1 means the first language or the student's native language. L2 therefore is their 2nd language. ZHU Enliang: (02:18) My question is why so many teachers do not pay attention to grammar, especially high school. Damon Anderson: I think it is the opposite. I think many teachers pay too much attention to grammar because it is the easiest thing to assess. What do you all think about this? kun herrini: Interesting ideas. Now, what about teachers whose English is careless but they themselves do not feel that way - very confident, on the contrary? Anh Tuan Nguyen: I agree with Damon, i.e., too much grammar at high school, secondary school Phanisara: The Thai traditional way of teaching EFL is to teach grammar. And then more surprises when secondary EFL graduates cannot carry on simple basic conversations with native English speakers. liwei 2: Damon, I agree with you that too many teachers focus too much on grammar, instead, I think we should teacher grammar without "grammar rules" in the beginning, which could make grammar more acceptable. mirranda: liwei, i totally agree with you! kun herrini: I agree with Damon. We introduce the rule, then drill a little, then semi-controlled production, then free production. What do you all think? ZHU Enliang: I don't think so. Because some students always say, "their teachers don't teach them grammar". They just pay attention to oral. Wang Ping: To bring relevance to grammar instruction, what about inviting learners to come up with examples with the grammatical structure in use and share among peers? They may be encouraged to draw on their life experiences. Damon Anderson: Communicative activities should be activities in which real communication happens. That is, students and teachers learn some information from each other. Wang Ping: also, instead of presenting the rules, why not invite learners to deduce the rules from the examples they themselves came up with or from examples supplemented with those from the teachers? liwei 2: Wang Ping, I agree with you. To let the students "find out" the similar things in some expressions by themselves, this could make grammar more impressive! Damon Anderson: What are some of the most difficult grammar points to teach or for students to grasp? Perhaps moving away from rules and giving real life examples may help them to better get a feel for it, rather than just trying to understand the rule. Alice Yan Xu: I agree with Damon. Making English lessons relate to the students' real lives is so important. Especially for the young learners, who struggle with focus. mirranda: I was an middle school English teacher, how I miss the time with my students! Anh Tuan Nguyen: I've been thinking much about the order of English acquisition. Starting with morphology study, researchers seem to have not found what should be taught first in teaching grammar. What do you think? Damon Anderson: Anh, it depends on the language you are teaching. But most students like to talk about themselves, use simple present tense, then discuss things in simple past tense. Cindy: I think grammar is important to make simpler and some complex writing. Without grammar, the life reflected in the sentences or passage would be dull. Wang Ping: Sometimes the learners would learn best when the teacher would pause and address the "grammar" question that is triggered out of the learners' response in class. There's a need for learning that grammar on the spot! Leila Heron: Can you please provide some suggestions for teaching grammar "communicatively" in the context of teaching English to Business professionals - those who are looking to improve their English-language verbal and written skills for their work. Thanks! kun herrini: Leila Heron, one example: For teaching Future Tense we can create a situation like: We are going to a Fortune Teller. The sentences produced will be: "You will....and you will...." liwei 2: Leila Heron, I think to build up a similar environment in which they can use them in their business negotiations, which would certainly be very effective in their studying. Alice Yan Xu: Hi, Kun. Serena and I like the fortune teller idea. We will try it soon. kun herrini: Alice and Serena, thanks. Wang Ping: Leila, what about ask your business professionals the situations/scenarios they are working in, for instance, making a request in an appropriate way, or inappropriate way, and have the learners revise and correct themselves. Chen Xiaoju: I often compare the words as bricks while grammatical rules are just like concrete which, together with bricks, makes the construction complete. Grammar is in each sentence, if we make the students alert to it, they are able to produce correct sentences. Damon Anderson: