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Teacher Research Proposal
Jing He
NC State University




Being an EFL teacher in China, I have always been interested in exploring various ways
to help my students improve their English proficiency. Grammar is of great importance to my
students who learn English in a non-English-speaking environment and aim to study abroad for
college education. With this in mind, I intend to do a teacher research on teaching grammar to
EFL students in context. Through the research I hope to find out whether I can engage students
in efficient learning of grammar by reading young adult literature.
Traditionally, Chinese students learn English grammar by memorizing the rules and doing
numerous drills. This method is proved to be certain use in preparing students to take uniform
Chinese college entrance examination, but little effect in improving students’ English proficiency
in writing and speaking. Many Chinese students can do well in multiple-choice tests, but cannot
apply grammar correctly in writing and speaking. For my students, they definitely need more
efficient way of learning grammar to be prepared to learn in an all-English academic
environment. What’s more, traditional way of teaching grammar is tedious and cannot meet the
interests of our students who live and learn in a different way than we did decades ago. Young
adult literature tells the stories of young people, which make students feel connected. I hope by
using high-interest young adult books, I can engage students in a context they can relate to and a
context they can understand grammar better.
Literature Review
Profound researches have been done on teaching grammar in context. Mart (2013)
elaborates in his article his claims regarding why and how the grammar should be taught in
context. The author emphasizes the importance of teaching grammar itself. He claims that
understanding the grammar is the key to understanding a foreign language. By teaching students



grammatical structures, we show students how a language works and allow them to do effective
communication. He criticizes the traditional way of teaching grammar and claims that the biggest
disadvantage is that students fail to apply the grammar they learn. On the contrary, teaching
grammar in context will show students directly how the grammar works in real communication.
The article shows using dialogue is an effective way to teach grammar. The main method is to
guide students to read the dialogue and work out the grammatical rules by induction and then
apply them by themselves. The key point is to use high-frequency instances to help students see
the usage of grammar. The author concludes that teaching grammar through context will help
learners perceive the structures of the language effectively and students will master the language
better. With the same standpoint, Celce-Murcia (2007) analyzes several samples of grammatical
drills that are still used in many of the ESL/EFL textbooks and makes his point that they are
neither meaningful nor authentic. The author article discusses some of the characteristics of
grammar exercise that would better serve the needs of English language learners, which leads to
his claim that the context should be meaningful and related to real life.
Smoot (2001) did an experiment to teach students both “little grammar” (sentence
structure, parts of speech, etc.) and “big grammar” (essay structure, points of an argument, etc.)
through reading meaningful texts drawn from history class. The main approach is to encourage
students to discover grammatical rules in the texts and then they can remember them and use
them. The attempts showed early success. However, as the experiment moved on, students began
to complain that they were falling behind in learning grammar compared with other classes. The
author received negative comments regarding the effectiveness of the method. What’s worse, his
students failed in the assessments, which were taken by other classes. The author analyzes the
reasons behind the failure. He admits that a failure of communication with his students about the



new method and also his failure to collaborate with the colleagues led to the failure of the
experiment. He believes that he should have considered the larger context of the teaching, that is
the school environment. He also claims that using traditional way of assessments to test the
effectiveness of his teaching is not correct. As he states, the measure of success must change as
strategies change.
Zuldema (2012) carried out an inquire-base practice of a grammar workshop, which aims
to teach grammar systematically in reading and writing contexts. The tools used for the
workshop are based on the concept of notice-name-apply. He gives students the Field Notebook
assignment, for which students need to works as grammar researches. Students are required to
read various texts to notice and name how grammar works in the texts. They need to work
together throughout the semester to label and analyze their selected author’s grammatical
choices. The students also work individually to write about grammar-related issues and apply
their Field Notebook knowledge by experimenting with the same kinds of grammatical skills that
they notice in the texts. The author concludes that the workshop is a success according to the
progress the students make, and also the positive feedbacks from both his students and the
department chair.
Abdel Rhim (2013) did a study that investigated the effect of context of songs in teaching
grammar implicitly on students’ writing. The study was conducted on an experimental group of
students who were taught grammar implicitly with the help of selected songs and a control group
of students who were taught explicitly grammatical rules. A pre-test and post-test of writing were
carried out to test the students’ learning outcomes. By comparing the learning results of the
experimental group and the control group, the authors claim that using context of songs in
teaching grammar has effects on improving the students’ learning outcomes.



