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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 01/12/2023

How to Teach Grammar in Your ESL Classroom

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

There will always be debate about how to best teach and learn a foreign language.  As an English teacher, one thing you know for sure is that your students need to know grammar and you need to know how to teach it to them. For example, understanding sentence types, word order, and verb tenses will help you design appropriate lessons to meet your English students' needs.  Despite popular believe, grammar can be fun for you and your students.

4-Week TEFL Course Expectations

Don’t remember much (or any) of the grammar you learned in your high school English class? Have no fear! During your 4-week TEFL course in Costa Rica, we will not only teach and review grammar, but we will also help you understand how to plan an English lesson with a grammar component. 

When working with adult English students, they will depend on their knowledge of grammar as a base for learning the language. In turn, they will depend on you as the teacher to explain English grammar clearly to them. Before teaching grammar to your students, study the concept you are planning to teach. When you are working for a school or a language institute, they will normally provide some resources, but you need to look for more information from books like Basic English Grammar by Betty Azar or websites like the British Council

As the teacher, we are responsible for creating lessons that focus on grammatical forms in an engaging way. Before teaching our students the grammar, they should be exposed to the target form being used in a natural context, like in a reading or listening passage.  This is called the "model," and usually looks like a dialogue, a short paragraph, or a conversation. 

Bob:  Hey Tom!  How are you?  What are you doing today?

Tom:  Hi Bob, I am working.  Are you working today?

Bob:  No, I am not.  I am driving to the beach.

Tom:  Oh, have fun!  Is your sister going with you?

Bob:  No, she is studying for her exam.  She isn't coming to the beach.

Then we look at specific examples from the model and present the rules.  We recommend showing at least three examples.  If teaching a specific tense, it is good to have one positive example, one negative example, and one question.  For instance, if I were teaching the Present Continuous, I could show the following examples:  I am working.  You aren't dancing.  Are you taking notes?  Keep your examples and your rules simple, and elicit responses and explanations from your students as much as possible. Don’t just tell them the answers!It's important to check for comprehension at every step of the lesson, and to make sure they really understand and are not just getting lucky answers!

When presenting specific rules of the grammar, we need to teach both the form, the meaning and the use. The form is the way we put the structure together, so it is the formula, if you will.  The meanings is the reason we use this particular structure. For instance, the form of the Present Continuous is:  Subject +  am/is/are  + verb-ing.  However, the meaning is to talk about actions happening right now, and the use is one particular situation in which we implement this particular grammar, for instance, describing what is happening in a picture.

Teaching English in Costa Rica

After presenting the form and the function, we need to give our students ample opportunities to practice the grammar in a variety of ways - Gap fills, true/false activities, multiple choice, either/or, matching, activities with pictures, and word order activities are good options when giving the students guided, repetitive activities. Your students need to have a solid base of the form before you can expect them to use the grammar while speaking or writing, which is the ultimate goal. 

After the practice activities, you students need to produce the grammar in communicative and interactive activities that are set in a natural context - play games, use pictures, and create scenarios. This is the fun part! This is the part we missed out on when learning languages in high school. It’s easy to fill in the blank, but it’s a whole lot harder to use the phrase in a real life conversation.

Back to the Present Continuous. For the production, bring in lots of pictures showing people doing things. Let your students describe the picture using the grammar. For instance, the boy is playing ball; the girls are laughing; the baby is crying; the mom is not listening. You can also ask them to find the differences in two pictures or play competitive games.  Ask your students to discuss their personal opinions with surveys, discussion questions, or ranking activities that bring in the specific grammar.  The idea is to get the students comfortable with the grammar so they will be able to use it in real-world scenarios.  Of course, one class is not enough.  You will need to continue to provide more practice and review activities until the students master the task, but if you know the grammar well and plan engaging lessons, your students will enjoy it and they will be successful!

Although this can sound intimidating, don't worry!  While you are in one of our 4-week TEFL courses, we will share our knowledge and experience so you are well-equipped to teach your ESL students.  Not yet registered for one of our TEFL coursestalk with us today!

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