That is a great analogy Chen! Cindy: So in the writing, we should provide a kind of background or setting so that the grammar won't be boring. It is a kind of communication Damon Anderson: Yes, Cindy. Give the students a context in which to use the grammar. Exercises with disjointed sentences don't really give the students a sense of communication and how the new grammar fits in with the grammar they already know. liwei 2: Cindy, Yes, I think everything we teach in the classroom is for communication and language usage. So why not begin study based on language usage? Chen Xiaoju: I appreciate the idea contributed by Kun Herrini. Maybe this kind of practice is really communicative and fun! Damon Anderson: Here is another idea. Tell the students that they are standing on a corner waiting to cross the street. A blind person comes up next to them. Just as a car comes too fast around the corner, the blind person steps out. Ask the students first what they should do. Then ask the students what they should have done when they first saw the blind person. Changing the tenses is sometimes difficult for students. kun herrini: For Past Tense: do not be trapped in questions like: What did you do yesterday. But creating a scene like a concert, a crime, etc will help. Then students will play as the witnesses, reporting what they saw. All in past tense. Phanisara: I like Wang Ping's idea--to pause and then correct the student's grammar mistakes on the spot. Then the grammar teaching is not isolated, but meaningful/real for the students, and so they can remember that particular grammar points easier. Anh Tuan Nguyen: I don't quite agree with Pahnisara and Wang Ping in that mistakes should be corrected right on the spot. It much affects students' motivation to speak. Wang Ping: Anh, what I mean is not that we correct every mistake, or error, but when we see students have a need to update their grammar knowledge on the spot in order to better communicate, we offer a hand. Phanisara: I guess we need to know the personality of that particular student we are correcting. Some would like the teacher to correct the mistakes on the spot (but maybe somehow privately). Before the mistakes are internalized. kun herrini: About 'correcting', I think we should refer to the result of our discussion last month. It really depends on your students. Damon Anderson: Peer teaching and correcting help considerably when it comes to some of the more difficult grammar items, especially the tenses. susu: Do you think that correcting mistakes in a grammar lesson effected by cultural values? Anh Tuan Nguyen: Should there be a concept of "Grammar class" from the view point of Teaching Grammar communicatively? liwei 2: Anh Tuan Nguyen, Yes, I think we could do the massed learning of grammar which is called a "Grammar class", but we could also make the "Grammar class" in a communicative way instead of a single direction way. Chen Xiaoju: I am giving a so-called "Grammar class" now, but I find it boring myself. What a pity! Damon Anderson: Chen, if you are bored, the students are even more bored. Spice it up with activities that relate to real life. What grammar point are you teaching now? liwei 2: I agree with Damon that if the teacher feels bored, the students must feel more bored; the teacher couldn't cheer himself up so how could make the students active? Find some activities, real life situations, even games, competitions, sometimes it seems easy and even silly, but they are very useful. When I was even in College, I still found I was very proud to win a pen for grammar competition! Damon Anderson: Most people think of grammar as a set of rules, so they just explain the rules in a boring way, give mindless examples, and then move on. It is so boring. But if after you give the rules you put them into real life context, the students and you will have fun with learning. Damon Anderson: You can really have fun teaching grammar. Teaching relative clauses, for example. Have students describe someone in class using relative clauses only, not the person's name. “I am thinking about the person who is two seats to my left,” for example. Chen Xiaoju: Thank you, Damon. Maybe I should try to create more communicative situations to arouse students' interest. Doan Ba Ngoc: Amy raised an interesting question as to using L1 in teaching English grammar. Do you think in doing so we are teaching grammar communicatively? Damon Anderson: Doan, if you give a quick explanation in L1, but then move to a communicative activity to enforce the student's understanding, then you are still teaching communicatively. Cindy: In our students' writing, they either use the improper words or make careless mistakes in some