is a challenging task in language teaching and it is more challenging in
teaching grammar to a second language learner. There are many methods in
current scenario of grammar teaching. We find teachers using many visual aids
and practical experimentations to teach grammar. Teachers give more effort to teach
grammar than any other part of language teaching. Grammar deals with hard bound
rules to acquire a language perfectly. But these hard bound rules are proved
not necessary to learn a language communicative. The L2 learners or second
language learners need the language to be taught communicative. Their need is
not to get mastery in the language but to acquire a basic communication skill.
English as a
language has been taught to us right from the period of Lord Macaulay. English
language and grammar is in our school curriculum and has been taught right from
the kinder garden. Grammar teaching begins from the primary school level and
taught in different levels till higher secondary. Our students are exposed to
some ten years of grammar teaching in their school level. But most of them fail
to acquire even a basic level communication. Grammar teaching neither gave
mastery in language nor provided a basic communication skill even. This has led
us with so many questions to think. Where do we go wrong? Is grammar teaching
necessary in second language teaching? Why do our students show repulsion in
The answer for
these questions can be explained logically. Grammar is not the only way to
acquire a second language and at the same time we cannot exclude grammar in
language teaching. We go wrong in the method and the level of feeding grammar
to the learners. Almost all the nations has changed its pattern in second
language teaching and classified the modules of language teaching according to
the need of the learner. They do not teach grammar excluded from the language
teaching. They teach grammar along with the course of language teaching. They
teach grammar practically and do not threaten the learners by showing them as
rules to be followed. Grammar is taught to them in application along with their
course so that the students never show repulsion in learning grammar. Grammar
should be taught theoretically as rules only to the learners who look for
mastery in a language.
The basic need of a second language learner
is to learn the language communicative. In the communicative competence model,
the purpose of learning grammar is to learn the language of which the grammar
is a part. Instructors therefore teach grammar forms and structures in relation
to meaning and use for the specific communication tasks that students need to
Our traditional methods of teaching grammar
failed to provide the communicative purpose of a language and now the new
methods provide communicative competency. We can compare the traditional model
and the new communicative competence
model for teaching the English past tense:
Traditional: grammar for grammar’s sake
regular -end form with its two pronunciation variants
Teach the doubling
rule for verbs that end in d (for example, wed-wedded)
Hand out a
list of irregular verbs that students must memorize
practice drills for -ed
substitution drills for irregular verbs
Communicative competence: grammar for communication’s
two short narratives about recent experiences or events, each one to half
of the class
regular -ed form, using verbs that occur in the texts as
examples. Teach the pronunciation and doubling rules if those forms occur
in the texts.
irregular verbs that occur in the texts.
read the narratives, ask questions about points they don’t understand.
work in pairs in which one member has read Story A and the other Story B.
Students interview one another; using the information from the interview,
they then write up or orally repeat the story they have not read.
To be clearer we can say the traditional
method of teaching grammar in schools as prescriptive method and the new method
as descriptive method.
embraced the notion of prescriptive (also called traditional or school)
grammar. Grammar was taught as a discrete set of rigid rules to be memorized,
practiced, and followed.
During the height of the whole language movement, when teaching grammar in
isolation became taboo, these teachers were left frustrated and baffled by the
lack of grammar instruction in the classroom.
English teachers of later generations, on the other hand, joined the profession
embracing ideas of descriptive (also called transformational) grammar.
These teachers believed that grammar instruction should be matched to the
purpose of the user. Teachers found descriptive grammar theories to be more flexible,
reflecting actual usage and self-expression over “correct”
Some people credit the descriptive approach with a general loosening of rules
regarding grammatical structures that were once considered unacceptable, such
as split infinitives.
With the widespread institution of standards and high-stakes tests,
students are expected to recognize and use correct grammar. Educators can no
longer afford to assume that students acquire an accurate understanding of
formal language structures through reading, writing, and speaking.
Furthermore, they also cannot assume that prescriptive or descriptive approaches, in isolation, are singularly effective.
Rather, English and language arts teachers must embrace the notion that grammar
instruction, like any other content area, should reflect current pedagogical approaches.
Grammar instruction should be tailor-made to meet
the needs of students, and should weave both prescriptive and descriptive practices
into relevant, meaningful instruction.
Sound instructional practice begins with assessment and
planning. Begin building your grammar instruction plan by comparing what
students must know with what they already know.
Identify the standards. In this
standards-driven era, school curriculum may dictate grammar skills to be
taught at each grade level. If the skills are not labeled as grammar
skills, use the proofreading/editing skills that are listed under writing
standards. These standards clearly identify what the students must know
and what the teachers are responsible to teach.
what students know. The next step is to
determine what your students already know through an assessment. Care must
be taken during this assessment; it is easy to test surface knowledge of a
grammar concept without testing the underlying knowledge. Many students
will be able to recognize a sentence fragment as incorrect, but they may
not know the concept by its correct name, why it is incorrect, or how to
correct it. The assessment must reveal true understanding of the
instruction. Use the results of the pre-assessment
to outline three to four grammar skills to focus on each week. The goal of
effective grammar instruction is to weave it into the reading and writing
that function as the backbone of the English curriculum. So, consider pacing
guide and embed grammar concepts logically into it.
Grammar should be fed
according to the need and purpose of the learner. Grammar in the form of rules
and exercises may threaten the learners and make them reluctant to learn
grammar. This may naturally lead to the fear over the language and so the
students fail to acquire the language communicative. Teaching grammar must come
along the course of teaching language and it must not be introduced to the
students as threatening rules. If grammar taught descriptive then the
possibilities of students acquiring the language communicative is more than the
An article by Janice Christy, M.Ed., English Department Chair, Louisa
County High School, Louisa, Virginia.