Do you need intensive grammar?
Must you be a grammar wizard?
Here’s how to deal with it.
Why do so many TEFL and CELTA courses put so much emphasis on teaching grammar directly and intensively as the goal of a lesson rather than teaching it indirectly and related to the direct teaching of functions?
I think it is because either they are lazy (putting together a grammar lesson is fast, easy AND boring!) and/or they don’t always really understand the purpose of learning English. Sad to say, but it sure seems to be true.
Very quickly, first, lets talk about what a function is. It’s simple: a function in teacher-talk is a specific task. So teaching students the English needed to find and rent an apartment, for example, would be a function. Most often functions are stated like this: Asking and Answering Questions about Renting an Apartment. Or in occupational language it might be the language required to deal with a customer complaint at a business or to inquire about the details of a service or product. Then the function might be: Dealing with Customer Complaints or Answering Customer Questions about Servicing their New Honda.
Let’s try a few more functions: Asking for Permission to Stay out Late on Friday Night. Expressing your Opinion about [fill in the blank].
Teachers who teach functions will generally have a much more motivated group of students. Why? Wouldn’t you rather learn how to actually do something that interests you or that you NEED to know, than to learn – let’s say – about the future perfect progressive aspect of verbs? Ow! I almost fell asleep just writing that. Students are motivated by learning functions that are relevant to their daily lives. Future perfect progressive, on the surface anyway, doesn’t seem relevant to anything.
Particularly if you ever teach Business English or English for Specific (or Special Purposes classes, you should always be teaching functions.
I am not suggesting never teaching grammar, but teaching grammar in the context of a function makes much more sense to students and gives them a motivation to use the language, rather than just the raw information of how to use a grammar point.
To actually get to the grammar, if you feel irresistibly drawn to it, you can always have some grammar games put together after several lessons to reinforce and integrate the grammar you have covered in recent lessons. Make a chart and work to fill it all in over a certain period of time, but teach the component parts… by teaching functions. It’s MUCH more enjoyable. For you and your students.
Tip #1: Teach functions rather than grammar points. Your students will thank you and you will feel far more productive.
Tip #2: Motivate your students to learn even more by asking them what they would like to learn to do or deal with – in English.