Teach English in Shizhai Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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When teaching English to non-native speakers, a common question that teachers encounter is why it is necessary to learn grammar. Some students argue that the purpose of acquiring a language is to communicate. As long as they can make themselves understood, they do not have to follow the rigid grammatical rules. Also, as globalization grows rapidly, many students get the experience in which they communicate in broken English, but still make their meanings delivered. Digging deeper to the question, we can find some new rationales for students’ doubt about learning grammar. Based on my own learning and teaching experience, I believe the root cause for students’ hesitation for learning grammar is that they find it difficult and inefficient to acquire English grammar. Now comes the question: as English teachers, how can we teach grammar more effectively? To tackle this question, we need to first understand the structure of English grammar. Generally, it consists of parts of speech, tenses, conditionals, modals, phrasal verbs, passive voice, and relative clauses etc. Each part can be divided to specific categorizes, thus making grammar learning the most demanding task for students. It seems very easy to teach parts of speech, but apparently it is deceptive. There is a lot more to consider. An effective approach can be found in Straight Arrow ESA, namely, Engage, Study, and Activate. Teachers, particularly new teachers, can follow the procedure below to make the class effective.  Engage – elicit students to speak out some simple sentences by showing the class some pictures. Teachers should pick some pictures which are easy to describe. While students are talking about the pictures, teachers can just monitor the class.  Study – teachers show some sentences related to the pictures students have just seen, using an overhead projector. The teachers then break down each part of the sentence. Then they go over the parts of speech with explanation of usage and specific example on the screen. Every time a part is finished, the teacher gives out a worksheet for students to complete individually.  Activate – teachers prepare words of different parts of speech, put them on small cards, and hand out to groups of 3 or 4. The aim of this activity is to have students put different words in corresponding categories. Before the activity, teachers can demonstrate it with a student. The tense system is probably the area of the English language that causes both students and teachers the greatest amount of difficulty. Particularly, in countries in Asia, a large number of differences exist between English and students’ first languages. It is widely acknowledged that there are 3 different tenses in English: the past, the present and the future, and each of these tenses has 4 aspects: simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous. Therefore, we mainly need to study 12 tenses. To teach the tenses, teachers need to have a thorough understanding of the tense system. Equipped with a solid foundation in this area, teachers should make use of various teaching methodologies to cater for different students. Before starting a lesson, teachers should experiment with different methodologies, including Straight Arrow, Boomerang, and Patchwork. There are a world of games and activities for teachers to refer to on the internet. Whatever activities they choose, they need to make sure the activities have specific targets and get students actively involved. The same approach can be applied to other parts of grammar, such as conditionals, modals, phrasal verbs, passive voice, and relative clauses. According to my own experience, when teachers teach grammar, they usually use a very dull approach. They first explain grammar rules, and then hand out many worksheets for students to finish. Teachers do not take into account students’ interest and motivation. But it is never difficult to arrange some fun games and activities to help students enjoy the process of learning grammar. Only in this way can teachers teach grammar more effectively.