All the above researches have supported me on the standpoint that teaching grammar in
context will engage more students in learning and will be far more effective in learning results
than traditional way of teaching. Many of the studies show me examples of different contexts,
like dialogues, songs, and readings from history class. They also provide me with more specified
methods that I can use to conduct my research. However, few researches have been done on
using young adult books to teach EFL students grammar. I expect that my research will bring
more implications to my classroom teaching, as well as some influence to others’ practice.
Research Question
In order to make the action feasible and get valid results, I have narrowed my research
question to “Will teaching grammar in the context of young adult literature reading enhance EFL
students’ usage of grammar in writing?”
The research is to be conducted in a grade 9th class in Beijing Royal School, a private
school where all students aim to go abroad for college education after graduating from high
school. The targeted class has around 25 students, who have learned English grammar in a more
traditional way. The English level of the students varies, though most students show a problem of
making many grammatical mistakes in writing.
The reading material that will be used in class is the young adult book Holes written by
Louis Sachar. Students will be asked to choose their own books to read for assignments outside
Data Collection Methods



Pre-test and post-test: writing a story. In order to collect data regarding the different
impact of traditional way and alternative way of teaching grammar on students’ writing, a pretest and a post-test will be given. At the beginning of the research, students will be asked to write
a story about an experience that happed on them when they were in elementary school. At the
end of the research, students will be given the same topic. However, they are also allowed to
write a different story. The focus of teacher’s evaluation will be on the grammar used to write the
Portfolio: students’ works. Students will read the book Holes for classroom activities.
Every two or three chapters will be a section. For each section, students are required to write
down five sentences that they like best, and for each sentence they will explain briefly what
grammatical rules or structures are used. Then, they will write five new sentences by using the
same grammatical rules.
Every week, students are required to collect a short paragraph from the reading they do
outside class. They are required to analyze the usage of grammar in the paragraph, and then do a
paragraph of imitative writing by using the same grammatical structures.
Both the works done in class and outside class will be collected as data.
Surveys. At the beginning of the research, a survey will be conducted to collect students’
opinions regarding learning grammar. The following questions are considered to be included:
1. Do you find learning grammar difficult?
2. What do you think is the most challenging part of the grammar we have learned so
3. In what way do you find you can learn grammar better?
4. How often do you read in English outside class?



5. Do you think reading will help you learn grammar?
In the end of the research, a questionnaire will be conducted to collect students’ feedbacks
on the practice of teaching grammar in context. The following questions will be included:
1. How do you like the way of learning grammar through reading?
2. How do you like the materials chosen for reading?
3. How do you like the learning activities designed to learn grammar?
4. Do you think reading young adult literature has helped you improve your grammar? If
yes, how? If no, how do you want to learn grammar?
5. If you are given choices, what are some other ways that you want to try to learn
English grammar?
Reflective journal. A researcher’s journal will be kept consistently. The researcher will
observe the students’ learning process, and take notes of how they learn in the new way, what
difficulties the students and teacher encounter, and what adjustments can be made.
Data Analysis Methods
Both the pre- and post-test writing will be evaluated. A score will be given on grammar. A
graph will be made to show students’ average score before and after the practice of teaching
grammar in context. A chart will be made to show a more detailed comparison between the
scores of two tests, including the lowest score, the highest score, number of students who are in a
certain score section before and after the action.
A narrative will be written to analyze the two surveys on students’ opinions concerning
grammar learning. The results of the first survey will be connected to the changes done in the
research process. A comparison will be made to indicate the changes regarding students’ attitudes
toward grammar learning. For the second survey, an analysis on students’ feedbacks on learning



grammar through reading young adult books will be focused on. The answers will be
categorized, and a chart can be made to show the percentage of students who hold the similar
A coding process will be done to analyze the reflective journals. The contents will be
categorized into different themes, including students’ attitude, students’ performance, students’
questions, events that show effect of the action, challenges and adjustments, etc. An analysis
should be done on the changes shown through the journals.
A sample of students’ sentence and paragraph writing will be drawn to show whether
students have improved their grammar in writing. The sample should be chosen from students of
varied English level.
The researcher expects that the research results will show positive impact of teaching
grammar in context. If the results show students’ improvement in grammar, the researcher will
enlarge the use of young adult book reading in grammar teaching. The researcher will consider
giving students more choices regarding what books to read. More varied learning activities will
be designed to maximize the impact.
The researcher also expects to seek collaboration with her colleagues if the research
succeeds. They will conduct the research in other classes in the same grade level. Together they
will improve the practice of research and teaching to make it more practical and beneficial to all
the students. If the results show positive influence, the researcher will try to expand the influence
to the whole department.



Abdel Rhim, A. M. (2013). Enhancing secondary stage students' writing: Effects of context of
songs in teaching grammar implicitly. Online Submission, 72, 22-37.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2007). Towards more context and discourse in grammar instruction. Tesl-Ej,
11(2), 1-6.
Mart, Ç. T. (2013). Teaching grammar in context: Why and how? Theory and Practice in
Language Studies, 3(1), 124-129. Retrieved from
Smoot, W. S. (2001). An experiment in teaching grammar in context. Voices from the Middle,
8(3), 34-42. Retrieved from
Zuidema, L. (2012). The grammar workshop: systematic language study in reading and writing
contexts. The English Journal, 101(5), 63-71. Retrieved from