Sunday, 23 January 2011

Teacher Talk 13: Should we teach grammar in isolation or in context?

thank you for your question and permission to publish the following:

20 January at 13:57 
Salam Mdm..I want to ask about teaching grammar. Which way is better to teach my low proficiency students teaching grammar in context or in isolation? Can you please give me some ideas. Thank you :)

My response

dear ____,

as far as i know, there's no research saying one is better than the other. very much depends on the principles in teaching grammar that a teacher adopts- whether u focus on form and meaning only or whether you focus on form, meaning and use. Some teachers think grammar as a fixed set of word forms and rules of usage. Hence, such teachers will focus on grammar as a set of forms and rules. They teach grammar by explaining the forms and rules and then drill students on them.(they believe drilling leads to mastery) But this overt grammar teaching results in students getting bored and disaffected. Yes, ss can produce correct forms on exercises and tests, but they consistently make errors when they try to use the language in context.

Other language teachers, make the difference between language learning and language acquisition. They tend not to teach grammar at all. Believing that children acquire their first language without overt grammar instruction, they expect students to learn their second language the same way. They assume that students will absorb grammar rules as they hear, read, and use the language in communication activities.

Then we also have the communicative competence model that balances the two views above. The model acknowledges that overt grammar instruction helps students acquire the language more efficiently, but it incorporates grammar teaching and learning into meaningful communication tasks. these communication tasks can be in the form dialogue, authentic samples of language etc. by doing this ss can internalise the rules.

I think what we need is an appropriate balance between exercises that help learners come to grips with grammatical forms, and tasks for exploring the use of those forms. This is the 'use' part. It's not enough to just focus on form and meaning. A mix and match of teaching grammar in isolation or in context is recommended. this is only mu opinion anyway..i hope i've answered ur question :) would u mind me publishing this in my blog? ur identity will be deleted of course. do let me know.. 

 ~the thinking teacher~

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