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Grammar teaching 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 learning grammar?
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 complete.
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
Communicative competence: grammar for communication’s sake
To be clearer we can say the traditional method of teaching grammar in schools as prescriptive method and the new method as descriptive method. These teachers 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” structures. 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.
Determine 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 grammatical concepts.
Plan 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 prescriptive method.
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