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Grammar in language teaching

Clenciu Alexandra
Scoala Gimnaziala Hurezani,Judetul Gorj

What is grammar?
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishdefines grammar as the rules
by which words change their forms and are combined into sentences. There are two
basic elements in this definition: the rules of grammar; and the study and practice of the
rules. The rules of grammar are about how words change and how they are put together
into sentences. The knowledge of grammar also tells the learner what to do if he wants
to put the some phrase into the sentence. Grammar should be called the way in which
words change themselves and group together to make sentences. (Jeremy Harmer,
1991, p. 1)
A good teacher has several possibilities how to teach grammar. There is a number of
techniques for presenting and practicing grammar. According to J.Harmer the
grammatical information can be given to students in two major ways. The first one
could be extremely covert and the second will be made extremely overt.
Covert grammar teaching means that grammatical facts are hidden from the studentseven though they are learning the language. Students may be asked to do any activity
where a new grammar is presented or introduced, but their attention will be drawn to
this activity not to the grammar.
Overt grammar teaching means that the teacher actually provides the students
grammatical rules and explanations-the information is openly presented.
With overt teaching grammatical rules are explicitly given to students, but with
covert teaching students are simply asked to work with new language to absorb
grammatical information which will help them to acquire the language as a whole.
It is expected to do a lot of structures in teaching and practicing, and less really free
communicative activity at the beginner level. The teaching of grammar is likely to be
fairly covert since the main aim is to get students to use language as much as possible.

On the other hand students at intermediate levels should be involved in more

communicative activities and should have less grammar teaching. The teaching
grammar would probably be more overt. Then advanced students can actively study
grammar in more overt ways.

Presenting grammatical items

Presentation means that students are introduced to the form, meaning and use of a
new piece of language (e.g. did for past simple in questions). Students can learn how to
put the new syntax, words and sounds together. They learn grammar that they will need
for their most important experience, applying it to themselves. It is useful to mention the
personalization, which means using a piece of grammar to say things which really mean
something to learner. (e.g. using present simple to say what he does). Presentation can
take place using personalization immediately, teacher uses the students and their lives to
introduce a new language ( e.g. personal questions). Personalization can be the final part
of a presentation which is done through the use of texts or pictures (e.g. using a situation
in daily life, menu in a restaurant).
J. Harmer speaks about some characteristics of a good presentation that should be
mentioned here:
a good presentation should be clear ( no difficulties in understanding for learner)
a good presentation should be efficient (students can manipulate the new
a good presentation should be lively and interesting (to get interest for students,
their involving during a presentation)
a good presentation should be appropriate (not put so much information)
a good presentation should be productive (the introduced situation should allow
students to make many sentences or questions with a new language)

Discovery techniques
We have said that a good presentation should be clear, efficient, lively and
interesting, appropriate and productive. These can be fulfilled by many ways that are

given to students by teacher. It is only up to teacher how he, she introduces the new
grammatical item. Then students repeat and use this new item. Discovery techniques are
possible ways where students are given examples of language and then asked to find out
how they work, it means to discover the grammar rules. Students find out how grammar
is used in a text and they are actually acquiring a grammar rule. By this students
involving in the task of grammar acquisition teacher makes sure that they are
concentrating fully, using their cognitive powers. Discovery techniques are not just the
teacher telling what the grammar is. Students are actually discovering information for

Practice techniques
There are various ways of doing practice techniques, which means that pupils do
exercise through the techniques which get them to practice grammatical item. There will
be mentioned four different types of oral practice and written practice too, which are
described by J.Harmer.
1) Drills are often done with the whole class, students are given sentence with a new
grammatical item and they are asked for right repetition. It is practiced as long as it is
necessary for students to be able to say this structure in a proper way. The aim of drill is
to give students rapid practice in using a structural item. Advantage is that the teacher
can correct any mistakes, can encourage pupils to concentrate on difficulties. But this
way is not very creative.
2) Interaction activities are the ways of language practicing which are more
meaningful and more enjoyable. Pupils often work together in pairs or in groups. They
exchange information in the purposeful and interesting way. They are given some
materials (text, picture, map) and asked for some tasks when they use the grammatical
item that is introduced. Disadvantage should be that the teacher has no control over all
students. He, she cant be sure that all students understood the grammar.
3) Involving the personality is the way when pupils do the exercise and at the same
time talk about themselves. They are asked to discuss things that involve their
personality and to use this subject matter as a focus for grammar practice. Chain drill is
one way of making a practice drill. It is closely drill but in more funny and enjoyable

way. It is more interesting than usual, because students are asked for speaking about
4) Games are surely the most interesting and the most favourite way how to practice
grammar. Games are very useful for grammar work. Students are given a new
grammatical item through the game, which is exactly the most natural way especially
for children. There are several types of grammar games that will be mentioned later in
this work.
These were oral activities for practicing grammar. But there are some written
activities too. Since grammar practice is often done through writing, it is very useful
too. Some types of written practices will be mentioned here. These are fill-ins, written
drills, word order, parallel writing. Generally speaking, students need to practice their
grammar a lot, but it is only up to the teacher how they will do it. A good teacher should
remember that students would do the tasks with pleasure not only as a necessity.

Testing grammar
Teacher can test students ability to speak or write, his reading or listening skills. Of
course, written tests take less time and they are easier to administer. Thats why most
tests are based on written skills. This could cause some problems, because so much
teaching in the classroom is based on oral work. Teacher should remember this fact and
try to make the tests suitable for students. Good test shows both teacher and learner how
well they are all doing. Teacher who writes tests should bear in mind the rules that are
offered by J.Hamer:
do not test what you have not taught
do not test general knowledge
do not introduce new techniques in tests
do not just test accuracy

Own conclusion of presenting grammar

All grammar teaching should not be covert. Teacher should not always draw
students attention to grammatical facts and rules. Sometimes pupils should discover
facts about grammar through problem solving activities and sometimes through
practicing grammar. Teacher should not think that the only best kind of grammar
practice is written grammar practice. Teacher should remember that it is not good to test
grammar only with accuracy.

J.Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman, 1991
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 2014
P.Watkins, Learning to Teach English, 2014