hi i’m new to this site and am desperate for some help!
i have been teaching english in spain since october and am more and more worried about my lack of grammar knowledge. i have a degree in english and worked as a teacher for 9 years in the uk. i have always known that my grammar knowledge is bad but it turns out it’s terrible! i am picking up stuff as it comes up in the syllabus at the academy where i work but this doesn’t help with spontaneous grammar questions. i also find it very difficult to correct student as i know that sentences are grammatically incorrect but cannot explain why! HELP!! what should i be doing?
Oh dear! You really could do with a full immersion grammar course but failing that here are a few ideas you could try and adopt to get by while you are learning:
Make sure you thoroughly look up any grammar related item, which is going to be part of your lesson, before hand.
When you prepare for a lesson go through everything you’ll teach and try and ask yourself the questions you think you might be asked. If you do not know the answer, look it up.
During the lesson make a note of any grammar questions that popped up. Whether or not you were able to answer it, check it out after the lesson and make sure you know the answer.
Subscribe to Forums about English Grammar (Forums both for teachers and students like Free-esl.com)
See if any of your colleagues is willing to sit down with you to explain a few key points.
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I would second the great advice from ICAL Pete. If you know that your grammar knowledge is lacking then you need to be putting in as much time in preparation as you can before going into class. Obviously you can never predict every question, but if you’ve been teaching since October (presumably the same students…?) you should be getting an idea of what kind of things they will ask you.
And when you are getting ready for the class and grammar points you will be teaching, then think over your lesson plan from the point of view of the students – are there likely to be questions thrown up out of what you’ve covered that you can gen up on.
If you think that what the students are asking is perhaps out of the scope of that day’s lesson, then maybe you can tell them you will cover it next class – giving you some time to figure out how to explain it.
I’m sure your grammar isn’t terrible, it’s just the explaining of it that we all find difficult sometimes.
If you can, try and pick up a grammar book or two. I’m doing a course next month and in preparation I’m working my way through a number of methodology books, including grammar. It’s nothing to feel ashamed of, reading up on things like that – just because English may be our mother tongue, we all need things explained to us from time to time.
Do whatever you need to do to gain your confidence back.
thank you for your comments and support. Any suggestions on a good grammar book?
The grammar book I’m going through at the moment is called "Grammar to Go" published by Houghton Mifflin. I was limited to what I could buy in the bookstore in Seoul, but it’s pretty good as far as explanations go. There are so many that I guess if you get the chance to browse in the bookstore, just go for the ones that you feel you can learn from. If the explanations are good, concise and easy to get your head around, then you will be able to take that into the classroom.
A couple of other books I’m looking at are:
"Teaching Practice Handbook" published by Heinemann
"A course in Language Teaching" by Penny Ur, published by Cambridge
One I like is "How to teach grammar" by Scott Thornbury. It has some very good and practical ideas that you can use in the classroom.
I do not know your nationality, although it is fairly reasonable to guess you’re one of the many British expatriates teaching their mother tongue to EFL students (Spaniards?).
I believe it is of paramount importance to get a good mastery of the student’s language, not only from the "communicative" standpoint but also from the "grammatical" point of view. This can help you shape an image of the grammatical mentality of the learners, and predict their questions. Try to imagine their expectations—which are based on what they know about language in general and the mother tongue (which is obviously the most rational, the most appropriate to express human needs and feelings, in one word the BEST of them all.
One more thing. I suspect that what you really need is not a pedagogic grammar—albeit thick and sophisticated— but rather a LINGUISTIC grammar of English: a description of the language based on linguistic principles and a cognitive approach. After all, what the studes are asking for is the JUSTIFICATION of a linguistic norm, and only a grammar book which does not content itself with describing but aims at giving criteria that account for seemingly unruly phenomena can provide you with the answers you and your learners need.
I just have to take a moment to complement JenniferP on her
response to bec’s question. It was a great confidence builder for
those of us who need a boost. It was well stated too. Additionally,
it reminds us of the every important factor of what we do before-
hand: prepare, prepare, prepare. And yes, we are in this together.
If we’re on this board, perhaps we could be considered a "team".
I was worried about the same thing when I started. I did one of the weekend courses. But i didn’t feel very confident, so I decided to do one of those online ones too. then when i called up i got chatting with the girl and she suggested i take a grammar module. I can’t tell you how much it’s helped – i’d definitely recommend it. the one i did was with i-to-i. I don’t know if it’s something you’d be interested in but if it is just ask for laura she’s the one that helped me.
Hope that helps.
I think that all new EFL teachers have the same problem when they begin. I started teaching in my 40s after being a freelance writer for over 20 years and I figured I would have no problem with the grammar. After all, I had been using it successfully every day. I was often employed as a copy-editor so I felt I knew my stuff.
Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on studying grammar in the UK educational system. In Spain the students begin studying grammar from an early age, as they need to master the complex grammar of their own language. Their ability to label parts of grammar is incredible. Though I knew the grammar instinctively, I found it hard to put labels on things.
I spent my first year teaching sitting in the sun with my course books, analysing the grammar that I was expected to teach in the next class. I tried to predict all the questions that might be asked, mainly by asking them of myself. In class, any questions that were asked that I could not immediately answer I promised the student that I would find the answer for the next class. I always did so, and in doing so learnt as I went on.
The book that helped me the most, and still does, is not a boring old grammar book. I think that such books are a complete turn-off, and any I have tried to get into have left me cold. Michael Swan’s, "Practical English Usage" is the most accessible and comprehensible reference for all grammatical questions. I suspect that most of your students are upper-intermediate or below, so this book will cover everything you need to know and you will find it interesting enough to dip into daily.
For Advanced level students you will have to have a much deeper understanding of the finer points of English grammar.
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