very simple grammar issue. I guess they don't practice enough. And classes of 70 students make teachers afraid of the task of grading. kun herrini: Cindy, is internet handy for the students? You can try creating class blogs so other students can help correcting the writing.... Wang Ping: Nina, so nice to have you join us. Happy holidays! kun herrini: Hi, Nina. I am so sorry to hear the situation in Bangkok. Stay safe. Phanisara: Thanks Kun and Ping. We're safe; but I guess it's not a good way to start a "Thai New Year." Wang Ping: I have a question, how much time do you think we teachers should have in order to teacher grammar in a fun way and communicatively? Are there any institutional restraints or any pressure we put on ourselves? Anh Tuan Nguyen: What Damon suggests is great, and I just think that there should be no socalled Grammar class. An integrative approach to teaching English may be more effective. Teach grammar in the context of teaching simultaneously four skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking Wang Ping: Well said, Anh Tuan Nguyen! Chen Xiaoju: To combine grammar with writing is a good attempt to make students master English, I think. susu: I agree with Tuan Anh, communicative approach in a grammar lesson. the bookworm teacher: How about testing? Damon Anderson: I think that grammar should be tested in authentic-like communication and not in single sentences. What do you all think? susu: Testing grammar should be from progress to achievement. Phanisara: EFL Assessment is a good topic for the next roundtable discussion. Anh Tuan Nguyen: How we teach grammar is how we test grammar. Damon Anderson: We should test the way we teach, but unfortunately most teachers do not do that. I agree with Nina that Assessment would make a great discussion topic. kun herrini: I agree with Damon. Testing grammar in single sentences especially with multiple choice options does not show the real competence of the students. liwei 2: I think testing is very important to study better. But we could change the "Single Selection" testing in grammar into more applying form, for example, in cloze test or in writing test etc. Wang Ping: I think awareness raising is important in all aspects of communicative language teaching, including teaching grammar. Chen Xiaoju: If the purpose is to pass certain examinations, we need to do so-called grammar tests. In other cases, to check their speech and writing is enough. Wang Ping: I can see the point in what you say, Chen Xiaoju. Damon Anderson: If our classes are centered on learning English for communication and our students can do the activities and exercises we give them, they should be able to pass any test you put in front of them regarding that information at their level of proficiency. But if you just teach for a test, then the students only learn those things and cannot spring-board off that into real life communication. liwei 2: Damon, I can't agree with you more! susu: It seems that Anh Tuan Nguyen's from Vietnam? What do you think about our English assessment at Vietnamese schools now? Anh Tuan Nguyen: Yea, susu. I'm teaching at Hanoi University of Languages and International studies, Vietnam National University. It may take years to talk about teaching and testing English grammar in Vietnam because nearly everything is traditional, except some parts or schools in Vietnam. susu: I agree with you Tuan Anh, anyway, teacher should be 'agent of change' in the process. I am quite optimistic about the change we are carrying on. Quan Hongling: I hope I can still join in the talk, .... Damon Anderson: Of course you can, Quan! Wang Ping: Welcome Ling! You may tell us a little more how you teach grammar in Australia? Quan Hongling: Where I am here in Australia, I have noticed some children learning Chinese, the best way is to get as much language exposure as possible. Otherwise their Chinese is not understandable. Quan Hongling: Thanks, I think grammar teaching can be taught in a very communicative way, let students be aware of how language is in operation in real life context. Damon Anderson: Grammar is rules and how you use those rules has consequences. Take for example the sentence: “Woman without her man is nothing.” Where would you put the comma and why? kun herrini: Hahah..I remember that sentence, Damon. Where would you like? liwei 2: Haha, a good test, Woman without her man, is nothing! Woman, without her, man is nothing! Damon Anderson: Bravo, Liwei. Things like this make grammar fun for students, rather than just giving the rules about commas. susu: Good fun, liwei! susu: How do you all teach grammar in colleges or universities? Quan Hongling: I have been to many English classes, where