People keen to teach English often have one big reservation; their understanding of English grammar. Add to this the thought of having to teach grammar and it can all seem a bit daunting.
If this sounds like you, then you are in very good company. As native English speakers, we know what to say but not why we say it.
The great news is that by learning the grammar in a TESOL setting (that is as if we were going to teach the grammar) we can learn both the rules for ourselves and how we might teach key concepts at the same time. So it is possible to both learn grammar and how to teach it simultaneously.
Let’s take an example:
Most of us can probably identify that the first example, below, is in the present simple and the second is in the past simple:
A) The sun rises in the East.
B) The sun rose early yesterday.
Of course, merely identifying the tenses doesn’t tell you how to use the present simple nor how to teach it effectively.
We need to know how we use the present simple. In case you don’t know (and I certainly didn’t before my TESOL course) we tend to use the present simple when talking about states or facts that are generally true;
- His name is Tom.
- The sun is very hot.
- I live in London.
Or for habits and routines:
- I get up at seven.
- He usually eats at Jon’s Diner on Wednesdays.
Appying this knowledge to teaching
Once we know when and why to use the appropriate tense, it helps us with our teaching in two specific ways:
1) By helping us correct learners when they make a mistake, such as:
‘I am going to bed every day at eleven.’
Here, we can say to the learner: ‘Is this a habit or routine? So, what tense do we use? And so try to elicit the correct answer.
2) We can be thinking about a context or theme for illustrating the grammar. A strong, meaningful theme helps students remember concepts. For the present simple you could introduce the tense through daily routines I get up, go to work etc.
Or see the video below in which learners practise making questions in the present simple in a ‘guess the famous person’ game.
My hope in writing this article is that you are not put off teaching English by a lack grammar knowledge. The task of learning and teaching grammar is something that can be started together, making grammar acquisition more interesting and meaningful for you in the process.
A good TESOL course aimed at teachers of English will help prepare you for being a teacher of grammar while you learn the rules for yourself.