Grammar in a spoonful of sugar anyone?

3 tips to nail your grammar lessons

When you say the word grammar, does your class suddenly give you the blank stare of death? Or perhaps you have a more mature class and they become overly focused on rules and lose sight of the communication goal of language. Whatever the reaction it causes, I find grammar lessons challenging.

It’s not that I am not good at grammar, I quite like it actually. But I’ve lived through many not-so-great grammar lessons (#introspectiveteacher).

1. Research how to explain it

It’s one thing to understand grammar it’s another thing to explain it. For this, YouTube is my best friend. Watch at least a couple of videos to see how others do it and either use the video in class or use the best of. One thing I told myself after some confusing and a little humiliating attempts and improvising… Never…ever improvise. At least I won’t.

2. Keep drills short

I had a teacher in university who used to say, “use a guerilla attack approach to grammar.” I think what she meant was, to keep it short, explain, practice, correct and move to the next thing.

3. Follow it up with a communication activity

Ideally, your next activity is a more communication-based activity that can provoke the context to use that grammar item. For that, I have made many suggestions in other blog posts (the list is at the end of this post).

Grammar challenges us (teachers and students) in different ways. It can be complex, dry and full of exceptions. Being overly focused on grammar comes at the cost of losing authentic dialogue. However, being underly focused can compromise accuracy. It’s a bit like poaching an egg, it’s not enough to know what an egg is, or how to boil water, it’s the subtle interaction of both that makes the dish. By the way, I also have a lesson on how to poach eggs. 😜

Here are some of Whole Language lessons I have that focus on grammar:

So many possibilities…I may I might

I am an avid visualizer. I love hypothetical dreaming. I test out lessons, see possible problems, and think of fun ways to connect the classroom to reality. It’s like a constant mini-movie up there. I don’t just visualize lessons, I play out conversations, memories, happy places etc…

Our ability to hypothesize and weigh possibilities is probably one of the most fascinating traits of humankind. With that deep and philosophical introduction, I would like to point you in the direction of this recent find: It is a great site full of teaching resources definitely worth perusing.

For today, I am linking a nice little conversation exercise that is meant to get participants to use ‘may’ and ‘might’. Of course, if it doesn’t go in that direction, it ok too. At the very least, it should encourage hypothetical discussions.

Click on the image to go to the site

What do you worry…? Preposition Practice

Prepositions can be a bit nebulous to second language learners. Yet they do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to meaning. So in many cases, it’s important to get it right. Here is a very short activity that requires the participants to complete the questions with the correct preposition. BUT after the exercise is complete, you can use the questions for a general discussion…double whammy.

Also, if as a teacher you need to get your head around explaining prepositions, this Khan academy presentation breaks it down a little. This is not material I would use with a student, but I thought it was interesting to freshen up my grammar knowledge and get a bit of the method behind the preposition madness. So to speak.

Meet the Preposition


Let’s make some comparisons…

Cats or dogs? Chocolate or ice cream? Making comparisons can ignite some interesting debates with the simplest of prompts.

Most of my posts include some sort of first language ressource to use as a launch pad or a vocabulary building tool. However, sometimes I like to see what words live spontaneously in the minds of my students.

Some of my more extraverted learners enjoy this because they do not have to struggle with the dual task of incorporating new words while stringing together meaning. Others find it utterly daunting because they have nothing to inspire their thoughts. Or the idea of just talking makes everything jam up inside.

In both cases, open ended questions can be either a good relief or a good challenge (that you can scaffold with various prompts if necessary).

Here is a good ressources to practice comparatives. The site features a ton questions organized in different themes and focuses, but I like this one because it contains a lot of variety and a relatively easy grammar element. equative