most teachers spend a lot of time explain grammar rules. It's not language learning. Even you learn all the rules, you still don't know how to use language properly. Chen Xiaoju: Many tests in Chinese middle schools are really rigid and tough. I hope the situation will be changed. More attention should be paid to communicative English, with respect to grammar. After all, to learn English is for the ultimate purpose of using it. Wang Ping: Chen Xiaoju, I can't agree more. It doesn't matter how many rules you've remembered but how well you could apply those rules to use in real life. liwei 2: Chen Xiaoju, it will, let just wait. Ministry of Education had already aware the problem, and the test is already on innovations. Chen Xiaoju: Good news! I think many struggling students will be "liberated". liwei 2: Chen Xiaoju, yes, many experts, especially experts in testing are working on exam innovations, but you know, it's a long way to do the innovation work, but we are on the way. Doan Ba Ngoc: Do you think that all your students need to develop communicative competence? Especially when they are school students? Damon Anderson: The problem for the test developers is that when testing communicatively, there is often more than one possible answer. Many teachers fear this. Anh Tuan Nguyen: Some teachers may make the excuse that there are too many students in a class, so they have to use Translation-Grammar method or some way traditional. I don’t think it's a good excuse because some change in exercise can bring something communicative to the class. Quan Hongling: If we Chinese middle school teachers let students do more communicative activities in class, they will sense the rules of language being used in the real communication. Damon Anderson: Everyone, this is a great discussion! Our time is almost up. What do you think the topic of our next discussion should be? Alice Yan Xu: Damon, you have so many good ideas. I am always figuring out a good way or situation to make language related to our students' lives. Textbook is so flat and boring for students most of the time. Chen Xiaoju: Thank you all for your great ideas. susu: It's important that teacher who make the change in classroom. Quan Hongling: Yes, getting the content nearer/closer to students' life is the best way to solve the problem, even in China where English is a foreign language. liwei 2: Wow! Time is too limited and I just enjoy the discussion! Damon Anderson: Thanks, Liwei. That is a good sign. kun herrini: Thanks for organizing this, Damon and Ping. It is always great to be connected. liwei 2: Thank you for sharing so many great ideas! kun herrini: All, this has been a great discussion. Thanks. Quan Hongling: Try to make the classroom activities more communicative and shift students attention to the use of language in real life is the best way to learn a language. Anh Tuan Nguyen: Thanks, all. Enjoy the discussion so much. I always prefer an integrative approach to teaching grammar. Cheers. Damon Anderson: So far we have Nina's suggestion of discussing assessment in our next Roundtable. Do you all agree? kun herrini: Yep. Assessing without Hurting? Something like that .... Alice Yan Xu: I hope we can share more detailed lesson plans next time. Thank you Quan Hongling: Modify and adapt the text book materials to students' daily life can make the flat and boring texts alive. Anh Tuan Nguyen: Could we go further by discussing Activities for teaching grammar communicatively? I mean, next time. Wang Ping: Thank you everyone. I have truly enjoyed our discussion today. Kun, special thanks to you for all the brilliant ideas! Damon Anderson: We could keep on this topic and bring in more concrete examples if you all would like. Alice Yan Xu: Yes, I would love to talk more thoroughly about specific activities we could do with the students. Anh Tuan Nguyen: I prefer more concrete examples as Damon suggested Anh Tuan Nguyen: So, what's your final decision, Damon? liwei 2: So what is the topic next time? Assessing or grammar? Damon Anderson: So, let's try a part 2 to teaching grammar communicatively and ask those of you here this month to come back with at least one activity idea. OK? We can do assessment for our June web chat Roundtable. liwei 2: Great Alice Yan Xu: Ok. Great!! Wang Ping: Just a note on the time for our next RTD: Tuesday, May 12th. Looking forward to seeing you all then! Chen Xiaoju: Yep, I will join it! Quan Hongling: See you all for the next talk. Damon Anderson: Thank you all so much for your active participation. Am signing off for now! Happy Thai New Year for those of you from beautiful Thailand! Anh Tuan Nguyen: Nice. Thanks, see you soon on May 12 around this time.