Archive for Tag: Geneva Tesh

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Grammar Terminology in the ESL Classroom

GenevaGeneva Tesh is an ESL teacher, materials writer, Azar-Hagen Grammar Series contributor, and grammar enthusiast. She teaches in the Intensive English Program at Houston Community College.

Someone recently challenged me with a question. How would I define the past perfect for students if class were about to end and I had only a few minutes to jot down a definition on the board? I wrestled with the question, not because I couldn’t think of a definition, but because I couldn’t imagine writing a definition of a grammatical term on the board in an ESL classroom. What I would do instead is write a few sentences with past perfect verbs. I might write a couple more with the simple past and present perfect to illustrate how the past perfect differs from other past forms. Is it useful for students to know grammar terminology? To some extent I think it is, but in other ways I wonder if it hinders language learning.

When I think about this question, my former student Sasha comes to mind. Sasha was upset because she couldn’t understand the difference between adjective clauses and noun clauses. Oh, well that’s easy. An adjective clause describes something, whereas a noun clause acts as a noun. She shook her head in frustration, still not getting it. I carefully defined clauses, nouns, and adjectives. By this point she was exasperated, insisting that she understood the difference between a noun and an adjective, but not between a noun clause and an adjective clause. I finally came to this conclusion: it didn’t matter whether or not she could understand the terminology. She knew how to use both clauses very well in both speech and writing. We were wasting time parsing sentences and focusing on meta-language. To further illustrate my point, I asked Sasha to walk around campus and ask ten students, ideally native speakers, to explain the difference between an adjective clause and a noun clause. I suspected she would find only one or two who could do it. In fact, she found none. She talked to over a dozen native speakers, but not one could explain what adjective clauses and noun clauses were.  And yet these were native speakers who can, we assume, use a variety of complex clauses with perfect accuracy.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

The 5th Edition of the Blue Book

GenevaGeneva Tesh is an ESL teacher, materials writer, Azar-Hagen Grammar Series contributor, and grammar enthusiast. She teaches in the Intensive English Program at Houston Community College.

You’ve probably heard by now that Understanding and Using English Grammar has been revised this year. Several teachers have asked if they’ll need to make any major changes to their lesson plans. For the most part, no. You’ll be able to use your old syllabus and exams with just a few small exceptions. Here’s a brief look at some of the changes you’ll find in the fifth edition of UUEG.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that Chapter 1 from the fourth edition has been removed. (The charts can now be found in the Appendix.) This chapter was a general preview of all the verb tenses, with the next few chapters explaining the verbs in greater detail. UUEG CoverIn the new edition, Chapter 1 starts with simple and progressive verbs in the present and past. Chapter 2 now covers the perfect and perfect progressive tenses, Chapter 3 goes over future time verbs, and Chapter 4 is a verb tense review chapter. Because all of the information that was in Chapter 1 of the fourth edition is also presented in Chapters 1 through 4, this change shouldn’t have a big impact on what you teach in your grammar class. However, if you have the chapter numbers on your syllabus, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Flipping Your Grammar Classes with Azar-Hagen Grammar Series

tesh croppedGeneva Tesh is an ESL teacher, materials writer, Azar-Hagen Grammar Series contributor, and grammar enthusiast. She teaches in the Intensive English Program at Houston Community College.

The flipped classroom model is not a new concept for most ESL teachers. We’ve been flipping classes long before it became the latest trend in education, long before we even knew what to call it, understanding intuitively that students will not acquire a language by passively listening to an instructor’s lecture. Flipping the classroom happens naturally in conversation and reading classes, which lend themselves to class discussions or role-playing activities, or in writing classes, where students can spend valuable class time writing and peer editing.  But what about grammar classes? This seems to be where many teachers get trapped in the common pitfalls of providing lengthy explanations and reading through a list of rules, followed by reciting answers to fill-in-the-blank activities. How can grammar teachers apply the flipped model to create engaging, dynamic lessons?

Today’s flipped classroom typically requires students to watch online mini-lectures of instructional material, followed by interactive practice in the classroom, but it could just as easily require students to study from a textbook rather than watch videos. Most ESL textbooks are designed with this flipped model in mind, again not because of a conscientious decision to follow the latest trend but because of an understanding that language fluency is achieved through practice, not lengthy explanations.  The Azar-Hagen Grammar Series works especially well for a flipped class because it presents the grammar in small bursts of instruction without requiring students to wade through long contextualized reading passages. Take this chart from the first chapter of Understanding and Using English Grammar.

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