Since teaching grammar plays such an important part in language classroom, it is necessary to know what are the approaches to teach grammar as well as the most effective process of holding a grammar lesson. It is because this will help learners study grammar more effectively.
About the teaching approach, there are two main types mentioned which are the inductive and deductive one. In deductive, the rule is presented first and the language is produced based on the rule. On the contrary, in inductive, teacher will give students a means to discover the rules themselves. Both of these approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Deductive approach will save time for teacher and be suitable for young learners, whereas the inductive one will be appropriate for learners with basic knowledge of the language.
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About planning a grammar lesson in classroom, there are several popular models a teacher should know, for example: the deductive PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production), TTT (Test, Teach, Test), ARC (Authentic use, Restricted use, Clarification and focus), TBL (Task-Based Learning) and ESA (Engage, Study, Activate). All models have their own good points and bad points. Among them, PPP is the most widely used model because this model is easy to conduct and can be suitable for teaching isolated grammatical items. It also allows the teacher to arrange the time for each stage accurately and prepare for the unexpected problems that may occur.(BBC, 2005 December 9)
Teaching grammar in PPP includes three main stages: presentation, practice and production.
Presentation: This stage includes lead-in, presenting form and meaning, giving other examples, conducting repetition of title, model sentences and examples,and finally asking class to copy down lesson.
The teacher usually begins presenting with a text in which the grammatical structure appears. The text maybe one or two sentences, or it can be a short dialogue. The teacher may also use pictures or situations to lead into the structure that will be taught. The purpose of lead-in section is to warm up and raise students’interest in the lesson. Throught it, students will know how the structure is used naturally in real life.
Presenting form and meaning:
In this section, the teacher may begin showing the form first and the meaning second or vice versa. This depends on the students. If students prefer grammar explanations at the beginning, the form should be presented first. On the contrary, if students learn a language better by inferring the meaning before the teacher presents grammar explanation, then showing the meaning first is suitable for them. (Dang and Ruiter, 2005, p.86)
Whether the form of the grammar point or its meaning is presented first, the teacher should master the ways of showing form and meaning.
Doff (1988) mentioned these ways in his book. When presenting meaning, the teacher can show it visually or through a situation. In showing meaning visually, he or she can use objects, the classroom, the students themselves, the pictures to demonstrate the new structure(p.34). Nevertheless, it is not always possible to show the meaning visually. Hence there is another way of showing meaning more naturally. It is presenting meaning through a situation. “This situation can be real or imaginary”(p.35). The good point of using a situation is that students can become familiar with how the structure is used in everyday conversations. They will feel what they are learning is relevant to real life, and it is also easier for the teacher to use this way.
Together with explaining clearly the meaning of the new structure, it is also important to show how it is formed. Doff (1988) showed two basic ways of doing this. First, a clear model should be given and students are asked to listen and repeat two or three times and then the teacher demonstrates the structure quickly. Second, the teacher writes the structure on the board, says it when writing and underlines the fixed parts. Another way is asking the students to tell the teacher what to write. It is an effective way because it involves the whole class in the lesson and focuses their attention to the structure. (p.37)
After the teacher has finished presenting form and meaning, he or she continue doing other steps such as: giving other examples, modeling the structure and examples, and finally asking class to copy down lesson.
When students have known the grammatical structure, it is neccessary to get them to say the new language accurately and fluently. Therefore, it is important to move to practice stage. The process will go from controlled practice (mechanical) to less controlled practice (meaningful) and finally to free practice (production).
Controlled or mechanical practice
In this section, learners are often asked to do mechanical drills such as repetition, substitution, word cues, picture cues…etc. These drills completely control the response of students. They are asked to give the only one correct way of responding because these kinds of drills just focus on correct forms rather than meaning. Therefore, mechanical drills are only useful if students practise doing them for a short time.
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This kind of practice has some limitations due to these three reasons. First, because students do not have to think much when doing mechanical drills, they will easily forget afterwards. Second, teacher can not be sure that whether students understand the meaning of the words or not. Finally, these drills focus only on producing correct forms, therefore students do not know how to use them to express meaning.(Doff, 1988, p.73)
Meaningful practice is also called less controlled practice because there is still little control of response. Less control is because students can give several right answers and these drills are not suitable for doing chorally. This is called meaningful practice because it requires learners to think and understand what they are doing. Some common drills are information gap exercise, mapped dialogue, interview or find someone who…etc.
There are three techniques to make meaningful practice: First, teacher can do this by getting students to say real thing about themselves, or teacher can give a situation that implies the structure but let student decide what to say. Also, teacher can let students add something of their own (Doff, 1988, p.75-76)
In this stage, in both mechanical and meaningful practice, teacher should check whether sudents make any errors or not so that teacher goes back to the presentation stage and clarifies any problems of understanding or usage.
Meaningful practice is followed by production (free practice) in which students have a chance to use the strutures to express their own ideas or talk about their experiences. There are two kinds of useful topics. According to Doff (1988), students can talk about real life, for example themselves, friends or anything in the world. They can also imagine a situation which is not real to practise speaking (p.78). In this section, role play and communicative games are often used. Free practice offers students a chance to talk freely; hence, it is in this stages that errors often occur. Nevertheless, teachers should not interupt students to correct their mistakes because the main purpose is to develop fluency and confidence. Important errors can be corrected during giving feedback after this stage.
Although PPP model is widely used, it is becoming old-fashioned nowadays and is under threat to be replaced by other ones. There are a number of reasons for this which Mora et al. (2001) pointed out in their book. For one, PPP will “discourage risk-taking and the processes of improvisation and experimentation with the language”, which are considered as important aspects of language learning. For another, the controlled context in present and practice stage does little help for students when dealing with the natural language outside the classroom.(p.14). Another problem is that in PPP, the grammatical structures which are often chosen in advance by the course book author or the teacher may not be what students like to learn. Hence, students may not feel excited in the lesson; and if they do not want to learn that grammar point, the whole lesson can be a waste of time. Also, when it comes to more complex grammar points, it will be a challenge for teacher to use this model. These are all the reasons why other models are considered to apply in classrooms instead of PPP.
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