Archive for Tag: grammar rules

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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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Grammar Teacher’s Rant

TamaraJonesBy Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, Howard Community College
Columbia, Maryland
jonestamara@hotmail.com

I had a disturbing conversation with another teacher a few days ago, and it’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. It’s been a bit frustrating because, at the time, I just couldn’t think of a diplomatic way of responding to her. So I just nodded and smiled like an idiot, while inside my head I was screaming and tearing out my hair. Maybe you’ve had a similar kind of experience?

The Wind Blow or Blows?

Anyway, when this conversation happened, I was delivering a professional development session for some local teachers. In the session, I provided the participants with a variety of scenarios containing excessive teacher talk time (TTT) and asked them to come up with suggestions for reducing the TTT. (Incidentally, when I was doing research on reducing TTT, I came across some interesting theories and teaching tips that I hope to share in a future blog post. Stay tuned!)

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