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Observation Report # 5 - Grammar as Lesson Content

Observation Report # 5 - Grammar as Lesson Content

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Published by RDRI
Classroom observation report on the role of grammar in an EFL class.
Classroom observation report on the role of grammar in an EFL class.

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Published by: RDRI on Nov 10, 2010
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LCB Teachers Training College Rodrigo RoucoTaller Didáctico p. la Enseñanza de Inglés en Nivel Medio _________________________________________________________________________________ 
Grammar as Lesson Content
Class: Level 2 No. of learners: 2 Age of learners: Young adults Length of lesson: 45 min. Level: Beginner Teacher observed:
Class Overview:
In this beginner lesson of only two students, the teacher presented the use of the gerund after certainverbs to talk about free time activities. The teacher had apparently already started talking about thistopic with the sts in the previous class. That’s why perhaps she started asking questions herself toelicit the rule instead of beginning the presentation with the text. After the rule had been explained,the class moved onto working with the text - a set of online dating profiles. Afterwards, somerecognition practice (correcting mistakes), they read out the rules from the book this time, and finallythe sts wrote some sentences about their and their partners’ likes to say what they had in common. _________________________________________________________________________________ 1) In this lesson, grammar was to a large extent the central focus, as it involved the presentation of anew pattern
(-ing form after verbs of likes and dislikes)
.2) The students were consciously involved in thinking about grammar. After the teacher reminded stswhat they had talked about last class (free time activities), she wrote on the board:
‘ What do you likedoing in your spare time?’ 
and asked one of the sts. The girl answered:
‘I like reading, going  shopping, and travelling.’ 
As sts had been working on the vocabulary, she didn’t need to think aboutthe pattern (the use of the gerund) but just focused on the activities (the meaning, first). Then theteacher asked another girl. After four or five examples were on the board, the teacher asked:
‘ What is particular/special about these verbs after ‘like’?’ 
A girl answered:
‘La terminación ‘-ing’.’ 
So after helping sts notice the form, the teacher elicited the rule:
‘So we use the verb in the -ing after like, love, hate.’ 
She wrote:
likelovehate+ verb + -ing (Gerund)
In this way, sts were guided by the teacher to work out the rule - it wasn’t everything presented tothem, but they weren’t left to find it out on their own either.3) I believe there was a fair balance of ‘knowing’ (competence) and ‘doing’ (performance). At first,the emphasis was largely on finding out about how the language works: the teacher had a morecentral role, presenting and eliciting, stating the rules clearly, drawing out examples, and directing sts
to read together the rules in the grammar bank.Later on, they moved onto doing things with the language: they read some online dating profiles to‘match’ people (where they were exposed to more examples of the pattern), they corrected themistakes in 2b, and finally wrote three statements about themselves and their partners using verb +-ing and shared them with the class. This last point personalised the learning and got the sts andteacher commenting and reacting to meaning.4) The activity of writing sentences about themselves and their partners explicated demanded the useof ‘verb + -ing’. Interestingly, the teacher did not make this explicit when she gave the instructions.After the presentation, reading, and all the examples it was very apparent what pattern to use. Theactivity itself required the use of the pattern - so sts would be making further connections with therules of the system.6) First, the teacher presented the topic as
‘Spare time /Free time’ 
activities, which she wrote on the board. Thus the teacher was focusing on the meaning of the language to teach before the form. Whenshe elicited the form, she asked:
‘What is particular/special about these verbs after like?’ 
(quite astraightforward way of helping them notice the pattern). After one of the girls answered, the teacher wrote the pattern on the board and added that the ending is called the gerund.That was the only specific terminology the teacher used to teach the pattern. All in all, the onlytechnical terms were ‘verb’, ‘ending’, and ‘gerund’. These seemed not to bring about any problemsfor sts. Of the three, the term ‘gerund’ was perhaps the ‘extra’ one for the level, but the teacher justmentioned it as an aside. On the whole, from the moment of labelling the topic to labelling the form,I think that the whole process facilitated sts’s understanding. The last term, in particular, might have been avoided, but it also may have aided those sts who are more analytical and may like being givena name for a pattern.8) a) From the sts’s point of view, it’s possible they might have known the lesson’s objective couldhave been ‘
learning the use of ‘verb + -ing’ after like, love, etc.’ 
 b) I believe sts came away with the understanding of the new pattern - which seems not to have beendifficult to grasp - to talk about their likes.Personally, I think it is preferable that sts know what the lesson is going to be about. But more oftenthan not, I do forget to tell them! Sometimes, it’s just that I want to surprise them, or not to give awaytoo much and build some expectancy, and sometimes it just doesn’t occur to me! As for what theycome away with, I believe they should get from a lesson what the teacher had originally planned -that’s why we plan for, isn’t it? However, it is often the case that learners may come up with queriesof their own which were unpredictable for the teacher. In addition, although we create opportunitieswhich have a pre-defined learning objective for us, some activities end up having an unexpectedlearning value for individual learners.9) From what I observed, it seems that, for this teacher, language and language learning serve the purpose of communication: from the presentation of the topic (
‘Free time’ 
- a really communicativetitle; because that is what we are learning: to talk about free time), to the last activity (Tell us aboutyou and your partner - communicating a meaningful message). In the case of language, it is a systemfor communication. That’s why the elicitation of the form: as a system, it has rules which organise itsworking. As for language learning, it implies the teacher interacting with the learners, drawing onfrom their previous knowledge, and believing in their capacity for inferring and hypothesising to
make (their own) sense of language input. The result is that learning a language involves learningabout something meaningful and relevant to the learner. It seems to me that this teacher was workingalong this line of thought. _________________________________________________________________________________ 
Generally speaking, I think grammar plays a prominent role in my teaching. I nearly always have agrammar aim for most of my classes, and whatever I do is to ensure learners can understand and haveseveral opportunities for practising the grammar pattern in question. This spans from as clear acontext for exposure as possible, as clear a presentation as possible, sufficient ‘controlled’ practice(one or two exercises, like fill-ins, matching, etc) to more guided practice which ‘forces’ the use of that pattern in an oral form. For following classes, I often try to find a song or video which presentsmore input of the grammar point, and we follow a similar sequence as above. Finally, the tests alwaysinclude exercises which aim at ‘checking’ the grammar we have worked on during the lessons. So allin all, although I ensure that each lesson follows a communicative framework, I believe that it is, in alarge part, staged for the grammar (presentation, in particular) to be the lead protagonist. Of coursethere are some lessons where the vocabulary may have more prominence, or teaching writing, or having a debate or discussion about a topic or the reader, but… I never forget about my faithful friendgrammar! As I mentioned above about what I assume about this teacher’s beliefs, I do think languageoperates under some basic grammatical rules which we can help our sts discover. And I believe thatthat discovery can facilitate their language learning and use and assist in their language development.And this, especially for our sts, who are learning English as a
language, and may need toconsciously notice and focus on specific items as opportunities for language contact, awareness, anduse are more limited.

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